In memos obtained by Axios, Donald Trump’s trade adviser, Peter Navarro, issued grim warnings in late January for what could lie ahead for the United States if the White House failed to effectively respond to the growing coronavirus threat.
Navarro argued in a memo dated on January 29 for “an immediate travel ban on China.” That same day, China reported over 7,000 confirmed cases with nearly 200 dead from the virus. Meanwhile, Trump downplayed concerns in a January 30 speech, claiming that coronavirus was “going to have a very good ending for us.”
However, Navarro struck a different, even prophetic tone on the potential landscape of the country after a potential outbreak. “The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil,” his memo reads, per the New York Times. “This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”
Navarro wrote another memo on February 23, in which he speculated that as many as of 100 million Americans could contract COVID-19, with up to "1.2 million souls” dying as a result of the pandemic. His note stressed the need for an adequate amount of PPE, or personal protective equipment, suggesting that the country would need “at least a billion” face masks, 11,000 ventilators, and 25,000 respirators.
The Trump administration’s failed response has resulted in states trying to outbid one another for life-saving medical equipment while health care workers have resorted to risking their lives with makeshift PPEs that range from bandanas to ponchos. Prior to Navarro’s second memo, the State Department announced on February 7 that nearly 17.8 tons of donated medical supplies, such as masks and respirators, were being sent to China.
The U.S. currently has over 388,000 cases of coronaviruas of Tuesday afternoon, with a death toll of 12,400. Trump sadly considers a six-figure number of deaths to be in the realm of a job well done by his administration. “If we can hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000 … we all, together, have done a very good job,” he said.