When the White House Coronavirus Task Force privately warned state officials that they faced major outbreaks over the summer, senior Trump administration officials publicly downplayed the Covid-19 threat, according to documents from the House Select Coronavirus Subcommittee on Published Monday.
For eight weeks, the subcommittee published White House internal coronavirus reports prepared by the task force and sent privately to governors. The newly published reports begin on June 23rd and the last published report is on August 9th. The White House has refused to publish all reports.
"Instead of dealing directly with the American people and creating a national plan to correct the problem, the President and his makers kept these alarming reports secret while publicly downplaying the threat to millions of Americans," said subcommittee chairman James Clyburn , DS.C. said in a statement.
Each report includes data on confirmed cases, tests, a state's population mobility, and more for each state. The reports also break down data for each county within a state and provide recommended policy responses for state officials.
"Task Force reports released today show that the White House has known since June that coronavirus cases were growing across the country and many states became dangerous 'red zones' where the virus was rapidly spreading," said Clyburn.
President Donald Trump and other members of his administration have repeatedly spoken out in favor of reopening large parts of the economy quickly, regardless of the threat posed by the coronavirus, which has infected more than 6 million people in the US and killed at least 183,300 of them. The US has reported more confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more deaths from Covid-19 than any other country in the world.
The data included in the reports and policy recommendations mandated by the task force often directly contradict statements made by Trump and other administrative officials around the same time.
In the June 23 report, the task force privately warned seven states that they were in the "red zone," indicating a serious outbreak. However, on June 16, Pence wrote in a Wall Street Journal that the "panic" over a virus resurgence was "exaggerated".
On July 5, the task force warned that 15 states were now in the red zone, adding that Florida "had seen a significant increase in new cases and a significant increase in test positivity over the past week, up from the last 4 weeks continues ". But two days later Trump said, "We did a good job. I think we'll be in two, three, four weeks. The next time we speak, we'll be in very good shape." . "
On August 9, the most recent of the newly released reports, the task force warned that 48 states and the District of Columbia are in either red or yellow zones. On August 3rd, Clyburn said Trump tweeted, "Cases over BIG tests! Much of our country is doing very well. Open schools!"
The subcommittee added that a number of states, including Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, have failed to heed the task force's advice, including recommendations on granting a statewide masking mandate and closing bars.
"Fourteen states that have been in the" red zone "as of June 23 have refused to issue statewide mask mandates as recommended by the Task Force – including states with severe drops such as Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee. " Subcommittee says.
Regardless of how the reports align with news from the administration, public health professionals have repeatedly requested that the reports and data contained therein be made public. Such information can help local and state officials, as well as individuals, better respond to the outbreak, say proponents of the full disclosure of the reports.
"We have a lot of Covid response data that is all ready and prepared to be shared with the public and that is simply not going to be shared," explains Ryan Panchadsaram, who helps operate a data tracking site called Covid Exit Strategy. said CNBC in a July interview.
Panchadsaram served as the deputy chief technology officer under former President Barack Obama and was an early member of the team credited with fixing the failed launch of Healthcare.gov. He said the American public is entitled to public health data and urged the Trump administration to make it public.
"There are a number of officials who act as gatekeepers for data that you, I and the taxpayers have paid for," he said. "This is critical to a public health response."