The chart below shows events, information, and government reports related to the planning for and possibility of pandemics prior to President Trump’s first comment on COVID-19 on January 22, 2020 and Joe Biden’s first COVID-19 comment on January 27, 2020.
Information includes early reports of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. 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.
Info on Pandemics through January 21, 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.||CNN received 117 pages of leaked documents belonging to the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, first reported on Dec. 1, 2020. CNN stated:
“The [leaked] report characterizes the Hubei CDC as underfunded, lacking the right testing equipment, and with unmotivated staff who were often felt ignored in China's vast bureaucracy.
The documents include an internal audit, which forensic analysis shows was written in October 2019, before the pandemic began.
More than a month before the first [coronavirus] cases are believed to have emerged, the review continues to urge the health authorities to ‘rigorously find the weak link in the work of disease control, actively analyze and make up for the shortcomings.’”
Nick Paton Walsh, “The Wuhan files,” cnn.com, Dec. 1, 2020
|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
|Dec. 4||Robert Kadlec, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, testified before a congressional committee that, “An influenza pandemic poses a significant threat to global public health and to the security of the United States.”
Robert Kadlec, "Flu Season: U.S. Public Health Preparedness and Response," house.gov, Dec. 4, 2019
|Dec. 21||“A cluster of pneumonia cases with an unknown cause occurred in Wuhan starting on December 21, 2019.”
Source: Wenjie Tan, Xiang Zhao, Xuejun Ma, et al., “Notes from the Field: A Novel Coronavirus Genome Identified in a Cluster of Pneumonia Cases — Wuhan, China 2019-2020,” China CDC Weekly, Jan. 21, 2020
|Dec. 30||“The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued an urgent notification to medical institutions under its jurisdiction, ordering efforts to appropriately treat patients with pneumonia of unknown cause.”
Source: Xinhua, “China Publishes Timeline on COVID-19 Information Sharing, Int’l Cooperation,” xinhuanet.com, Apr. 6, 2020
|Dec. 31||Chinese health officials notified the World Health Organization about a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
Source: World Health Organization, “Pneumonia of Unknown Cause – China,” who.int, Jan. 5, 2020
|“Wuhan health authorities on Monday said they continue seeking the cause but have so far ruled out influenza, avian influenza, adenovirus, and coronaviruses SARS and MERS.”” Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “It’s obviously a virus. My guess would be that it’s a different kind of coronavirus.”
Source: Eileen Drage O’Reilly, “China Hunts Cause of Mysterious Pneumonia Outbreak in Wuhan,” axios.com, Jan. 6, 2020
The CDC issued a level 1 alert stating, “The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued an urgent notification to medical institutions under its jurisdiction, ordering efforts to appropriately treat patients with pneumonia of unknown cause… Person-to-person spread is occurring, although it’s unclear how easily the virus spreads between people.”
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Novel Coronavirus in China,” cdc.gov, Jan. 6, 2020
|Jan. 7||The US Embassy in China put out a health alert about pneumonia of unknown cause in China, saying that the US CDC had “issued an Watch Level 1 Alert (be aware and practice usual precautions)” for travelers in Wuhan.
Source: US Embassy and Consulates in China, “Health Alert – Pneumonia of Unknown Cause in China,” china.usembassy-china.org.cn, Jan. 7, 2020
Chinese scientists confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of the cluster of viral pneumonia of unknown cause being seen in Wuhan.
Source: The 2019-nCoV Outbreak Joint Field Epidemiology Investigation Team and Qun Li, “Notes from the Field: An Outbreak of NCIP (2019-nCoV) Infection in China — Wuhan, Hubei Province, 2019-2020,” China CDC Weekly, Jan. 22, 2020
|Jan. 9||WHO announced that Chinese authorities had identified a novel coronavirus in a person hospitalized in Wuhan. At this time, WHO advised against any travel or trade restrictions on China.
The WHO said, “Preliminary identification of a novel virus in a short period of time is a notable achievement and demonstrates China’s increased capacity to manage new outbreak… According to Chinese authorities, the virus in question can cause severe illness in some patients and does not transmit readily between people.”
Source: World Health Organization, “WHO Statement Regarding Cluster of Pneumonia Cases in Wuhan, China,” who.int, Jan. 9, 2020
|Jan. 10||Chinese scientists posted the initial gene sequencing data for the novel coronavirus on Virological.org, which allowed global experts to conduct research.
Source: Lisa Schnirring, “China Releases Genetic Data on New Coronavirus, Now Deadly,” cidrap.umn.edu, Jan. 11, 2020
|Jan. 11||Chinese state media reported the first coronavirus death: “The man, the first victim of the outbreak that began in December, was a regular buyer at the seafood market and had been previously diagnosed with abdominal tumours and chronic liver disease, the health authority said. Treatments did not improve his symptoms after he was admitted to hospital and he died on the evening of 9 January when his heart failed.”
Source: Reuters in Shanghai, “First Death from China Mystery Illness Outbreak,” theguardian.com, Jan. 11, 2020
[Note: Documents leaked to CNN on Dec. 1, 2020 showed that, "The Chinese government has previously pointed to the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan as the likely initial epicenter of the [coronavirus] outbreak in mid-December, where meat of exotic wild animals was sold. Yet that claim has been at least partially challenged by a Lancet study of the first December patients, which determined one third of the 41 infected that month had no direct connection to that market."
Source: Nick Paton Walsh, “The Wuhan files,” cnn.com, Dec. 1, 2020]
|Jan. 13||Thailand reported the first confirmed case of coronavirus outside China.
Source: World Health Organization, “Novel Coronavirus – Thailand (ex-China),” who.int, Jan. 14, 2020
|Jan. 14||WHO posted on Twitter, “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China”
Source: World Health Organization, Twitter.com, Jan. 14, 2020
Maria Van Kerkhove, acting head of WHO’s emerging diseases unit, said in a press briefing that there may have been limited human-to-human transmission among family members in the initial 41 patients in Wuhan, and noted the risk of a wider outbreak. Van Kerkhove also said, “it is very clear right now that we have no sustained human-to-human transmission.”
Source: Stephanie Nebehay, “WHO Says New China Coronavirus Could Spread, Warns Hospitals Worldwide,” reuters.com, Jan. 14, 2020
|Jan. 17||The CDC and Homeland Security announced “enhanced health screenings to detect ill travelers traveling to the United States on direct or connecting flights from Wuhan, China” at the San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York JFK airports.
The CDC said, “Based on current information, the risk from 2019-nCoV to the American public is currently deemed to be low. Nevertheless, CDC is taking proactive preparedness precautions.”
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Public Health Screening to Begin at 3 U.S. Airports for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (“2019-nCoV”),” cdc.gov, Jan. 17, 2020
|Jan. 18||According to the whistleblower complaint filed by Rick Bright, former chief of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency in the Health
and Human Services Department, he sent an email to Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary of health for preparedness and response. Bright asked Kadlec about convening the Disaster Leadership Group to coordinate government planning for the emerging COVID-19 outbreak.
The whistleblower complaint states that Dr. Kadlec replied that he was “[n]ot sure if that is a time sensitive urgency.”
Source: CNN, “READ: Rick Bright’s Full Whistleblower Complaint,” cnn.com, May 5, 2020
|Jan. 20||China announced that human-to-human transmission had been confirmed.
Source: Yanan Wang and Ken Moritsugu, “Human-to-Human Transmission Confirmed in China Coronavirus,” apnews.com, Jan. 19, 2020
WHO posted on Twitter, “It is now very clear from the latest information that there is at least some human-to-human transmission of #nCoV2019. Infections among health care workers strengthen the evidence for this.”
Source: World Health Organization, Twitter.com, Jan. 20, 2020
|Jan. 21||The CDC confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the United States, in Washington state: “The patient recently returned from Wuhan, China, where an outbreak of pneumonia caused by this novel coronavirus has been ongoing since December 2019. While originally thought to be spreading from animal-to-person, there are growing indications that limited person-to-person spread is happening. It’s unclear how easily this virus is spreading between people.”
Source: CDC, “First Travel-related Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Detected in United States,” cdc.gov, Jan. 21, 2020
“A report by the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London suggested there could be more than 1,700 infections. However, Gabriel Leung, the dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, put the figure closer to 1,300.”
Source: BBC News, “New China Virus: Warning against Cover-up as Number of Cases Jumps,” bbc.com, Jan. 21, 2020
Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke to broadcaster Greg Kelly on Newsmax TV about the coronavirus.
Kelly: “Bottom line, we don’t need to worry about this one, right?”
Dr. Fauci: “Well, obviously you need to take it seriously and do the kinds of things that the CDC and the Department of Homeland Security are doing. But this is not a major threat for people in the United States. This is not something that the citizens of the United States right now should be worried about.”
Source: Newsmax TV, “Greg Kelly Reports (1/21/20),” newsmaxtv.com, Jan. 21, 2020