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As Trump Claims “Fantastic Job” on COVID, Reporter Laurie Garrett Warns Pandemic May Last 36+ Months

(DEMOCRACY NOW) Interview, May 6, 2020

As President Trump starts to reopen the country, Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Laurie Garrett predicts the pandemic will last at least 36 months. Meanwhile, a top government vaccine specialist says he was forced from his job after he resisted the administration’s promotion of untested treatments for COVID-19. Garrett predicted the pandemic. In an extended interview, she discusses what’s next.


Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman in New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic. Joining me, my co-host Juan González, from his home in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the state with the second-highest number of reported infections, next to New York. Hi, Juan.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Hi, Amy. And welcome to all of our listeners and viewers across the country and around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, as a new report indicates the coronavirus death toll could reach 3,000 deaths a day by June 1st — that’s a 9/11 every day — President Trump said Tuesday he’s winding down the coronavirus task force, claiming there’s been tremendous amount of progress in fighting the pandemic, which has already claimed more than 71,000 lives in the United States alone, with nearly 1.2 million confirmed cases.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Thanks to the profound commitment of our citizens, we’ve flattened the curve, and countless American lives have been saved. Our country is now in the next stage of the battle: a very safe, phased and gradual reopening. It’s a reopening of our country. Who would have ever thought we were going to be saying that? A reopening. Reopening.

AMY GOODMAN: President Trump made the remarks during a trip to Arizona, where he toured a Honeywell Aerospace plant that’s now producing N95 face masks. Trump wore safety glasses but no mask during the tour, ignoring a sign in the factory ordering everyone inside to wear a facial covering. A reporter asked him why he was winding down the task force now, despite an expected spike of deaths into the fall.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, because we can’t keep our country closed for the next five years. You know, you could say there might be a recurrence, and there might be. And, you know, most doctors or some doctors say that it will happen. And it’ll be a flame, and we’re going to put the flame out. We’ve learned a lot. You know, we’ve learned a lot about the coronavirus. We’ve learned a lot about this hidden enemy. It’s a dangerous enemy. It’s a bad enemy. … And we’re saying that people that are over 60, 65, but over 60 — we’re even saying, sort of, “Stay back for a while. We recommend you staying back for a while.” At the same time, with young children and children, we’d like to see the schools open early next season and on time.

AMY GOODMAN: Vice President Mike Pence said the task force is expected to disband by the end of May. This comes as the White House has blocked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the chief coronavirus doctor at the White House, from testifying in front of a House committee. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates there will be nearly 135,000 deaths in the U.S. by the beginning of August.

Well, for more, we’re joined by Laurie Garrett, former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer, author of several books, including Ebola: Story of an Outbreak and The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, as well as Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health.

So, Laurie, if you can go through what is happening now? Just as the president insists on opening the country, he is disbanding the coronavirus task force, when you would think you would need it more than ever if you wanted to see any kind of successful, cautious opening?

LAURIE GARRETT: Well, you just summarized it, Amy. I mean, I don’t know what I can add to that. We’re on the ascent. At least two different models, including one a government model, predict that we’re almost going to double the size of our death toll between now and the end of June. Yet the president has decided, you know, “Let’s roll up the tent, bring in the circus act. Come on, everybody.”

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Laurie, I wanted to ask you — the death toll. The United States has about 4% of the world’s population, yet it has, with all the money spent on healthcare in this country, 25% of — more than 25% of the deaths worldwide. And in recent days, it’s gone as high as one-third of all the deaths in the world are occurring right here in the U.S. from COVID-19.

LAURIE GARRETT: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What’s your sense of the reason for that?

LAURIE GARRETT: Well, it’s very obvious that we have a patchwork response. We don’t have a unified, national response to the virus. We don’t have any uniform standards, no guidances. The CDC is virtually mum, numbed and silenced. And we’re operating as if every local mayor, every local governor has equal capacity to make appropriate choices and decide how to best fight this disease. And that’s, of course, ludicrous.

And so, you can drive from one county to another, from one state to another — completely different policies being executed. And they’re all competing. They’re competing to get their economies going. They’re competing to get masks. They’re competing to get PPEs, medicines, healthcare workers, ambulances, burial details. It’s insane. We’ve pitted each component of America against each other for resources, for policy, for response. And now the president has raised the stake and said, “And for your economy.”

AMY GOODMAN: So, Laurie, if you could start at the beginning? We see countries like Taiwan, which is right next to China, which dealt with this with extremely few deaths, immediately seeing the need of the supply chain and making sure there was protective — there was personal protective equipment, there was gear, there was testing, right from the beginning. President Trump continually repeats that he was the one, against all advice, that instituted a travel ban against China very early on. But doesn’t that undercut his very case for preparedness, that if he understood early on what this was about, why he didn’t, at the same time, or before — I mean, Dr. Bright has been saying he was warning of this way before — why he didn’t immediately gear up the testing, gear up the making of the protective gear, like other countries did? Take us back to the beginning and talk about what has happened, from the beginning, that led to this catastrophe in this country.

LAURIE GARRETT: Well, Amy, for those of us that went through the SARS epidemic — and I was in China during the SARS epidemic, and Hong Kong — the warning signs were obvious, and they were obvious in that window of time, roughly about three or four days before Christmas going all the way through to New Year’s Eve. It was very obvious that a terrible epidemic was unfolding, that it looked like SARS or it was similar to SARS, that healthcare workers were panicking. The social media all over Wuhan was full of fear and rumors and all the signals that, you know, those of us that follow China have come to accept are the signals that something is out of control in that country.

And if I could see it, sitting here in my living room or my office and just monitoring what’s available on the internet — if I could see that this was happening, then certainly the CIA was seeing it, the Defense Intelligence Agency was seeing it, and a whole variety of other intelligence operations within the United States government were aware of it. And we know, in fact, they were trying to brief the White House. They were directly briefing the president. But he was ignoring it, and he had other things on his mind, including the impeachment trial. And so, that was unfolding on this side, a kind of “let’s just ignore it.”

Source: Democracy Now