What We Learned This Week is a Microcosm of the Trump Administration’s Failure on COVID-19 Response
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of incompetence and inadequacy, from ignoring and downplaying the threat at the outset to its epic mismanagement and chaotic response. The result has been 77,000 deaths, 20.5 million jobs lost in April alone, and a jobless rate not seen since the Great Depression. For the past few months, Accountable.US has been detailing the administration’s mismanagement, misinformation, cronyism, and harmful impacts on workers, small businesses, and families. Looking at this week alone, all of those elements were on full display.
Incompetence, Lack of Transparency and Mismanagement Led to Shortage in Supplies
- Putting People with No Experience in Charge “Exacerbated” Supply Shortages. A whistleblower complaint this week revealed Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner established his own coronavirus task force where he installed “volunteers from consulting and private equity firms with little expertise in the tasks they were assigned, exacerbating chronic problems in obtaining supplies for hospitals and other needs.”
- Spending Millions for PPE with Little Transparency or Effectiveness. The Jared Kushner-led Project Airbridge, intended to bring PPE to COVID-19 hotspots, has “cost taxpayers at least $91 million. But its impact on the pandemic is unclear and shrouded in secrecy,” according to the Washington Post.
- Recommending Ventilators that Were Never Delivered. The Kushner task force followed a tip from two such volunteers who passed along forms from Yaron Oren-Pines, who said he could provide 1,000 ventilators to New York. State officials awarded Oren-Pines a $69 million contract but not a single ventilator was delivered.
- Dysfunction Harmed Delivery of Drug Treatments. Axios reported on Friday that “A complete breakdown in communication and coordination within the Trump administration has undermined the distribution” of emdesivir, a drug that has the potential to help treat coronavirus patients.
Mismanagement, Cronyism Led to Favoring the Trump-Connected While Small Businesses Can’t Access the Aid They Need
- Prioritizing People with Trump Connections. The whistleblower complaint revealed this week alleged that volunteers on the Jared Kushner task force “were told to prioritize tips from political allies and associates of President Trump, tracked on a spreadsheet called ‘V.I.P. Update.’” The V.I.P.s reportedly included Fox News media stars as well as former “Apprentice” contestants.
- Companies with Access to Funds Got Taxpayer Money. Reuters identified 41 publicly-traded companies this week that received taxpayer funds under the Payment Protection Program (PPP) despite the fact they had enough money to cover basic expenses for at least two months. Six companies could last until December.
- Small Businesses Can’t Access the Aid They Need. Meanwhile, the Small Business Administration announced the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), a program to provide aid of up to $2 million to help small businesses, was so overwhelmed in demand that it was limiting the loan amount to $150,000 and blocking nearly all new applications.
- SBA Did Not Follow Congressional Mandates to Help Rural, Minority, and Women-Owned Businesses. A Small Business Administration (SBA) Inspector General’s report found that the SBA did not follow congressional mandates in the Payment Protection Program (PPP), saying that borrowers “including rural, minority and women-owned businesses may not have received the loans as intended.”
Mismanagement and Ignoring Public Health Experts Led to the Failure to Protect Workers and Lives Put at Risk
- Not Enough Tests. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chair Lamar Alexander said at a hearing on COVID-19 testing this week that the country’s testing capability is “not nearly enough” to safely reopen the economy. Most of the states that have begun to reopen their economies fail the White House’s own guidelines to begin doing so. Yet, President Trump continues to tout these efforts.
- Failing to Protect Workers. NBC News reported this week that while the Trump administration is forcing meatpacking plant workers to go back to work, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia has “rebuffed pleas for new workplace safety mandates from meatpackers.”
- Opening Up Economies Amid Worse Infection & Death Projections. This week, as states began reopening their economies, a draft report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projected COVID-19 cases surging to 200,000 daily by June 1, with deaths topping 3,000 each day. The White House and CDC disavowed the report.
- Shelving Public Health Guidance. This week we learned the Trump administration told CDC scientists that a 17-page guide on how to safely reopen the economy “would never see the light of day.” After the report came out, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the guideline was not approved by CDC Director Robert Redfield. Internal emails show, however, that he did, and that the decision to withhold the guidance came from “the highest levels of the White House.”
- Contradicting a Nurse who Warned of Lack of PPE. After a nurse said the availability of PPE was “sporadic” at a National Nurse Day event in the Oval Office this week, President Trump immediately contradicted her.
Ignoring Public Health Experts Led to Pushing Unproven Treatments
- Pushing Hydroxychloroquine and Pushing Out Those Raising Objections. This week, Richard Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, alleged in his whistleblower complaint he was fired because he raised objections over the use of hydroxychloroquine that Trump and political allies were pushing. He also alleges he tried to sound the alarm about the lack of preparedness to coming pandemic in January but was ignored. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) reviewed the complaint and said there was reason to believe Bright’s removal was retaliation and recommended he be reinstated while OSC completes its investigation.
Hypocrisy Led to One Set of Rules for the White House and Another for Everyone Else
- White House Says Testing is Not the Answer. At a White House Press Briefing this week, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “Yeah, well, let’s dismiss a myth about tests right now. If we tested every single American in this country at this moment, we’d have to retest them an hour later, and then an hour later after that. Because at any moment, you could theoretically contract this virus. So the notion that everyone needs to be tested is just simply nonsensical.”
- White House Says White House Staff Will Get Tested Daily. Meanwhile, we learned that President Trump did not wear a mask touring the Honeywell plant in Phoenix this week because everyone who was expected to come into contact with him was tested before the event. The same went for all the nurses at the White House Oval Office. After one of Trump’s personal valets tested positive for COVID-19, the White House implemented daily testing for White House staff. Before, it was weekly.
- Urging People to Go Back to Work While the Cabinet Stays on the Sidelines. While Trump is urging people to go back to work, mandating it in some cases, his cabinet has been sitting on the sidelines, according to NBC News. For example, “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, encamped at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, has hardly been heard from amid the biggest economic crisis in a generation.”