early warning signs
July 15, 2020

Over time, it's become clear just how many governments struggled to make what would now be largely recognized as the right decision in containing the coronavirus in the early stages of the pandemic. Hindsight, after all, is 20/20, and the cliche applies to the European Union, as well, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports.

The Bureau's investigation reveals "the complacency, confusion, and lack of coordination" that allowed Europe's epidemic to expand from just a handful of cases into a mass crisis in under two months. One of the root causes appears to have come from a well-meaning place. In February, EU officials were determined to help China, where the virus originated, with its own outbreak, both for humanitarian reasons and for the purpose of preventing the novel pathogen from spreading internationally. But, as the world soon learned, containment was no longer possible at that point.

Member states sent plane loads of personal protective equipment to China throughout February, but the Bureau reports they continued to do so despite warnings that member states were running low on their stockpiles. One source said a colleague went even further, reportedly telling the European commission to "pay attention to what you are doing because we will need them ourselves."

The tide turned quickly after an aircraft headed for China took off from Vienna, Austria, carrying 25 metric tons of PPE (all told, EU member states sent 56 metric tons to China). Three days later, with Italy's outbreak worsening and hospitals in the country's northern regions at risk of being overwhelmed, Rome asked the commission for masks. But the request was met with silence — no member states were willing to donate to their neighbor. That, the Bureau reports, is when it hit that the EU had missed what was really going on. Read more at The Bureau for Investigative Journalism. Tim O'Donnell

March 21, 2020

The Trump administration has taken some heat for what many consider a delayed response to the coronavirus pandemic that's now sweeping through the country. But, The Washington Post reports, there were apparently numerous government officials who tried to warn the president about the repercussions as early as January.

U.S. officials familiar with spy agency reporting told the Post the intelligence community issued warnings that China, where the new virus originated, was minimizing its own outbreak earlier in the year and that the U.S. could be facing a crisis. "Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn't get him to do anything about it," one official said. "The system was blinking red."

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar reportedly couldn't get Trump to speak with him about the virus until mid-January, two weeks after officials were alerted about its spread in China. Even then, Trump was reportedly more interested in when flavored vaping products were going to return to the market.

In late January, Joe Grogan, the head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, argued the virus could cost Trump re-election, while Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger began calling for a more forceful response in early February. But despite all that, Trump maintained his belief the threat would dissipate before it became serious in the U.S. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

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