That number has only grown in the days since. And in the face of that crisis, President Donald Trump has a message for the American people: It was China’s fault, and the only reason the US death toll isn’t worse is because of his quick action in banning travel from China.
In fact, there are many reasons the US death toll is so high, including a national response plagued by delays at the federal level, wishful thinking by President Trump, the sidelining of experts, a pointed White House campaign to place the blame for the Trump administration’s shortcomings on others, and time wasted chasing down false hopes based on poor science.
Often as not, though, rather than argue the merits of its response at home, the Trump administration has chosen to focus on its action against China as a benchmark for success — and that’s not accidental. In fact, Trump’s quick pivot to blaming China is a deliberate strategy, supposedly backed up by internal Trump campaign polling and designed to obfuscate the details of the truly inadequate US response. But in the early days of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Trump himself took a very different line on everything from China to the severity of the virus itself and how bad things might get in the US.
Though White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted as early as March that the virus could kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans, Trump has had his own ever-shifting goalposts for what counts as a successful response. On April 20, he predicted 50,000 to 60,000 dead from Covid-19. A week later, he revised his estimate to 70,000. On May 4, it was 80,000 to 100,000 people, and we now know it will continue to climb past that mark.
Throughout the pandemic, however, much of the Trump administration’s spin — regarding Trump’s own response, China’s role, and more — has been misleading, if not outright untrue. Here’s what Trump and the federal government have — and have not — done to respond to the virus.
In late 2019, the coronavirus wasn’t on much of the world’s radar. President Trump was becoming the third president in US history to be impeached. We now know, however, that the first cases of the virus were cropping up as early as November. Here’s where things stood late last year:
November 17: Although it was not diagnosed as such at the time, researchers have now identified the first confirmed Covid-19 case as having been seen on November 17 in China’s Hubei province.
December 27: A man in France, who is now the first known Covid-19 patient outside of China, goes to the emergency room with a fever and difficulty breathing. At the time, Covid-19 was still unheard of outside of China.
December 31: The Wuhan Municipal…