It was revealed Sunday by Reuters that several months before the coronavirus pandemic, a public health position in Beijing intended to aid in outbreaks was eliminated.
“The American disease expert, a medical epidemiologist embedded in China’s disease control agency, left her post in July, according to four sources with knowledge of the issue. The first cases of the new coronavirus may have emerged as early as November, and as cases exploded, the Trump administration in February chastised China for censoring information about the outbreak and keeping U.S. experts from entering the country to help,” said Reuters.
“It was heartbreaking to watch. If someone had been there, public health officials and governments across the world could have moved much faster,” said Bao-Ping Zhu, a Chinese American who worked in the role between 2007 and 2011.
But when asked about it during a press conference Sunday, Trump said he didn’t know anything about it.
“Zhu and the other sources said the American expert, Dr. Linda Quick, was a trainer of Chinese field epidemiologists who were deployed to the epicenter of outbreaks to help track, investigate and contain diseases,” Reuters said. “As an American CDC employee, they said, Quick was in an ideal position to be the eyes and ears on the ground for the United States and other countries on the coronavirus outbreak, and might have alerted them to the growing threat weeks earlier.”
Trump paused before handing the question to the CDC director, and ranted that all of the reports that he had hurt the CDC with his budget and fired people were all false.
In fact, Trump’s 2021 proposed budget, which has not been passed, would have cut the CDC budget if it had passed before the outbreak hit. Under Trump’s administration, the person tasked with national security around pandemics was fired, and the National Security Council unit focused on pandemic preparedness was disbanded.
Former National Security Director John Bolton tweeted that nothing under his reorganization had to do with cutting the position and disbanding the unit.
Claims that streamlining NSC structures impaired our nation's bio defense are false. Global health remained a top NSC priority, and its expert team was critical to effectively handling the 2018-19 Africa Ebola crisis. The angry Left just can't stop attacking, even in a crisis.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) March 14, 2020
The director of the Center for Disease Control, Dr. Robert Redfield, said that the unit was “actually being augmented.” He didn’t answer whether the person in the position for 30 years was let go, quit, or something else.
In a statement from the CDC to Reuters, they claimed that the elimination of the adviser position had nothing to do with Washington ignoring the coronavirus and not acting sooner.
“The agency said its decision not to have a resident adviser ‘started well before last summer and was due to China’s excellent technical capability and maturity of the program,'” Reuters reported.
The position was cut in July, just months before the first case appeared in China in mid-November.
Watch Dr. Redfield’s response below: