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Pence blames heath officials for delayed virus response amid criticism over Trump’s failure

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
President Donald Trump listens as Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on March 20, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

US Vice President Mike Pence has blamed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) amid mounting criticism over White House’s delayed coronavirus response and President Donald Trump’s initial failure to understanding the enormity of the pandemic.

"I will be very candid with you and say that in mid-January the CDC was still assessing that the risk of the coronavirus to the American people was low. The very first case, which was someone who had been in China -- in late January around the 20th day of January," Pence said on Wednesday.

This, as US health officials from the CDC took active steps starting in January to prepare for the outbreak, CNN said. While public health officials and medical experts raised the alarm, Trump downplayed their concerns and injected controversial and unproven theories into the conversation.

On February 26, Trump said, “This is a flu. This is like a flu"; "Now, you treat this like a flu"; "It's a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner."

On Tuesday, the president warned of a "tough" and "painful" two-week period ahead as he extended nationwide distancing measures that could still mean more than 100,000 and up to 240,000 Americans die from coronavirus.

Last week, Trump had said physical distancing restrictions introduced to clamp down on the spread of the novel coronavirus will be lifted "fairly soon," as the virus outbreak escalates.

Pence denied that Trump had minimized the crisis early on, despite repeated White House statements casting the coronavirus, covid-19, as a problem that would be easily solved.

“I don't believe the President has ever belittled the threat of the coronavirus,” the VP told CNN.

Pence also claimed that "we could well have the coronavirus largely behind us as a nation" by June by continuing mitigation efforts to stop the spread of the virus, CNN said.

The vice president also ruled out a national stay-at-home order, saying that the Trump administration supports orders like those made in California and in Washington state, but suggested that they're not necessary across other parts of the country less affected by the virus outbreak.

He also blamed China to deflect criticism over Trump's initial failure to face the coronavirus reality, saying that "the reality is that China's been more transparent with respect to the coronavirus than certainly they were for other infectious diseases over the last 15 years. But what appears evident now is long before the world learned in December, China was dealing with this, maybe as much as a month earlier than that."

‘Trump has blood on his hands’

American daily newspaper, the Boston Globe said President Donald Trump has "blood on his hands" for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the US, noting that much of the suffering and death in the US was preventable.

“Americans are consigned for the coming weeks to watching the illness fell family members and friends, and to fearing for their own fate as they watch death tolls rise in the US, which is now the hub of a global pandemic,” the US daily said.

It said Trump in late January, when the first confirmed coronavirus case was announced in the United States, downplayed the risk and insisted all was under control. Trump, consistent with his mistrust and undermining of scientific fact, has misled the Americans about unproven cures for COVID-19, it added.

The US president has pledged to oversee the doling out of the $500 billion in corporate bailout money in the stimulus package, some of which will go to the travel industry in which his family is invested, the daily said.

It slammed Trump for unleashing a barrage of racially-laced attack on China, saying that the president has reinforced racial stigma by calling the contagion a “Chinese virus” and failed to collaborate adequately with other countries to contain their outbreaks and study the disease.

The Trump administration has been caught outbidding individual states, including Massachusetts, trying to purchase medical supplies, Instead of making the expected federal effort to mobilize rapidly to distribute needed gowns, masks, and ventilators to ill-equipped hospitals and to the doctors and nurses around the country who are left unprotected treating a burgeoning number of patients, it added.

“The months the administration wasted with prevarication about the threat and its subsequent missteps will amount to exponentially more COVID-19 cases than were necessary. In other words, the president has blood on his hands,” the Boston Globe said.

US doctors angry as Trump suggests healthcare workers are thieves

President Donald Trump’s comments suggesting that people might be taking masks from hospitals "out the back door," to sell them on the black market, has set off angry backlash among the people, in particular US healthcare workers, who have been on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis grappling with shortages of masks and other protective equipment.

"Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door? How do you go from 10,000 to 300,000 -- and we have that in a lot of different places," Trump claimed.

Kenneth E. Raske, the president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said healthcare workers "deserve better than their President suggesting that PPE is 'going out the back door' of New York hospitals."

"New York's healthcare workers are treating exploding numbers of COVID-19 patients around the clock – willingly and without complaint. My daughter, an ICU nurse at a New York City hospital, is one of them," Raske said. "Personal protection equipment is the single thing that separates them from being COVID-19 patients themselves.”

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy wrote on Twitter, "Of all the rotten, despicable things Donald Trump has done since taking office, blaming health care workers for the lack of masks is like top 3."

2020 hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden called Trump's claims "ridiculous and completely false."

“Today’s conspiracy mongering from our President is among the most reckless and ignorant moves he has made during this crisis, and there have been many. Lives hang in the balance,” Biden said in the statement.

Trump’s comments came as US medical workers are having to reuse old masks rather than dispose of them because of the shortage as they deal with growing numbers of infected patients. They are pleading with the federal government to help in their search for more personal protective equipment.


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