87,000 dead, 36 million unemployed, but Kayleigh McEnany says Trump's 2018 plan is 'playbook' for future pandemics
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday, May 15, revealed at a press briefing President Donald Trump’s plan to battle the Covid-19 pandemic and it came after the US lost over 87,000 lives and more than 36 million jobs. McEnany, who took over last month, showed off two binders of information to compare them to the paper plan she said the previous administration under Barack Obama left for them. At the briefing, she showed the same ‘plan’ that she waved at the media a day before to prove Trump was in complete control of the outbreak. “This dead packet of paper was replaced by two detailed robust pandemic response reports commissioned by the Trump administration,” she said.
McEnany, 32, carried with her a copy of the 2018 plan of the Trump administration called ‘Pandemic Crisis Action Plan Ver. 2.0’ and also an after-action report from the ‘Crimson Contagion’ simulation exercise that took place in August last year.
Under the second report, federal agencies carried out a mock drill to see how the nation would respond to a pandemic, especially a deadly global outbreak that has no cure. The exercise unearthed a number of national shortcomings including inadequate medical supplies. The coordinating draft of the key findings of the exercise was marked ‘not for distribution’. The New York Times was the first to report and publish the document.
The 2019 report essentially savaged the 2018 Trump report, giving a clear conclusion that the Trump administration’s preparedness was not at its best. McEnany, however, left out the part in the ‘Crimson Contagion’ report that severely criticized the preparedness of the federal government to handle a pandemic.
The Trump administration has faced flak over its handling of the crisis as deaths have multiplied in a short span. Trump has found himself at odds with the media, domestic opponents, China and the World Health Organization currently while the situation in the country has worsened.
McEnany defends Trump, flays Obama
The press secretary came to defend Trump saying the latter’s response to coronavirus started as early as January and following the precedent set by the incumbent, slammed former president Obama saying he ‘left the stockpile empty and to President Trump to refill it’.
According to McEnany, the current administration stocked almost 93 million N95 masks, over 133 million surgical strikes, nearly 23 million surgical gowns, over 10 million face shields and nearly a million gloves. “We cleaned up the mess that was very clearly left by President Obama,” she said. The former president said during a private call recently the Trump administration's response to the crisis has been an 'absolutely chaotic disaster'.
“The Trump playbook and the whole of America’s response to this pandemic has far exceeded what this administration inherited,” McEnany said, adding that it ‘will become the future playbook I believe for future administrations navigating a pandemic response’.
On Thursday, May 14, Trump said he has a playbook to fight the pandemic even as Rick Bright, whistleblower in the health and human services (HHS) department, testified before the Congress that a ‘dark winter’ was ahead because of a lack of a ‘standard, centralized, coordinated plan’. Both Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar criticized Bright. Trump slammed Bright ahead of his visit to Pennsylvania and before his departure, he had McEnany wave before the media the 2018 action plan.
2019 report pointed out shortfalls in the government's preparedness
The simulation exercise assessed the capacity of the federal government and 12 states to handle the serious influenza outbreak that started in China and warned of a chaotic response, shortage of funds and alarming shortages of ventilators and masks.
“So what our administration did, under the leadership of President Trump, is do an entire 2018 Pandemic Preparedness Report ... Beyond that, we did a whole exercise on pandemic preparedness in August of last year and had an entire after-action report put together,” McEnany said of the two binders that she held.
The press secretary didn’t go into the details stated in the 2018 plan though they were exposed by the 2019 after-action report. One of its criticisms was that the plans of 2018 (and another from 2017) ‘do not outline the organizational structure of the federal government when HHS is designated as the lead federal agency’ to tackle a pandemic. It also warned that exercise participants were not sure about using the Defense Production Act ‘to mitigate medical countermeasure and ancillary supply shortages during an influenza pandemic response’. It also said ‘there are insufficient funding sources designated for the federal government to use in response to a severe influenza pandemic’ and ‘the current medical countermeasure supply chain and production capacity cannot meet the demands imposed by nations during a global influenza pandemic’.
More than 1.4 million people in the US have been hit by the virus, the highest in any country in the world.