Trump weakened pandemic defenses

Anne McCabe, Bethlehem Morning Voice Huddle

The Times Union reprint of The New York Times “Miscommunication, fear and confusion mar virus response,” March 8, in responding to the coronavirus makes many good points.

However, merely mentioning the elimination of the global health unit of the National Security Council by the Trump administration understates the pivotal role this elimination played in the resultant spread of coronavirus. It also fails to identify the person responsible for the order to remove this essential early warning and preparedness team.

In 2014, most remember the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. President Barack Obama created a permanent epidemic monitoring and command group at both the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Council. These groups were responsible for coordinating policies and responding to global pandemics.

In May 2018, Media Matters reported President Donald Trump ordered the National Security Council’s entire global health unit be shut down. Trump also called for the resignation of its leader, Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer. In April, Trump had John Bolton, White House security adviser, pressure the Department of Homeland Security’s counterpart to Ziemer, Tom Bossert and his team to resign.

The Times story states miscommunication can easily result in lack of meaningful response. Of 38 articles written in national papers reporting the lack of unified response, Media Matters notes only eight clearly identified Trump’s dismissal of these pandemic response teams as a significant component.

Anne McCabe

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