The Trump administration has severely compromised efforts to contain the coronavirus epidemic by eliminating most of the staff in charge of identifying global health problems in China while repeatedly attempting to cut funds for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to a new report by an environmental watchdog.
Over the past three years, the Trump administration has drastically reduced a team working in China to identify global health threats such as Covid-19, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. The 11 CDC staff members of the initiative were reduced to three people, while 39 workers classified as “local employees” were reduced to 11 people.
The administration disbanded the National Security Council leadership accused of global health and tried to go even further, asking for budget cuts of up to 20% for each of the past three years, only to be rejected by Congress. Trump’s effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act would also cut CDC funding by around 8% per year.
The CDC still suffered a “budget and staff erosion under Trump”, but without the challenge of Congress “thousands of Americans would probably die in the coming months due to the even smaller capacity at the CDC”, according to the report, compiled by the Data Environmental and Governance Initiative (EDGI).
“If we cannot learn lessons here for our future, then the risks Americans face for both emerging and chronic diseases will become truly incalculable,” warns the report.
The report, which is based on publicly available federal government documents, highlights a long list of Trump administration actions that risked turning the spread of the coronavirus into an even greater disaster.
The administration proposed a 20% cut to the CDC’s emerging and zoonotic disease program, which investigates and prevents new diseases. He also attempted to cut funding to help countries in Africa still affected by the Ebola epidemic, overseeing the loss of 61 employees from the CDC’s disease prevention program and proposed profound cuts to the CDC’s environmental health work.
Christopher Sellers, an environmental and health expert at Stony Brook University and lead author of the report, said that the Trump administration’s actions slowed the response to the virus and likely influenced the preparation of hospitals and various government agencies for the crisis.
“The administration has repeatedly and systematically corroded critical parts of the CDC,” said the sellers. “This was just asking for an epidemic to hit us. It was a perfect storm of lack of preparation. “
The sellers added, “It’s amazing that they are now trying to rewrite history to say that we have a lot of resources when they have systematically targeted them. They should be held accountable by the American people for being outrageous.”
Donald Trump initially reacted to the coronavirus’ forward march by calling it a “hoax” before then, even incorrectly, claiming that the United States had completely contained the disease.
Since then the president has declared a national state of emergency, but the federal response has been haunted by a serious lack of testing, a shortage of crucial medical supplies such as fans and false and misleading statements by Trump about the need to avoid large-scale gatherings. people.
On Sunday, the president was asked at a press conference on the administration’s cuts to the CDC, particularly on the removal of an epidemiologist incorporated into China’s CDC equivalent.
Trump said: “We actually gave CDC more money, not less money. They said we reimbursed. It turned out that it was more money. Each of those things that were said were 100% wrong, and this sounds like another of them. “
Trump therefore tried to blame China for the crisis. “I wish they had told us three months before this was a problem,” said the president about a disease that surfaced in December and then reported from China to the World Health Organization in January. “We didn’t know.”