- New documents detail how the Trump administration blocked US efforts to fight COVID-19.
- Health officials said they were being blocked from holding press conferences as the pandemic worsened.
- One – Dr. Deborah Birx – said up to 40% of COVID deaths could have been avoided with better approaches.
The Trump administration blocked the CDC from warning the public about the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, according to testimony from US health officials.
Leading figures in the US government’s response to the pandemic described them struggling to get their message across due to interference from Trump officials in interviews with a House committee investigating how the pandemic was being handled.
Their comments appear in transcripts of interviews published Friday by The Washington Post.
One interviewee was Dr. Nancy Messonnier, a prominent CDC official. She said she was prevented from appearing in the media after warning about the rapid spread of COVID-19 in early 2020.
The warnings she was able to make led to reprimands from officials, including then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, she said.
“It was certainly our intent to draw the public’s attention to the likelihood…that it would spread and that we thought there was a high risk that it would be disruptive,”
“I specifically remember being upset after the phone call [with Azar]she told the detectives.
Kate Galatas, a senior CDC communications officer, said the White House has repeatedly blocked the CDC’s media requests, including a scheduled briefing in April 2020.
dr. Deborah Birx, the former White House coronavirus task force coordinator, accused the administration of trying to limit COVID-19 testing to give the impression that there were fewer cases.
Birx said Trump and his officials ignored the health measures she said could have saved thousands of lives.
She said: “I think if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in the number of meals in the house, getting friends and family to understand the risk of congregating in private homes, and we had more testing done, we probably would have reduced the number of fatalities in the 30 years could have been reduced to 40 percent less range.”
In an earlier interview with the subcommittee, Dr. Birx said better White House decisions could have reduced the number of deaths from COVID-19 by as much as 40%.
A Trump representative did not address claims that his officials had disrupted efforts to contain the pandemic, but instead offered a general defense of his track record on the virus.
Liz Harrington, a Trump spokeswoman, told The Post: “President Trump has made an unprecedented effort to successfully fight the coronavirus, delivering personal protective equipment, hospital beds, treatments and three vaccines in record time.”
She claimed the Biden administration had done worse than Trump, which she said was obscured by the media.