Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris called the Trump administration’s coronavirus response “the greatest failure” of any presidential administration in U.S. history Wednesday night, and accused the administration of hiding the severity of the virus early on in the pandemic.
During the first and only vice presidential debate, the California Senator charged that President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had been made aware of the dangerous nature of the virus on January 28 and knowingly misled the public in downplaying the virus until March 13.
“On January 28 the vice president and president were informed about the nature of this pandemic,” she said. “They were informed that it’s lethal in consequence, that it is airborne, that it will affect young people and that it would be contracted because it is airborne.”
“They knew what was happening and they didn’t tell you,” she added. “Can you imagine if you knew on January 28 as opposed to March 13 what they knew? What you might have done to prepare?”
She went on to say the administration “knew and they covered it up,” and criticized President Trump for calling the virus a hoax and minimizing its severity.
“In spite of all of that today they still don’t have a plan,” she said.
According to a book on the Trump presidency by Bob Woodward, the Washington Post associate editor of “Watergate” fame, President Trump acknowledged in February that the virus was highly contagious and “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump reportedly said in a February 7 interview with Woodward. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”
“This is deadly stuff,” Trump added.
The president said in another interview in March that he had wanted to publicly downplay the danger of the virus to avoid creating “panic,” Woodward said.
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump reportedly told Woodward.
The United States has now recorded more than 7.5 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 211,000 deaths, more than any other country in the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.