“Is This True?!”: The February Email That Should’ve Woken up the White House

Tia Dufour, Zuma

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The same day President Donald Trump claimed to have the coronavirus outbreak “very much under control in this country,” his top disaster response official at the Department of Health and Human Services sent an email that should have been the White House’s holy-shit moment.

A New York Times investigation on Saturday reveals how, in late February, the White House’s coronavirus task force had shifted to preparing for the virus’ inevitable spread inside the United States. 

Two days after that meeting, a task force member, HHS official Dr. Robert Kadlec, read an alarming email from a researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology about how asymptomatic cases were helping spread the virus:

A 20-year-old Chinese woman had infected five relatives with the virus even though she never displayed any symptoms herself. The implication was grave — apparently healthy people could be unknowingly spreading the virus — and supported the need to move quickly to mitigation.

“Is this true?!” Dr. Kadlec wrote back to the researcher. “If so we have a huge whole on our screening and quarantine effort,” including a typo where he meant hole. Her response was blunt: “People are carrying the virus everywhere.”

Here’s the full email, per the Times:

New York Times

Kadlec and others presented Trump with a plan, “Four Steps to Mitigation.”

We know Trump didn’t follow their advice, instead spending the next days and weeks minimizing the coronavirus by claiming the flu was deadlier and attacking Democrats and the media for their supposed politicization of the crisis. While Washington state was battling the worst of its outbreak, Trump called Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee “a nasty person.” Trump said he wanted governors to be “appreciative” of his aid. 

On March 10, Trump said, “we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” 

Now a month later, the United States has reached a grim milestone, passing Italy on Saturday as the world leader in deaths from the virus. More than 20,000 people have died in the country.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

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