Trump Administration trade adviser Peter Navarro sent a memo to the National Security Council on January 29 warning that the Wuhan coronavirus could kill over 500,000 Americans, but he was largely dismissed as “alarmist” and his policies were deemed “unsustainable” by White House officials, according to The New York Times.
It is unclear if President Trump saw Navarro’s memo, which was circulated among the White House and reached aides to Mick Mulvaney, the former acting chief of staff. In it, Navarro, a prominent China hawk in the administration, presented a choice between “Aggressive Containment versus No Containment.”
“If the probability of a pandemic is greater than roughly 1 percent, a game-theoretic analysis of the coronavirus indicates the clear dominant strategy is an immediate travel ban on China,” the memo reads. Navarro added that an aggressive containment strategy of travel restrictions would cost $2.9 billion per month — extending to 12 months and costing $34.6 billion if the virus became a pandemic — compared no containment, which could range from “zero economic costs” to $5.7 trillion depending on the lethality of the virus.
He also posited a worst-case scenario in which the coronavirus could kill 543,000 Americans, saying it was “unlikely the introduction of the coronavirus into the U.S. population in significant numbers will mimic a ‘seasonal flu’ event with relatively low contagion and mortality rates.”
While President Trump did announce a ban on foreign nationals entering the country from China on January 31, White House officials largely belittled Navarro’s claims.
“The January travel memo struck me as an alarmist attempt to bring attention to Peter’s anti-China agenda while presenting an artificially limited range of policy options,” one senior official told Axios of his initial reaction to Navarro’s warnings.
The Times added that others saw the memo as “reflecting” Navarro’s broader criticisms of China, and that his travel-ban suggestions were “unsustainable.”
“We know that China knew about the virus as early as mid-December. We know that for a period of about five to six weeks they hid the dangers from the rest of the world even as Chinese citizens were flying around the world seeding the world with the virus,” Navarro said in a Monday appearance on Fox News.