United States intelligence agencies delivered repeated, “ominous” warnings about the imminent global threat of a coronavirus pandemic to the Donald Trump administration throughout January and February, according to an explosive Washington Post report published late Friday.
But even as the intelligence community delivered those warnings, Trump “failed to take action that might have slowed the spread” of the virus, The Post reported, citing government officials “familiar” with the intelligence agency reports on the virus.
The coronavirus outbreak has now killed at least 237 Americans, according to a tally by The New York Times. The total number of cases in the United States as of Friday evening had exceeded 17,600, The Times reported, including 2,900 new cases reported on Friday morning alone.
Though the intelligence reports did not recommend actions the administration could take to prevent the pandemic, or state a precise time when the coronavirus outbreak would land inside U.S. borders, the spy agencies provided information about the spread of the disease inside of China, where the virus was discovered, and also warned that the Chinese government was covering up just how bad it was in that country, The Post reported.
The first confirmed case of coronavirus infection appeared in the U.S. on January 21. But on January 22, Trump said of the possible outbreak, “we have it totally under control.” The statement was the first of many Trump would make that appeared to downplay the potential destruction that could be caused by the pandemic, as seen in the video below.
Though the intelligence reports demonstrated the possibility of a world-sweeping pandemic that would “require governments to take swift actions to contain it,” according to the Post report, Trump continually “publicly and privately” minimized the threat posed by the coronavirus.
Also on Friday, scientists at Columbia University said their research revealed that the U.S. likely has many more cases of coronavirus than the public numbers state. In fact, according to a New York Times report on the Columbia research, at least 650,000 Americans will contract the virus by the end of May — even if the country is able to slash the current rate of transmission in half.
New York and California have imposed statewide “stay-at-home” orders since Thursday evening, effectively locking down about 60 million Americans in an effort to curtail the highly contagious, person-to-person transmission of the virus. Other states including New Jersey, Connecticut, and Illinois were expected to issue similar orders on Friday or shortly thereafter.
But according to the Columbia University researchers, even areas of the country that have not yet seen large numbers of coronavirus cases must impose similar, strong “social distancing” measures in order to “significantly stem the tide of illness and death,” according to the Times report.
One government official who knew about the intelligence reports on the virus told The Washington Post that “the system was blinking red” with warnings about the imminent pandemic in the early weeks of 2020 — but even though officials throughout the administration were aware of the warnings, and Trump should also have been aware, “they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it.”
But White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley responded to the Post report by citing what he said were “historic, aggressive measures” taken by Trump to protect Americans from coronavirus. He also called the reports about the intelligence agency warnings “disgusting, despicable and disgraceful,” and a “clear threat” to the country.