Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Tuesday, February 25

Feb 25: The Army’s medical intelligence center raises its warning that the coronavirus would become a pandemic within 30 days from WATCHCON 2 — a probable crisis — to WATCHCON 1 — an imminent crisis. The warning is provided in an intelligence briefing to the Joint Chiefs of Staff two days later. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in prepared remarks, states that the outbreak is inevitable and may lead to severe disruption to everyday life.   HHS Secretary Alex Azar seeks to quell concerns following Messonnier’s comments . He says the disease is “contained.” Larry Kudlow, the President’s National Economic Council Director is asked about Dr. Messonnier’s comments. He tells CNBC, “We have contained this. I won’t say airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight.” “I don’t think it’s going to be an economic tragedy at all,” he adds. Kudlow privately delivers a more ambiguous forecast of the situation to board members of the Hoover Institution. William Callanan — a member of the Hoover board of overseers and major hedge fund consultant — circulates a memo to hedge fund founders, senior business owners, and wealthy private investors warning that the spread of the virus may be more serious than what the White House is reporting publicly and that the nation’s health agencies appear unprepared. Chad Wolf at the Department of Homeland Security says that the new virus has the same mortality rate as the flu. U.S. stocks plunge for a second straight day, capping their worst two-day loss since 2008.*

From the Cutting Room Floor...

What is the public supposed to do? Medical authorites keep saying just wash our hands and stop touching our faces. Is that it? Masks? We’re not supposed to buy them because healthcare workers need them.

It is no wonder that the messaging has been so chaotic. In 2018, the current administration got rid of its pandemic response organization, including the White House management infrastructure and the NSC’s entire global health security unit. They reduced $15 billion in health spending. They cut the global disease-fighting operational budgets of the CDC, DHS, and HHS. They even eliminated the Complex Crises Fund. This was part of the GOP scaling back of government services they deemed unnecessary. And perhaps it was. But now …?

CNBC Television. White House Coronavirus Task Force Holds a Briefing on the Outbreak – 2/25/2020, 2020.
Associated Press. HHS: More Virus Cases Likely, US Short on Supplies, 2020.
Jimmy Kimmel Live. Trump Says Coronavirus Is Very Much Under Control, 2020.
CNBC Television. Kudlow: Coronavirus Will Not Be Economic Tragedy, 2020.

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Alonso-Zaldivar, Ricardo, and Jonathan Lemire. “Trump, US Officials Send Mixed Messages on Virus Risk Here.” ABC News, February 25, 2020.
Belluck, Pam, and Noah Weiland. “C.D.C. Officials Warn of Coronavirus Outbreaks in the U.S.” The New York Times, February 25, 2020, sec. Health.
Cohen, Jon, and Kai Kupferschmidt. “The Coronavirus Seems Unstoppable. What Should the World Do Now?” Science, February 25, 2020.
O’Brian, Bridget. “Major American Companies Are Reeling from Coronavirus.” CNN, February 25, 2020.
Smith, Tara C. “The Animal Origins of Coronavirus and Flu.” Quanta Magazine, February 25, 2020.
Paules, Catharine I., Hilary D. Marston, and Anthony S. Fauci. “Coronavirus Infections—More Than Just the Common Cold.” JAMA 323, no. 8 (February 25, 2020): 707.
Sun, Pengfei, Xiaosheng Lu, Chao Xu, Wenjuan Sun, and Bo Pan. “Understanding of COVID-19 Based on Current Evidence.” Journal of Medical Virology 92, no. 6 (February 25, 2020): 548–51.
“CDC to Cut by 80 Percent Efforts to Prevent Global Disease Outbreak.” Washington Post, February 1, 2018.
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* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (, the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (, the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (, as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.