The chart below shows events, information, and government reports related to the planning for and possibility of pandemics through Joe Biden’s October 25, 2019 comment about the United States not being prepared for a pandemic.
A cluster of pneumonia cases with an unknown cause emerged in China on December 21, 2019, and the CDC confirmed the first known case of coronavirus on U.S. soil on January 21, 2020.
President Trump’s first public comment on COVID-19 occurred on January 22, 2020 and Joe Biden’s first public COVID-19 comment was on January 27, 2020.
|President George W. Bush said in a speech at the National Institutes of Health, “Scientists and doctors cannot tell us where or when the next pandemic will strike or how severe it’ll be, but most agree: At some point, we are likely to face another pandemic…|
A pandemic is a lot like a forest fire: If caught early it might be extinguished with limited damage; if allowed to smolder undetected it can grow to an inferno that spreads quickly beyond our ability to control it…
It is vital that our nation discuss and address the threat of pandemic flu now… [I]f we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare.”
Source: CNN, “Transcript of Bush Speech on Pandemic Flu Strategy,” cnn.com, Nov. 1, 2005
|2009||“PREDICT, a project of USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) program, was initiated in 2009 to strengthen global capacity for detection and discovery of zoonotic viruses with pandemic potential… Now working with partners in 31 countries, PREDICT is continuing to build platforms for disease surveillance and for identifying and monitoring pathogens that can be shared between animals and people.”|
Source: US Agency for International Development, “Reducing Pandemic Risk, Promoting Global Health,” usaid.gov (accessed Apr. 14, 2020)
|President Obama said in a speech at the National Institutes of Health, “There may and likely will come a time in which we have both an airborne disease that is deadly. And in order for us to deal with that effectively, we have to put in place an infrastructure — not just here at home, but globally — that allows us to see it quickly, isolate it quickly, respond to it quickly… So that if and when a new strain of flu, like the Spanish flu, crops up five years from now or a decade from now, we’ve made the investment and we’re further along to be able to catch it.”|
Source: The White House, “Remarks by the President on Research for Potential Ebola Vaccines,” obamawhitehouse.archives.gov, Dec. 2, 2014
|Referencing the 2014 Ebola outbreak, Bill Gates spoke about the lack of preparedness for the next epidemic, saying, “If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war… But we’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We’re not ready for the next epidemic….|
The failure to prepare could allow the next epidemic to be dramatically more devastating than Ebola… We need to do simulations, germ games, not war games, so that we see where the holes are… The World Bank estimates that if we have a worldwide flu epidemic, global wealth will go down by over three trillion dollars and we’d have millions and millions of deaths.”
Source: Bill Gates, “We’re Not Ready for the Next Epidemic,” gatesnotes.com, Mar. 18, 2015
|A memo addressed to then-National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice, written by Christopher Kirchhoff (Director for Strategic Planning at the National Security Council at the time), stated, “A strong scientific consensus exists that we will see more zoonotic pandemics and infectious disease outbreaks going forward…|
The very dynamics of globalization and population growth will lead to more pandemics, which must appropriately be considered among the most serious threats to our homeland and to international security.”
Source: Christopher Kirchhoff, “Memorandum for Ambassador Susan E. Rice,” int.nyt.com, July 11, 2016
|Officials from the outgoing Obama administration met with incoming Trump officials to discuss challenges that would arise in the event of a pandemic. The tabletop exercise simulated a new respiratory influenza outbreak starting in China and arriving in the United States due to international travel.|
Source: Nahal Toosi, Daniel Lippman, and Dan Diamond, “Before Trump’s Inauguration, a Warning: ‘The Worst Influenza Pandemic since 1918,'” politico.com, Mar. 16, 2020
|Feb. 18||Bill Gates wrote in an Op/Ed, “[E]pidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year. And they say there is a reasonable probability the world will experience such an outbreak in the next 10-15 years… I view the threat of deadly pandemics right up there with nuclear war and climate change. Innovation, cooperation, and careful planning can dramatically mitigate the risks presented by each of these threats.”|
Source: Bill Gates, “A New Kind of Terrorism Could Wipe out 30 Million People in Less Than a Year — and We Are Not Prepared,” businessinsider.com, Feb. 18, 2017
|The PREDICT program run by USAID was “collapsed into hibernation” in January 2019 and officially “reached the end of its second 5-year funding cycle on Sep. 30, 2019.” USAID enacted a 6-month extension on funding for the program, but partner organizations laid off scientists and analysts when field work stopped in September.|
Sources: Jan. 30, 2020 letter from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Angus King, Jr. (I-ME); Emily Baumgaertner and James Rainey, “Trump Administration Ended Pandemic Early-Warning Program to Detect Coronaviruses,” latimes.com, Apr. 2, 2020
|June 24||President Trump signed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and |
Advancing Innovation Act of 2019 (PAHPAIA), which “reauthorizes, revises,
and establishes several programs and entities relating to public-health
emergency preparedness and response.”
Source: US Department of Health & Human Services, "Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act," phe.gov, Sep. 27, 2019
|Aug. 13-16||Crimson Contagion 2019 Functional Exercise with federal, state, local, and tribal governments, hospitals, and private sector found that “The U.S. lacks sufficient domestic manufacturing capacity and/or raw materials for almost all pandemic influenza medical countermeasures, including vaccines and therapeutics, the needles and syringes needed to administer them, and personal protective equipment, including masks, needles, and syringes.”|
The exercise was based on a hypothetical scenario of a new influenza virus starting in China and spreading around the world. Materials for the event predicted that a pandemic of high severity could result in 110 million illnesses, 7.7 million hospitalizations, and 586,000 deaths in the United States.
Source: David E. Sanger, Eric Lipton, Eileen Sullivan, and Michael Crowley, “Before Virus Outbreak, a Cascade of Warnings Went Unheeded,” nytimes.com, Mar. 22, 2020
|Sep. 15||The Council of Economic Advisers wrote in a report titled "Mitigating the Impact of Pandemic Influenza through Vaccine Innovation" that, “in a pandemic year, depending on the transmission efficiency and virulence of the particular pandemic virus, the economic damage would range from $413 billion to $3.79 trillion. Fatalities in the most serious scenario would exceed half a million people in the United States. Millions more would be sick, with between approximately 670,000 to 4.3 million requiring hospitalization.”|
Source: The Council of Economic Advisors, "Mitigating the Impact of Pandemic Influenza through Vaccine Innovation," whitehouse.gov, Sep. 2019
|Oct. 25||Joe Biden, Vice President in the Obama administration, wrote on Twitter, "We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores."|
Source: Joe Biden, Twitter.com, Oct. 25, 2019
[Note: On Oct. 25, 2019, Joe Biden retweeted an Oct. 24, 2020 Washington Post article, “None of these 195 countries — the U.S. included — is fully prepared for a pandemic, report says," along with his own comment as shown above.
Although COVID-19 was about two months away at the time of Biden's quote, we decided to start our coronavirus coverage with his October 25 statement about pandemic preparedness because it was the first relevant pandemic comment that we found by VP Biden or by President Trump.]