In his address to the Republican National Convention, Vice President Mike Pence said, “President Trump marshaled the full resources of our federal government from the outset“ in the effort to combat COVID-19.
The federal government did not consider COVID-19 to be a serious threat. Asked on January 22, 2020, whether there were worries about a pandemic at that point, President Trump replied, “No. Not at all. And– we’re– we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s—going to be just fine.”
In early February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention distributed coronavirus test kits to states that were insufficient in both quantity and quality. In the meantime, hundreds of undiagnosed people spread the virus.
At the end of February, President Trump said, regarding the number of cases, “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’ve done.” He also said, regarding the coronavirus, “It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” Additionally, he called the virus the Democrats’ “new hoax.”
The Trump Administration announced a ban on travel from China, but it was later determined that the massive outbreak in New York started with cases originating in Europe, severely limiting the impact of China restrictions. The administration waited until March to restrict travel from Europe, which had enormous outbreaks already.
Additionally, the administration waited until mid-March, after hospitals were already running out of N95 masks and critically low on ventilators, to start bulk ordering crucial medical supplies.
President Trump refused to use the Defense Production Act to order companies to produce these life-saving supplies until the end of March, and then used it only sparingly.
While states competed against one another to procure the supplies and reagent needed for testing, President Trump downplayed the necessity of widespread testing. He reasoned that increased testing leads to higher numbers of cases, an appearance he sought to avoid.