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Raymond A. Hult: Trump was clearly unprepared for coronavirus pandemic

(Evan Vucci | AP file photo) In this March 19 photo, President Donald Trump attends a teleconference with governors at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarts in Washington. From left, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health. There’s the standard process for getting urgently needed coronavirus equipment: send a request to FEMA. Then there’s the other way: have a buddy who can pick up the phone and call the Trump White House. Trump’s team has proudly recounted instances where a call to the White House has produced fast results for those who have an in with the president.

With the horrible spread of the COVID-19 virus pandemic blanketing America, history will undoubtedly label President Trump as a primary contributor.

It’s now clear an early and concentrated effort to comprehend the seriousness of a potential pandemic and take immediate steps to thwart it is imperative if lives are to be saved. The president fumbled the ball.

In May 2018, White House officials responsible for managing a national pandemic response were forced out as a budget cutting measure. Trump now denies knowing about the cut. If he didn’t, he should have. What kind of responsible president would be ignorant about a purging that significant?

Advisor Tom Bossart, calling for “a comprehensive bio-defense strategy against pandemic and biological attacks,” was fired. Trump cut funding for the Center for Disease Control. Trade advisor Peter Navarro and the World Health Organization met with egocentric disinterest when warning the president about the urgency of confronting the virus.

Tens of thousands of Americans and other authorized/excepted travelers have arrived in the U.S. from China following Trump’s personally heralded but mostly ineffective travel ban.

The following are early 2020 statements by an initially apathetic commander in chief:

• Feb 24: Trump tweeted, “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA....Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

One has to wonder what was more important to him with the upcoming election.

• Feb 26: “Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low…When you have 15 people and 15 within a couple of days is going to down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

• Feb 28: “I think it’s going very well. ... We’ve prepared for the worst, but we think we’re going to be very fortunate. ... It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

• Mar 12: " It’s going to go away. ... The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China we have 32 deaths at this point. ... when you look at the kind of numbers that you’re seeing coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it."

• Mar 17: “I’ve always known this is a, this is a real, this is a pandemic. ...I’ve felt that it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”

What extrasensory perception! But, if true, why did he ignore the severity early on?

When finally being forced to admit the urgent need to flatten the curve, he still lacked being prepared to fully meet the challenge. One way in particular was the logistical requirement of ensuring the efficient and expeditious distribution of critical medical supplies.

Trump maintained it’s not the federal government’s responsibility to act as the central purchasing agent by ordering personal protective equipment such as ventilators and masks and distributing them nationwide as needed. That obligation, he claimed, rested with each state. That misguided philosophy caused unnecessary chaos and delay in trying to halt the spread.

Former Kansas governor and HHS chief Kathleen Sebelius hit the nail on the head stating, “States do not have the purchasing power of the federal government. They do not have the ability to run a deficit like the federal government. They do not have the logistical power of the federal government.”

State governors added another obvious defect to Trump’s misguided judgement; namely, they were bidding against federal agencies and each other for scarce supplies thus driving up prices.

I wasn’t an impressive Boy Scout. But, one thing I’ve subsequently benefited from was adhering to the motto, “Be Prepared.” I don’t know if Trump ever joined, but if he did, I suspect he didn’t much past the rank of tenderfoot.

Raymond A. Hult, Bountiful, is a retired FBI special agent

Raymond A. Hult, Bountiful, is a retired FBI special agent with years of experience putting bungling subjects in jail because of their inability to adequately prepare to avoid the inevitable adverse consequences.

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