While members of the Trump administration continue to support the president's claims that "no one" saw the severity of the coronavirus outbreak coming, it turns out at least one top adviser had an inkling as far back as January. A recently discovered memo from trade policy expert Peter Navarro warned members of the administration the virus could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death.
As The New York Times reports, the memo from Navarro is the highest level warning inside the White House that is known.
"The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil," Navarro's memo reportedly said.
It went on to say the lack of immunities means that if the disease went unchecked, it could lead to millions of deaths.
Navarro, who is the top trade policy adviser to Donald Trump, wrote the memo on January 29. That was during a period of time when the president was purportedly downplaying the dangers of the coronavirus outbreak that was raging in China. He would later say several times no one could have known the disease would evolve into a full-blown pandemic.
There are at least some parts of the memo that could help explain why the administration was — as experts described it — slow to react. Navarro did say in his note that it could turn out to be no worse than the seasonal flu. On the other hand, he reportedly also pointed out the "risk of a worst-case pandemic scenario should not be overlooked."About a month later, Navarro reportedly wrote a second memo where he advised the United States could see as many as 1.2 million deaths. This period of time was one where Trump was reportedly still telling the American public the disease wasn't that big a danger.
The second memo was not signed, but many members of the administration told The Times it was his. Among the details of the second note was a prediction of how many pieces of personal equipment would be needed to protect healthcare workers and the public. Navarro believed the country would need "at least a billion" face masks over a four to six month period.
This too seems to conflict with what the president has said publicly. In recent press conferences, he has claimed state governments and hospitals are overestimating how much equipment they need. The lack of PPE all over the country has been a focal point in the discussions of how to battle coronavirus almost since the beginning of the outbreak.