As the coronavirus pandemic grew exponentially around the globe, President Trump spun an alternate reality of lies, deceptions and denials that significantly delayed the U.S. response and put tens of thousands of citizens at risk.
In January this year, the nation had a chance to get on top of the virus before it inevitably spread around the globe. But the leader of the free world was so deep in denial the federal government, as he put it much later, was “blindsided.”
Here is a timeline of events as the coronavirus pandemic exploded and how the president–in his own words–repeatedly sent the wrong message about its danger.
China alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) of several flu-like cases in the regional capital of Wuhan. Patients have been quarantined and health authorities commenced work on tracing the source of the flu. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified a seafood market as the suspected hub of the outbreak.
Chinese authorities identified a previously unseen strain of the coronavirus, which has since been named Covid-19.
By Jan. 21, the virus had been detected in Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the first death occurred in China and the nation confirmed its first coronavirus case– a man in his 30s who had just return to Washington state from China.
President Trump on Jan 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”
The number of deaths have reached 170 as of late January, with 7,783 people reported infected, the majority in China. The United States records its first domestic infection. On Feb. 1, Russia, Spain and Sweden reported their first coronavirus cases.
President Trump on Feb. 2 “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.”
On Feb. 4, Malaysia and Belgium reports their first infections. In England the third case was identified and the death toll worldwide hit 535. On Feb. 8, France reports five new cases and the UAE confirms two. One U.S. citizen has died in China.
By mid-month the UK declared the virus an imminent threat as four more cases confirmed. The CDC reports a new case in California, bringing total cases in the country to 13. The CDC announced the 15th U.S. case a week later and the virus surfaces in Malaysia, Vietnam and Hong Kong. Covid-19 deaths climb to 1,669.
More than 450 cases are reported on the Diamond Princess, 14 are US passengers. Iran reports two deaths as the toll climbs past 2,100 worldwide. Italy reports its fourth case. The death toll exceeds 2,600; South Korea reports 161 new cases.
President Trump on Feb. 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
On Feb. 25, the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 3.6%. The S&P 500 tanked 3.4% and the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 3.7% The CDC confirms 53 cases of coronavirus
President Trump on Feb. 25: “CDC and my administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus… I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away… They have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.”
The next day, Wall Street continued its four-day losing streak, while coronavirus spread to 36 countries. The three main stock indexes fell between 3.2 percent and 2.8 percent. The death toll passes 2,750; Greece reports first case; South Korea reports more cases and U.S. reports 60 cases.
The CDC begins considerations to expand airport screenings beyond passengers arriving from China. “We’re not changing our posture at the moment [but] every day we re-evaluate what we’re doing and making sure that we’re adjusting what we’re doing to make sure we’re hitting the right notes,” the CDC spokesperson said.
President Trump on Feb. 25: “We’re very close to a vaccine.”
Health experts say a vaccine for this coronavirus strain is at least a year away from mass distribution, if not longer.
President Trump on Feb. 26: “The 15 (cases in the US) within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero… We’re going very substantially down, not up… It is what it is. We’re ready for it. We’re really prepared.”
The next day, the CDC reports two cases of community spread in Oregon and California, bringing U.S. infections to 62. Trump is criticized for his scattershot management of the crisis, CNN reports.
President Trump on Feb. 27: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear… [It could] “get worse before it gets better… maybe go away. We’ll see what happens. Nobody really knows.”
For weeks, aides and allies have tried to impress upon him the seriousness of the coronavirus situation, warning him of the threat to the global economy and — by proxy — his own reelection prospects, according CNN, citing people familiar with the conversations. The president seemed befuddled at one news conference.
President Trump on Feb. 28: “We’re ordering a lot of supplies. We’re ordering a lot of, uh, elements that frankly we wouldn’t be ordering unless it was something like this.”
His statements came as the White House weathered a firestorm over its conflicting messages about the severity of the coronavirus threat and its attempts to muzzle public health officials from giving more information to the public about the disease, according to BusinessInsider.
On the last day before March, The US reported its first coronavirus death, a man in his 50s from Seattle, Wash. The U.S. finally increased its travel restrictions on South Korea, Iran and Italy. Australia and Thailand report first deaths. Scotland records first case. France, Norway, Finland and Iran report a growing number of cases.
At a time when the federal government is trying to carefully control messaging about the possibility of a cure for a disease that has already claimed the lives of 11 Americans, the president’s penchant for on-camera hyperbole has been a constant challenge, according to Politico. At a news conference Trump tried to say a vaccine was close. On Mar. 2, the U.S. death toll rose to six, and France reported its fourth death.
President Trump on Mar. 2: “We will confront this challenge together, and we will continue to do exactly what we’re doing. And we’re going to be very successful. A lot of things are happening. A lot of very exciting things are happening, and they’re happening very rapidly.
Poland, Gibraltar, Hungary report their first cases, and both cases and deaths rise in US; Congress finally allots $8.3 billion in emergency funding to combat the virus.
President Trump on Mar. 4: “If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better.”
On Mar. 5, Spain recorded its third death; the Death toll in Italy surges to 148; the number of US cases increased to 233, including 12 deaths. France confirmed 423 Covid-19 cases, with seven deaths.
President Trump on Mar. 5: “I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work.”
US cases surge to 329; Vice-President Mike Pence confirmed the administration would not be able to meet its objective of delivering one million testing kits this week. Globally, authorities confirmed more than 92,000 cases of the virus, according to BBC News.
President Trump on Mar. 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country at keeping it down… a tremendous job at keeping it down…. “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it… Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”
President Trump on Mar 6. “Anybody right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. And the tests are beautiful…. the tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that but pretty good.”
The Grand Princess cruise ship is circling off the California coast. The Trump administration is refusing to let it dock. The ship has 3,533 people on board — including at least 21 who have tested positive out of 46 people who were in the first round of testing.
President Trump on Mar 6. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”
Trump says the United States has had relatively few confirmed cases of the virus because of his administration’s decision to prohibit US entry to foreign nationals who have visited China and Iran during the previous 14 days. But health experts fear the virus may be spreading undetected in US communities because of a lack of testing kits.
On Mar. 7, US deaths reach 19; New York cases increased by 13 to 89, and the state declared emergency.
President Trump on Mar. 8: “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine-tuned plan at the White House for our attack on Coronavirus.”
President Trump on Mar. 9: “This blindsided us.”
U.S. cases near 550; The Grand Princess, in quarantine, finally docks on Mar. 9 in Oakland, Calif. The UK reports 273 cases and three deaths. More than 110,000 infections in 108 countries are reported around the world; 61,000 have recovered from the disease. Italy reports 9,172 with 463 deaths. Canada reports first death.
President Trump on Mar. 9: “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the Coronavirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant.”
The death toll tops 4,000 as of end of 10 March, with 113,000 confirmed cases. Trump’s campaign insisted it would proceed with rallies as usual but Pence conceded future rallies would be evaluated “on a day to day basis.”
President Trump on Mar. 10: ““We’re taking this unbelievably seriously. It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”
On Mar. 13, the Trump administration finally declared a national emergency. In the previous two days, the US restricted travel from Europe. UK cases rose to 456; the worldwide death toll rose to more than 4,600, global infections increased to nearly 126,140, with 68,200 recoveries. Trump announced a “new partnership with private sector to vastly increase and accelerate our capacity to test for the coronavirus.”
Trump deflected blame for his administration’s lagging ability to test Americans for the coronavirus outbreak, insisting instead — without offering evidence — that fault lies with his predecessor, Barack Obama, according to Politico. Fact-checking sites said the claims were totally false.
President Trump on Mar. 13: “I take no responsibility at all.”
The remarks from the president came in response to questions at a news conference about the lack of widespread access to testing. The U.S. has tested about 11,000 people during the first seven weeks of the outbreak — roughly as many as South Korea is testing each day, the site noted.
Italy deaths exceeded 1,000, despite a countrywide lock down. Deaths from Covid-19 have passed 4,700 globally; States step up efforts to contain the virus. German cases topped 3,062 and five deaths.
President Trump on Mar. 13: “I want to thank Google. Google is helping to develop a website. It’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.”
Google announced it has only just begun working on such a website. It won’t be ready for months.