Congresswoman: Trump 'failed to prepare' for virus by refusing to stockpile supplies

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Imports of ventilators and protective equipment decreased between January and February, according to a report released by California Rep. Katie Porter.

A report released Tuesday by the office of Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) shows the Trump administration failed to adequately increase the stockpile of critical medical equipment during the first two months of the year.

The report cites previously unreported data from the Commerce Department.

The data reveals imports of critical medical supplies such as ventilators and masks decreased between January and February, while exports of those needed supplies increased.

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Intelligence agencies simultaneously warned the Trump administration in January about the threat of the coronavirus outbreak. But Trump was slow to respond.

During those first two months of the year, "the U.S. should have been stockpiling medical supplies," Porter, who sits on the House Oversight Committee, wrote.

Instead, the data — which relies on value of imports and exports, not the exact number of units bought and sold — shows that ventilator imports dropped by 10% and imports of N95 masks used by nurses and doctors fell by 14.2%.

During the same time period, the U.S. exported 22% more ventilators. Exports of masks increased as well.

The report concludes that "the Trump Administration failed to prepare for COVID-19 and to protect the health of Americans."

Porter's report is not the only study shining a light on failures in the official U.S. response to the pandemic.

An Inspector General report from the Department of Health and Human Services released on Monday showed hospitals were facing a "severe shortage" of COVID-19 tests and of PPE needed to protect nurses and doctors.

Trump attacked the report, which was based on interviews with more than 300 hospitals in 46 states, and called it "fake."

In January and February, Trump publicly downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus crisis nearly a dozen times.

"We have it totally under control," Trump told CNBC on Jan. 22. "It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It's going to be just fine."

Even after the number of cases grew, Trump promised in late February that the number of those sick with COVID-19 "within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero."

"That's a pretty good job we've done," he said.

Even though the first U.S. case was confirmed on Jan. 21, Trump didn't declare a national emergency until March 13.

Trump also refused to take seriously a request from New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo for more ventilators. New York has been one of the states hardest hit by the virus.

"I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators," Trump said during a March 26 Fox News interview, calling the request "sudden."

That same month, the New York Times reported that the Ford Motor Company and General Electric were teaming up to manufacture ventilators. Though the delivery date the companies were estimating was in "early June," the Times noted that the companies could have "reacted to the acute shortage of ventilators in February," producing the equipment by "mid- to late April."

Trump did not invoke the Defense Production Act, which can be used to order private companies to manufacture necessary equipment or supplies for the country, until April 6.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. has at least 380,749 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the New York Times, and at least 11,931 people have died.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.