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White House Adviser Warned of Risks of Pandemic; Trump Misleads on Testing

Navarro warned in January that a pandemic could imperil the lives of millions of Americans.
A top White House adviser starkly warned Trump administration officials in late January that the coronavirus crisis could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death.

The warning, written in a memo by Peter Navarro, President Trump’s trade adviser, Latest USA News is the highest-level alert known to have circulated inside the West Wing as the administration was taking its first substantive steps to confront a crisis that had already consumed China’s leaders and would go on to upend life in Europe and the United States.

“The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil,” Mr. Navarro’s memo said. “This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”

Dated Jan. 29, it came during a period when Mr. Trump was playing down the risks to the United States, and he would later go on to say that no one could have predicted such a devastating outcome.


Mr. Navarro said in the memo that the administration faced a choice about how aggressive to be in containing an outbreak, saying the human and economic costs would be relatively low if it turned out to be a problem along the lines of a seasonal flu.

But he went on to emphasize that the “risk of a worst-case pandemic scenario should not be overlooked” given the information coming from China.

In one worst-case scenario cited in the memo, more than a half-million Americans could die.

White House medical experts strike a cautiously optimistic tone.
Vice President Mike Pence and his team of medical experts struck a cautiously optimistic tone on Monday night, saying California and Washington had seen “remarkable progress” for slowing the spread of the virus by following guidelines to stay at home and avoid congregating in groups.

And they expressed hope that social distancing efforts were beginning to work.

“That’s a great tribute to the people of both of those states, and to all of their dedicated health care workers,” Mr. Pence said. “We’re beginning to see a leveling.”

“It only becomes a trend if every one of us continues to take ownership,” Mr. Pence added.

Dr. Deborah Birx, who is leading the administration’s coronavirus response efforts, cautioned that the most recent data on the virus’ spread was not as accurate as experts would like it to be. She said at least one county in the New York area had seen a significant surge in cases over the weekend, Press Release Distribution Service and that officials were concerned with cases rising throughout Louisiana, Illinois and the Washington, D.C., area.

But Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, joined the optimistic tone. Dr. Fauci, who has been rooted in explaining the virus through a scientific lens — especially when the president is talking — said that the number of hospital admissions and intubations in New York had seemed to level off.

“So we just got to realize this is an indication, despite all the suffering and the death that has occurred,” Dr. Fauci said, “that what we have been doing has been working.”

He added that he still would be reluctant to declare premature victory over a virus whose spread has been unpredictable.

A point of contention between Dr. Fauci and Mr. Trump has been the president’s willingness to reopen the country despite overwhelming scientific evidence that the country is not yet in the clear.

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