Leaked 'Red Dawn' emails reveal Trump delayed coronavirus response despite experts raising pandemic alert

Leaked 'Red Dawn' emails reveal Trump delayed coronavirus response despite experts raising pandemic alert
President Donald Trump (Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic has posed a serious threat to the USA's healthcare and economy. Over 557,500 people have been hit in the country and the death toll has gone past 22,000, as per the John Hopkins tracker. And as the Donald Trump administration has come under more pressure to deal with the crisis, more explosive reports have emerged. A top group of medical and disease experts had been raising an alert about the pandemic since January and discussed the impending threat in a leaked email chain called 'Red Dawn.'

Dozens of experts from government bodies, health organizations and top universities flagged off the chain which has been named after a 1984 film featuring Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen who tried to shield their nation from a foreign invasion. The New York Times said in a report that by late January, Dr Carter E Mecher, a top medical adviser at the Veterans Affairs Department, wrote that while he is not a health expert, yet he found it bad. The daily obtained 80 pages of the email claim.

Infectious-disease expert Dr James Lawler also chipped in hours later with his apprehension. Lawler, who has worked under the Barack Obama and George W Bush administrations, said "great understatements in history: Wuhan... 'Just a bad flu season',’ comparing it with Napoleon's retreat from Russia as "a little stroll gone bad" and Hiroshima being "a bad summer heat wave." 

The chain has some key messages that showed how experts were concerned over COVID-19’s growing threat and their frustration with the slow response of both the White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The US was yet to be overwhelmed by the pandemic and now, it stands to be the world’s worst-hit nation both in terms of confirmed cases and deaths. 

President Donald Trump with his coronavirus task force members. The president has slammed his opponents, critics and media accusing them of maligning his government's response to the coronavirus pandemic but experts have said that the administration made a costly delay in responding (Getty Images)

The chain had its starting with Dr Duane C Caneva, the chief medical officer at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He told the daily that the email chain was meant to raise all possible alerts about the COVID-19 through passing on thoughts, raising concerns and sharing information across various colleagues responding to the disease that has killed over 114,000 worldwide. The chain included viewpoints from people from the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department, CDC, DHS, Veterans Affairs Department, Pentagon and other federal bodies that are tracking the emergency situation. 


Expert questioned CDC and WHO's roles

Dr Mecher summed up the situation on January 28 on a pessimistic note. He observed both the CDC and World Health Organization appeared to fall behind the curve and asked why the two health bodies were apparently downplaying the threat. 

“Any way you cut it, this is going to be bad. The projected size of the outbreak already seems hard to believe,” he said, adding that he was “screaming” to shut the colleges and universities. He again pushed for the same on February 17 to arrest the virus’ outbreak.

The concerns that the medical experts were raising in late January and early February became a serious alarm by the time the third week of February arrived. It was then that the experts started concluding that the US finished second-best in its battle with the virus and the task was imminent to start mitigation. 

It was not a smooth communication between the experts and the political leadership thereafter. After a talk with Dr Eva Lee, a researcher at Georgia Institute of Technology who has worked with the federal government to create infectious-disease projections, Dr Robert Kadlec — the chief of the virus response effort at the HHS and a key adviser of the White House — and other officials decided to recommend President Donald Trump that they support the idea of starting mitigation efforts, including shutting down of schools. But before things progressed, another official issued a warning publicly which shook the stock market and annoyed the election-bound president. The meeting to brief him about the mitigation got canceled and when Trump reluctantly sought mitigation again after three weeks, the damage had already started. 


Concern over Princess Diamond cruise infection

In fact, Dr Lee, who helped the group make disease-projection models, showed concerns about the rapid spread of the coronavirus aboard Princess Diamond cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama Port in Japan on February 3 before hundreds of American citizens on the ship came home. She compared the infection rate from the vessel to public spaces like schools, malls and offices where people are confined for long hours at a time. 

“I was hoping he would mention about schools, government and private sector tele-work, community gatherings, things that really need everyone to actively engage in And also extra resources for healthcare providers,” Dr Lee wrote.

“We really need to protect providers who care for covid-19 patients. We must protect them because they are invaluable resources and we don't have enough. They are not like equipment that the President could ask a manufacturer to produce more.”

Dr Lawler was more scathing in his observation: “We are making every misstep leaders initially made in table -tops at the outset of pandemic planning in 2006. We had systematically addressed all of these and had a plan that would work - and has worked in Hong Kong/Singapore," reported Daily Mail.

“We have thrown 15 years of institutional learning out the window and are making decisions based on intuition. Pilots can tell you what happens when a crew makes decisions based on intuition rather than what their instruments are telling them.”

The last straw came when the CDC raised a question in the middle of March over the shutting down of schools and Dr Lawler called it a mistake. 

“CDC is really missing the mark here. By the time you have substantial community transmission, it is too late. It’s like ignoring the smoke detector and waiting until your entire house is on fire to call the fire dept,” he said. 


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 Red Dawn email Trump coronavirus response delayed pandemic