When President Trump took office in 2017, the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense survived the transition intact. Its mission was the same as when I was asked to lead the office, established after the Ebola epidemic of 2014: to do everything possible within the vast powers and resources of the U.S. government to prepare for the next disease outbreak and prevent it from becoming an epidemic or pandemic.
One year later, I was mystified when the White Housedissolved the office, leaving the country less prepared for pandemics like covid-19.
The U.S. government’s slow and inadequate response to the newcoronavirusunderscores the need for organized, accountable leadership to prepare for and respond to pandemic threats.
In a health security crisis, speed is essential. When this new coronavirus emerged, there was no clear White House-led structure to oversee our response, and we lost valuable time. Yes, we have capable and committed global and national disease-prevention and management organizations, as well as state and local health departments, all working overtime now. Buteven in prepared cities like Seattle, health systems are struggling to test patients and keep pace with growing caseloads. The specter of rapid community transmission and exponential growth is real and daunting. The job of a White House pandemics office would have been to get ahead: to accelerate the response, empower experts, anticipate failures, and act quickly and transparently to solve problems.
it is clear that eliminating the office has contributed to the federal government’s sluggish domestic response. What’s especially concerning about the absence of this office today is that it was originally set up because a previous epidemic made the need for it quite clear.
HereÃ¢ÂÂs my exchange with President Trump in which he said on the record he would probably get a #Coronavirus test Ã¢ÂÂfairly soonÃ¢ÂÂ though he said it would not be because he stood next to someone who tested positive for it. https://t.co/01WEUrOATe— Weijia Jiang (@weijia) March 13, 2020