President Donald Trump ignored a pandemic warning from White House economists who published a study estimating possible effects of a pandemic last September, according to a New York Times report.
The White House officials reportedly released a study cautioning that a pandemic, like the coronavirus outbreak the world is now facing, could cause the deaths of a half million Americans and cost the economy as much as $3.8 trillion. The study contradicts what administration officials have repeatedly said about the coronavirus coming out of nowhere and causing unforeseen devastation to the U.S. economy, the Times noted.
The 2019 study was ordered by the National Security Council, two people familiar with the matter told the newspaper, which added that it warned officials not to conflate the risks of the annual flu with a potential pandemic.
“People may conflate the high expected costs of pandemic flu with the far more common, lower-cost seasonal flu,” the study said. “It is not surprising that people might underappreciate the economic and health risks posed by pandemic flu and not invest in ways to reduce these risks.”
One of the authors of the study, who has since left the White House, estimated a majority of economic activity would need to be halted for two to eight months to slow down a potential virus, according to the Times.
But Trump and other administration officials ignored the warning, downplaying the coronavirus and comparing it to the flu.
The U.S. has confirmed more than 189,600 cases of the virus and 4,081 deaths. Public health officials have estimated the coronavirus could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans.