WASHINGTON — A new examination by Senate Democrats of how the federal government failed in its early response to the coronavirus pandemic blames President Donald J. Trump and his administration for numerous missteps while also blaming “multiple issues.” systems” that long preceded his tenure.
The 241-page report, released Thursday, was produced by Democratic staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The report was based on documents and interviews with key Trump administration officials, including Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, who has was director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many of the issues discussed in the report, such as serious data collection problems and insufficient testing capacity, had already been explored by news outlets, but the study painted a stark portrait of a government that does not was totally unprepared for the arrival of a deadly new pathogen.
The report cites insufficient funding, supply chain vulnerabilities, overlapping government roles and other issues that it says “have been flagged by experts and watchdog agencies for years, but have been largely ignored by all branches of the federal government”.
It found, for example, that a public health emergency fund created to support national and local health systems had received no new allocations since 1999 and had been “virtually empty” since 2012.
While the federal preparedness apparatus had been in place for decades, the report noted that planning from 2005 to 2019 had been “narrowly focused on influenza and failed to adequately incorporate other potential infectious disease threats. “.
The report is not the first analysis of the coronavirus outbreak to come out of Congress.
The top Republican on the Senate Health Committee, Sen. Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, recently released a report claiming the pandemic was likely the result of a lab accident in China – a theory popular with his party but not to scientists. The Democratic-controlled House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis has produced a series of scathing reports on the Trump administration’s response.
The analysis by the Senate Homeland Security Committee was narrow in scope. It focused on the first chaotic months of the pandemic, after the coronavirus was first identified in China in December 2019. At the start of the outbreak, the United States “disregarded the critical public warnings that foreshadowed the severity and transmissibility of the virus. “, says the report.
As the crisis unfolded, according to the report, the White House banned the CDC from holding press briefings. Although experts have repeatedly recommended the use of face masks, the administration did not officially do so until April 3, 2020 — and even then Mr. Trump refused to wear one. He also insisted the virus would go away.
“There is no question that political decisions were being made and those decisions were unfortunately seen as more important than what was announced by public health officials,” said Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the committee. of Homeland Security, to reporters on Wednesday.
He added: ‘And so it was politicized in a way that should never have been politicized – and lives probably would have been saved.’
But at the same time, Mr Peters said, there was “no question that there were systemic issues that had gone unaddressed for decades”.
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