If Trump Had A Pandemic Plan In August, Why Did It Take Until March To Implement?

Donald Trump, through his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, is now saying that he’s had a pandemic response plan prepared since August, and that it’s much better than the plan the Obama administration left behind. They even carried out a pandemic preparedness exercise and followed it up with an entire after-action report, McEnany says. Yet the Trump administration’s delays in responding to the SARS-CoV2 virus allowed the pandemic to hit with devastating effects.

Kayleigh McEnany says Trump plan in August
[Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

Poynter has a timeline of the handling of the current pandemic, beginning with China acknowledging the existence of the novel coronavirus in December 2019. Trump’s first response comes in late January, after the first U.S. case is diagnosed — and that response is merely to dismiss the virus as “totally under control.” A coronavirus task force isn’t formed until January 29, after Trump has already praised China’s response in a tweet. The President continues to hold campaign rallies, and near the end of February, he’s still tweeting that it’s all under control. It’s March 13th before Trump declares a national emergency, and the 17th before he’s telling people to stay home if possible, limit social gatherings, and declares that he has always taken this seriously, and knew it was a pandemic before the WHO labeled it one (March 11).

Now the president has spent much of the past week blaming the prior administration for the failed response, and there has been some pushback, with fact checkers and Obama administration officials pointing out the 69-page pandemic plan they left behind. Trump is doubling down, insisting that the Obama plan was useless and that the current administration had to develop its own superior plan. On his way to board a plane to Pennsylvania Thursday, he stopped and asked Kayleigh McEnany to explain this to reporters.

The Obama-Biden plan that has been referenced was insufficient, wasn’t going to work, so what our administration did, under the leadership of President Trump, is do an entire 28-scene pandemic preparedness report. And beyond that, we did a whole exercise on pandemic preparedness, in August of last year, and had an entire after-action report put together. In other words, the Obama-Biden paper packet, it was superceded by a President Trump-style pandemic preparedness response plan.

Besides the failure to implement the purported plan until COVID-19 already had taken hold in the U.S., Raw Story pointed out another flaw in claims that a Trump plan had been created months before the crisis hit: no one in the Trump administration has mentioned it until now. Trump has pointed fingers at the Obama administration, but has never, before today, mentioned his own superior plan, or appeared at a podium with the binders that purportedly contain it.

Trump’s plan was, McEnany claims, in place in August, but it was never mentioned to the public until now, nine months later, when the U.S has already reached 82k deaths, by the CDC‘s count. According to Vox, the Trump administration didn’t even start ordering ventilators and masks until mid-March. (McEnany doesn’t mention whether protective equipment supplies are a part of the Trump Pandemic Preparedness Plan.)

The specific contents of neither the Obama plan nor the Trump plan have been made public. It’s not clear what either of them recommends with regard to supplies of personal protective equipment, travel bans or limitations, testing and tracing, or methods to slow and limit the spread. However, whatever exactly may be in these plans, the question remains: if the Trump plan existed in August, and exercises had been carried out to practice the response, why did Trump spend so long minimizing the pandemic, holding rallies, and promising that it would all just go away?

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