Trump ignored warnings that 'half a million Americans' could die from coronavirus months ago, reports show

Sirena Bergman@SirenaBergman
Sunday 12 April 2020 12:45
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(Getty)

Back in January, when most of the Western world was trying to convince itself that coronavirus would remain a problem just for China, Trump's trade adviser Peter Navarro had the forsight to disagree.

In a memo written to the president on 29 January, he tried to warn that things could get very very serious, and that drastic measures should be taken otherwise up to 30 per cent of the US population could become infected, and half a million people could die.

When the existence of the memo was revealed on Monday, Trump denied ever having seen it, despite following one of the key pieces of advice: to ban all travel from China.

A second memo – which Trump also claimed not to have seen – was written on 23 February, and stated that:

There is an increasing probability of a full-blown Covid-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life of as many as 1-2 million souls.

The following day, Trump tweeted that coronavirus was "very much under control in the USA."

When asked about this, Trump said his response would not have changed even if he had seen the memos, despite that fact that even at the end of February he was still downplaying the threat, even claiming that “one day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear”.

However, The New York Times has now revealed that Trump did see the memo, and discussed it with aides, reportedly saying that he was "unhappy" with Navarro for putting his concerns in writing.

The Times also reports that Dr Robert Kadlec, assistant secretary of health and human services, convened a White House taskforce meeting on February 21, which predicted 110 million coronavirus infections, leading to 580,000 deaths, and strongly recommended "aggressive social distancing" to contain the potential outcomes.

But it would take Trump three weeks to follow this advice, and even now there are still eight states which are not issuing social distancing directives. All of them are run by Republican governors.

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