Coronavirus: Trump under pressure over claims he ignored CDC warnings about early lockdowns

Robert Redfield says White House was told to adopt quarantine efforts weeks before guidelines issued following reports that president ignored repeated warnings

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 13 April 2020 19:09 BST
CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield: ‘We are nearing the peak right now’

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that he recommended some states adopt more stringent quarantine measures as early as February, three weeks before the White House issued its “social distancing” guidelines.

His comments follow a report in The New York Times that reveals how Donald Trump largely ignored several attempts by members of his administration over several weeks to alert the president about the seriousness of the impending pandemic, which ha now claimed more than 22,000 lives in the US.

The president dismissed the report as “fake news”.

On Monday, Robert Redfield told NBC’s Today that by 28 February, the CDC and the National Institutes of Health had “recognised the different areas that mitigation was now important” and began sending recommendations to several states to adopt efforts to combat the spread of the virus.

He said: “The CDC sent recommendations to Washington, to California, to New York and to Florida recommending that they expand mitigation in those areas.”

His remarks also follow Dr Anthony Fauci‘s admission that earlier social distancing efforts would “obviously” have saved more lives if lock downs were in place “right from the very beginning”, he told CNN on Sunday.

”It may have been a little bit different,” he said. “But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.”

The report and comments from the top health official leading the White House coronavirus task force prompted the president to retweet a message calling for the president to sack Dr Fauci, who has repeatedly contradicted the president’s more optimistic and misleading claims about the outbreak and treatment.

Reports suggest that the White House was warned about the likelihood and necessary preparation in the wake of an outbreak as early as November.

In January, a National Security council memo warned that the virus spread in the US could claim the lives of thousands of people without mitigation efforts.

The presidents secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services also warned the president on a phone call later that month, to which the president reportedly said Alex Azar was being an “alarmist,” according to The New York Times.

In February, the department announced a medical surveillance plan in five cities to measure the outbreak, though it was delayed for several weeks.

At the end of that month, the administration’s top health experts has warned that the president should establish national guidelines to slow the spread of the virus, while Mr Trump was diminishing the outbreak’s impact in several public appearances and the virus was spreading in several communities undetected.

On Monday, director Redfield defended the administration’s response: “If you look back, in January and February, the cases we had in this country were all related to China travel ... it wasn’t until 28 February when we saw our first community transmission where we said, ‘Wait a minute, where is this coming from? ... So I think it’s important when we get back, and when we get through this, we can look back at the timeline.”

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