Prepare for a pandemic says the World Health Organization. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the covid-19 virus (coronavirus) already meets two of its three criteria for a pandemic: it spreads between people, and it kills. The third is that it has to spread worldwide.

The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

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h/t Axios

The U.S. is woefully unprepared to deal with a major pandemic disease. Laurie Garret explains at Foreign Policy, Trump Has Sabotaged America’s Coronavirus Response:

For the United States, the answers are especially worrying because the government has intentionally rendered itself incapable. In 2018, the Trump administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure. In numerous phone calls and emails with key agencies across the U.S. government, the only consistent response I encountered was distressed confusion. If the United States still has a clear chain of command for pandemic response, the White House urgently needs to clarify what it isIf the United States still has a clear chain of command for pandemic response, the White House urgently needs to clarify what it is—not just for the public but for the government itself, which largely finds itself in the dark.

* * *

Bureaucracy matters. Without it, there’s nothing to coherently manage an alphabet soup of agencies housed in departments ranging from Defense to Commerce, Homeland Security to Health and Human Services (HHS).

But that’s all gone now.

In the spring of 2018, the White House pushed Congress to cut funding for Obama-era disease security programs, proposing to eliminate $252 million in previously committed resources for rebuilding health systems in Ebola-ravaged Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Under fire from both sides of the aisle, President Donald Trump dropped the proposal to eliminate Ebola funds a month later. But other White House efforts included reducing $15 billion in national health spending and cutting the global disease-fighting operational budgets of the CDC, NSC, DHS, and HHS. And the government’s $30 million Complex Crises Fund was eliminated.

In May 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s entire global health security unit shut down, calling for reassignment of Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer and dissolution of his team inside the agency. The month before, then-White House National Security Advisor John Bolton pressured Ziemer’s DHS counterpart, Tom Bossert, to resign along with his team. Neither the NSC nor DHS epidemic teams have been replaced. The global health section of the CDC was so drastically cut in 2018 that much of its staff was laid off and the number of countries it was working in was reduced from 49 to merely 10. Meanwhile, throughout 2018, the U.S. Agency for International Development and its director, Mark Green, came repeatedly under fire from both the White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. And though Congress has so far managed to block Trump administration plans to cut the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps by 40 percent, the disease-fighting cadres have steadily eroded as retiring officers go unreplaced.

Public health advocates have been ringing alarm bells to no avail. Ronald Klain [the “epidemic czar” for Ebola in the Obama administration] has been warning for two years that the United States was in grave danger should a pandemic emerge. In 2017 and 2018, the philanthropist billionaire Bill Gates met repeatedly with Bolton and his predecessor, H.R. McMaster, warning that ongoing cuts to the global health disease infrastructure would render the United States vulnerable to, as he put it, the “significant probability of a large and lethal modern-day pandemic occurring in our lifetimes.” And an independent, bipartisan panel formed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies concluded that lack of preparedness was so acute in the Trump administration that the “United States must either pay now and gain protection and security or wait for the next epidemic and pay a much greater price in human and economic costs.”

The next epidemic is now here; we’ll soon know the costs imposed by the Trump administration’s early negligence and present panic. On Jan. 29, Trump announced the creation of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force, an all-male group of a dozen advisors, five from the White House staff. Chaired by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, the task force includes men from the CDC, State Department, DHS, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Transportation Department. It’s not clear how this task force will function or when it will even convene.

This is where things stood as of Wednesday. With the stock market tanking on fears of a global recession brought about by a major pandemic (note that the concern here is not about the sick and dying, they are collateral damage), and “Dear Leader” concerned about his reelection prospects as a result, he called an impromptu news conference to try to allay fears about how the U.S. will respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to this press conference, Pretty much everything Trump has said about coronavirus is suspect:

Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that the media was overselling the threat and deliberately spooking the stock market, which has taken a tumble this week over coronavirus fears.

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“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” he said Monday, again citing the stock market.

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Even as Trump was offering those assurances, though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered a significantly bleaker assessment, calling an outbreak in the United States “inevitable.”

“Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Tuesday morning. “It’s not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) indicated the information senators were being given did not line up with the rosier assurances that the virus has been contained.

“I can’t comment on what the White House has been saying on this because the people who work for the White House are not saying that,” Blunt said.

* * *

Last is perhaps Trump’s most wishful theory: that the disease will disappear once the weather warms, like the seasonal flu and other strains of coronavirus. He said on Feb. 10 “a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April.” On Feb. 14, he returned to the idea, saying, “There’s a theory that, in April, when it gets warm — historically, that has been able to kill the virus.”

As Aaron Blake of The Post notes, Trump keeps his coronavirus news conference focused on one high-risk patient: Himself:

[A]fter the display we just saw, you could sure be forgiven for thinking Trump had politics on the brain, first and foremost.

From the start of the news conference, Trump repeatedly sought to pat himself and his administration on the back, even as the scope and severity of the viral outbreak worldwide and in the United States is still coming into focus.

“We really think we’ve done a great job in keeping it down to a minimum,” Trump said. “And again, we’ve had tremendous success — tremendous success, beyond what people would have thought.”

Always with the superlatives when talking about himself. His narcissistic personalty disorder is really getting old.

When he was asked why the stock market has plunged 2,000 points in recent days, Trump acknowledged part of the reason was coronavirus fears. But he also blamed the Federal Reserve, Boeing, General Motors, and he said he thought the markets were suddenly worried about one of his potential 2020 Democratic opponents beating him for reelection — despite that campaign having been going for more than a year.

President Trump criticized Democrats for questioning his and his administration’s response to the virus.

Of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Trump said, “I think she’s not thinking about the country.”

Another clear example of psychological projection.

Trump also repeatedly claimed his political opponents had initially opposed his decision to close down travel from certain areas of the world, without elaborating.

Trump was even asked about supporters like Rush Limbaugh advancing the idea that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was exaggerating the potential impact of the new coronavirus to hurt him and that Trump’s opponents had weaponized the estimates against him. Rush Limbaugh Claims The ‘Common Cold’ Coronavirus Is An Effort To ‘Get Trump’:

Citing a debunked conspiracy theory, Limbaugh claimed the disease was probably a “laboratory experiment” conducted by Chinese officials that is “in the process of being weaponized.”

“It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump,” Limbaugh said at the start of his lengthy, misinformation-filled rant.

“Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus. … I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”

“I agree with it,” Trump said. “And I’d like it to stop.”

Oh, this gets crazier than you know. Dr. Nancy Messonnier is the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She also happens to be the sister of former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Pro-Trump media claim CDC is overhyping coronavirus threat because a top official is related to Rod Rosenstein:

[R]ight-wing media have begun to coalesce around a conspiracy theory that Messonnier’s warning should be disregarded because she is the sister of former Trump appointee Rod Rosenstein.

The conspiracy theory about Messonnier and Rosenstein goes back at least to a QAnon Twitter account noting their connection in early January. It really started to pick up speed this week. On February 25, Rush Limbaugh ranted about Messonnier, suggesting an anti-Trump conspiracy after he learned she’s related to Rosenstein.

Trump downplayed the disease, inexplicably claiming that only 15 Americans have the disease (it is actually 60) saying that those who have it will shrink to just five people soon. Trump even contradicted his own scientists as he spoke to the virus’ spread and impact.

President Donald Trump apparently left Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar out of the loop on Vice President Mike Pence taking over the coronavirus response.

According to the Washington Post, Azar was “blindsided” by the decision, according to five people familiar with the incident. Azar learned about it moments before the press conference this afternoon.

And Mike Pence? Seriously? Mike Pence was criticized for his handling of Indiana’s HIV outbreak. He will lead the U.S. coronavirus response.

The announcement has cast light on Pence’s record as a lawmaker and his handling of a major public health crisis during his time as governor of Indiana. The worst HIV outbreak in the state’s history happened on his watch in 2015, which critics blamed on Pence’s belated response and his opposition to authorizing a needle-exchange program.

In 2011, as a member of Congress, he voted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Two years later, a Planned Parenthood clinic that had been the only HIV-testing center in Scott County, Ind., closed after public health spending cuts, HuffPost reported.

Two months passed from the start of the outbreak in 2015 before Pence declared a public state of emergency.

The spread of the disease was attributed to people injecting Opana, an addictive painkiller, with shared needles. But Pence didn’t agree with federal health experts that distributing clean needles was a good idea.

“I don’t believe effective anti-drug policy involves handing out drug paraphernalia,” he told the Indianapolis Star at the time. Despite assurances from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it is an effective way to halt the spread of infections and diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C, Pence said if state lawmakers tried to send him a bill for a needle-exchange program, he would veto it.

As cases spiked, Pence reportedly turned to prayer.

After 75 people were confirmed to be HIV-positive, Pence announced he would allow a 30-day needle exchange.

In 2018, researchers at Yale University found the epidemic could have been prevented if Pence and state officials had acted faster.

“Our findings suggest that with earlier action the actual number of infections recorded in Scott County — 215 — might have been brought down to fewer than 56, if the state had acted in 2013, or to fewer than 10 infections, if they had responded to the [hepatitis C] outbreak in 2010-2011,” the paper’s senior author, Forrest W. Crawford, said in a statement at the time. Instead they cut funding for the last HIV testing provider in the county.”

One of the researchers on the study, Yale epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves, tweeted Wednesday that Pence’s assignment overseeing coronavirus efforts “speaks to a lack of seriousness by the White House.”

Ya think?!

And let’s not forget that Mike Pence is a true believer in the end times cult of the Rapture. These cultists may see this as a sign of the end of the world and want to force God’s hand.

God save us from these incompetent fools.