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  • JUDY WOODRUFF: New reporting from The New York Times has revealed even more early warnings

  • about the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and raises questions about whether the president

  • and his administration waited too long to take important steps.

  • Eric Lipton is an investigative reporter at The Times, and he joins us now.

  • Eric Lipton, thank you so much for joining us.

  • Your reporting revealed the existence of these so-called Red Dawn e-mails between doctors,

  • medical experts in the administration. They were obtained, in part, through the Freedom

  • of Information Act request.

  • And in one e-mail that I want to ask you about, Dr. James Lawler, who is an infectious disease

  • expert -- he served in both the George W. Bush and the Obama administrations -- wrote:

  • "We have thrown 15 years of institutional learning out the window and are making decisions

  • based on intuition."

  • What were these e-mails, and what came out of your finding out about them?

  • ERIC LIPTON, The New York Times: Well, what was going on was that there was a group of

  • physicians and pandemic experts that, from the Department of Homeland Security, Health

  • and Human Services, the CDC, the Veterans Administration, that were consulting and comparing

  • notes, that -- and they were trying to make a really critical decision, which was, at

  • what point do we go from saying we are going to attempt to contain the infection to which

  • it's -- we have community spread, and we now need to move to mitigate its spread through

  • actions like social distancing?

  • So, at first, the goal was just to contain it, but, at a certain point, you need to say,

  • we need to flip the switch and say, schools need to close, businesses need to close.

  • These guys were comparing notes to try to figure out, when was the moment that we needed

  • to flip the switch? The fire alarm had gone off. Now we needed to mitigate it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: And from your reporting, what were some of the earliest warnings that the

  • president got? And how did he respond to those?

  • ERIC LIPTON: Look, I mean, the president's National Security Council -- there were members

  • on the National Security Council that in January were quite concerned about what was going

  • on in China and were worried that it was just a matter of time before the pandemic would

  • be in the United States.

  • And the Health and Human Services secretary, Azar, spoke with the president in January

  • as well to express his concern about the fact that this was almost assuredly coming to the

  • United States and was going to be a public health emergency here.

  • The president told him to, you know, calm down, that he was too worried about it. And,

  • repeatedly, in that period, while it's true that the president did limit travel by Chinese

  • citizens to the United States in late January, there were -- among many of his aides, there

  • was a belief that the United States needed to be preparing for the next stage of mitigation.

  • And it took weeks too long to get to that point.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: On January the 22nd, in an interview with CNBC, President Trump was asked

  • about a pandemic and whether there were worries about it.

  • Here's what he said:

  • DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States: We have it totally under control. It's one

  • person coming in from China. And we have it under control.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what did we know about the coronavirus at that point in late January?

  • What did people know in the administration?

  • ERIC LIPTON: They knew that it was already here in the United States. They knew that

  • it was almost -- it was just a matter of time before it started to spread widely in the

  • United States and that, while containment was still important to try to do contact tracing

  • to limit the spread, that they needed to be preparing for widespread illnesses.

  • That was evident to any public health expert at that point.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: And there is an audio that I want to play for the audience, because,

  • on February the 25th, Dr. Nancy Messonnier with the Centers for Disease Control -- she's

  • the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases -- she had a briefing

  • call with news reporters in which she issued a warning.

  • Here's that.

  • DR. NANCY MESSONNIER, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: These measures might

  • include missed work and loss of income. I understand this whole situation may seem overwhelming

  • and that disruption to everyday life may be severe. But these are things that people need

  • to start thinking about now.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: Just one day later, President Trump said this:

  • DONALD TRUMP: And, again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days

  • is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we have done.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Eric, why was that a key moment in the administration's response?

  • ERIC LIPTON: Arguably, that was one of the most essential moments in the whole saga,

  • as we look back on it, on history, because that was the moment when they had been a consensus

  • among his medical advisers that the United States needed to announce that we needed to

  • move to social distancing that's in hot spots in particular.

  • And the president was unready to -- unprepared and unready to do that. And, in fact, he lashed

  • out at the human -- health and human services secretary, Azar, after Nancy Messonnier made

  • that statement while he was in India and on his way home.

  • So, what Trump -- President Trump did instead was to wait three weeks before he embraced

  • the need for social distancing, and the net result was that there are many more illnesses

  • and deaths in the United States.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we are now in -- Eric, in what is called mitigation, this -- these

  • widespread closures, all about enforcing social distancing.

  • President Trump announced the first social distancing initiative, 15 days to stop the

  • spread, he called it, and that was on March the 16th. But how early was this first proposed

  • to the president as a solution? And what is known about why he waited to adopt it?

  • ERIC LIPTON: It was a month prior to that that essentially a consensus was forming among

  • medical experts in the United States government that we now needed to move to mitigation.

  • And the thing is there -- it's almost down to a science. Once you have the first death

  • from a contagious disease like this, or you have a certain percentage of people who are

  • -- who have the illness, you have a window of about one to two weeks to take severe -- significant

  • mitigation steps.

  • If you don't do it, you're going to -- it's like waiting for a house fire to get from

  • being, you know, on the stove in the kitchen to the roof is burning and the structural

  • elements of the house are on fire, and then you call the fire department.

  • We waited until the roof was burning and the structure was on fire in New York state and

  • New York City before we called the fire department. And that was a decision that the president

  • made, was to not move ahead with those announcements.

  • Now, again, it's the governors' choices as to when to do that, but it's the federal government's

  • role to play a leadership -- and to help the governors make the choices by letting them

  • know what the public health officials think is needed.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: And we know, Eric, that the lack of testing, the lack of personal protective

  • equipment has all -- all of that has also been a significant and ongoing challenge.

  • What did your reporting reveal about the delays in dealing with all that?

  • ERIC LIPTON: Again, there's two phases in this process, the containment and the mitigation

  • phase.

  • But during containment, it was evident to any public health expert that this was going

  • to spread in the United States. So, as of January, they knew that there was going to

  • be illnesses in pockets across the United States. They didn't know how many.

  • But they should have known in January that now is the time to spend hundreds of millions

  • of dollars to buy face masks and other protective equipment for hospitals. They knew that the

  • material in their supplies was expired and there wasn't enough of it.

  • Now, they didn't order that stuff until March, but they could have started in January. They

  • could have started the process of getting ventilators built in January, knowing that

  • they likely were going to need them. That didn't happen until March. And that has severe

  • consequences as well.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: Eric Lipton with The New York Times, congratulations on some really extraordinary

  • reporting. Thank you.

  • ERIC LIPTON: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: New reporting from The New York Times has revealed even more early warnings

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B1 中級 新型コロナウイルス 新型肺炎 COVID-19

トランプ氏のCOVID-19への対応について、新たな報道が明らかにしたこと (What new reports reveal about Trump's response to COVID-19)

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    Xinyin Wu に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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