Donald Trump slammed Columbia University as a “disgraceful institution” after a study showed that tens of thousands of lives could have been spared had the nation’s lockdown measures been put in place just one week earlier.
Trump spoke out against the study in an interview on Full Measure, accusing the university of writing a report meant to hurt him politically.
“Columbia is a liberal, disgraceful institution to write that because all the people that they cater to were months after me,” Trump said.
“And I saw that report. It’s a disgrace that Columbia University would do it, playing right to their little group of people that tell them what to do.”
Trump said that a travel ban he put in place in January was an early action, noting that he took “tremendous heat” for it at the time. Critics have taken aim at Trump for what they see as a lack of action afterward, noting that Trump ignored warnings from within his administration and did not put social distancing guidelines in place until months later. Calls for social distancing measures intensified as the virus spread in early March, though Trump did not tell Americans to remain in their homes and avoid non-essential travel and visits until March 16.
Critics also fault Trump for statements downplaying the severity of the virus, comparing it to the seasonal flu and predicting that the outbreak would soon go away. Since then, the outbreak grew across the country, with the total number of deaths now approaching 100,000.
The Columbia University study said that close to 36,000 American lives could have been saved if social distancing measures were put in place just one week sooner, The New York Times reported. The report noted that there were likely thousands of cases at the time the White House first issued social distancing guidelines on March 16, but a lack of proper testing hurt the nation’s ability to track the disease and locate outbreaks.
“The enormous cost of waiting to take action reflects the unforgiving dynamics of the outbreak that swept through American cities in early March. Even small differences in timing would have prevented the worst exponential growth, which by April had subsumed New York City, New Orleans and other major cities, the researchers found,” the report noted.
Trump has come under increasing pressure as the U.S. death toll from the outbreak nears 100,000, especially as Trump spent part of Saturday on the golf course, his first visit since the nation’s lockdown measures were first put in place.