New Documents Show Trump Administration Tried To Downplay Pandemic
New documents released as part of an investigation into the handling of the coronavirus outbreak reveal Donald Trump’s administration made moves to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic.
The House Oversight investigation was launched in September before Trump left office,to look into reports of efforts made by Trump’s appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to interfere with guidance issued by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the pandemic.
The interference is said to have been an effort to keep businesses and schools open in the US, despite evidence proving that allowing them to stay open could cost lives.
According to the documents cited by Yahoo! News, the subcommittee in charge of the investigation announced today, February 8, that HHS officials were found to have tried to suppress scientific information they felt could be ‘use[d] against the president’.
Trump appointees with limited scientific experience are also said to have ‘attempted to alter or block at least 13 CDC reports related to the virus’.
The altered versions of these reports are said to have produced a false sense of security that allowed businesses and some schools to remain open, made people feel more secure in public spaces and downplayed the importance of wearing a mask; measures that all could have prevented the spread of coronavirus in the US.
The Trump administration is further claimed to have interfered with COVID-19 testing, with one document stating that it changed the guidance for the ‘explicit purpose of reducing testing and allowing the virus to spread while quickly reopening the economy’.
The investigation references one email sent from top Trump HHS adviser Paul Alexander to senior COVID Task Force adviser Scott Atlas on September 11, addressing a forthcoming CDC report on deaths in young people.
Alexander reportedly claimed that despite the findings being true, the report was ‘very duplicitous to damage the administration’. The Trump adviser is said to have tried to engage Atlas to help ‘craft an op-ed… disputing the reporting for on face value, it is meant to mislead’.
Alexander further wrote:
The timing of this is meant to interfere with school re-opening and we need to get something out fast to preempt this in the next day or so and I can work with you on it.
Alexander left HHS in mid-September after reports emerged about his efforts to alter the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports.
Oversight Chairman James Clyburn (D-SC) says internal emails show how the Trump administration also took steps to end testing of ‘asymptomatic infections in low-risk people’ because these tests were causing infected people to quarantine and therefore preventing them from going to work.
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