Mar 19: California becomes the first state to issue a stay-at-home order, mandating all residents to stay at home except to go to an essential job or shop for essential needs. Connecticut delays its presidential primary election to June. The U.S. State Department raised the global travel advisory to Level 4: Do Not Travel. The CDC issues updated guidelines instructing medical professionals how to use homemade masks “as a last resort” if PPE is not available. That same day: President Trump states that the responsibility of supplying PPE to medical professionals lies with state governors, not the federal government. “Governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work, and they are doing a lot of this work,” President Trump says at the daily White House briefing. “The Federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.” In an interview with journalist Bob Woodward, Trump says that he has knowingly been playing down the dangers of the virus. News breaks that Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) sold up to $1.56 million in stocks in February after receiving a briefing on the expected severity of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. During that period, Burr was assuring the public that the Trump administration had everything under control, although a secret recording emerged in which he warned well-connected constituents to prepare for a dire economic situation.*
War profiteering. Now pandemic profiteering.
The stock market has crashed. Those who have stocks are checking their accounts, calculating losses. Everyone that is, except Senator Richard Burr, who sold $1.7 million worth of stocks a week before everything fell apart.
Back on Feb 27, Burr, who is the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, publicly supported the President, but sold stocks after learning that the virus was much closer to the cataclysmic influenza pandemic from a century ago. He warned friends and family that schools might have to be closed and that the military would have to be called. Then, he sold his stocks while the price was still high.
It is actually illegal for Members of Congress to trade on information obtained through their work on Capitol Hill. His selling of the stocks may still be forgivable since you can’t really be responsible for the things that you are unable not to know. More problematic is the simple fact that he never told the public, who he was paid to serve. Maybe he kept his mouth shut for the same reason that the intelligence community didn’t share their information about the virus earlier on. Maybe he was afraid that Trump would come down on him for inciting panic. In any case, Burr now has a response ready. He compared the NPR story that broke the news of his stock sales to a tabloid fabrication. But he didn’t deny it. He just spread the blame, saying that lots of people, not just his friends, were at that meeting. But that’s not the point. If he knew this information, he should have shared it. That’s his job.
In the meantime, the rest of us are just trying to make do. Here is a paragraph from an email I wrote today to all my history students as they pack up and head home. I couldn’t bring myself to sound panicked or sad. They seem so worried already. Also, I need them to finish the semester and do the work, even if they are stuck at home. I mean, come on–online-only learning has been a thing for decades now!
Dearest History Majors,
I know that everyone is scared, but I really believe that the quarantine can be an opportunity. History shows that in periods of confinement it is a good idea to make a schedule for yourself. Be disciplined with your days. Think of what Martin Luther King accomplished while he was locked in a Birmingham jail. Oscar Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest and Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables while in exile. Use this opportunity to learn and grow. You can choose to make something worthwhile out of this experience. And most of all, be safe.
With Warmest Regards, Dr. Peacock
Later in the day, Peterson received this email from a former student:
“I am sad that the year has ended this way, sad that people are getting sick, sad that my plans for the summer are shot. I’m confused and angry at how things are being handled. Smaller, poorer countries than ours seem to have no problem finding masks for their healthcare workers. No one seems to be paying attention to the quarantine. I am confused by the ocean of emails I am receiving from professors and my school, each of them giving different directions on what I have to do to pass. But I think I have to try and remember that I still have it so much better than many others do. More than anything, I want to be a support for the people around me. I want to steady and positive. I want to be the kind of person that responds well in a crisis.
“Right now what I really need is toilet paper and Lysol. I have an old sewing machine somewhere that maybe I could use to make a mask. Also, Netflix calls.”
…and of course, that’s the whole problem. We want people to use this time of social isolation to do great things, to read great books, to think great thoughts, to begin great projects. But entertainment and distraction is pervasive.
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This is bullsh!t— Andy Noronha (@anmariha) March 13, 2020
The virus is made in China CCP, Wuhan p4 laboratory, we Chinese know that, CCP want to make a virus world war against the whole world. Iran don’t understand if you deal with evil, you will get punishment back, that is why so many infected people in your country.— 雪域极行客 (@Suomi201888) March 10, 2020
2/2 CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation! pic.twitter.com/vYNZRFPWo3— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) March 12, 2020
Based on current trends, probably close to zero new cases in US too by end of April— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 19, 2020
President @realDonaldTrump announces HUGE news‼️Hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria, has shown encouraging early results against the #coronavirus. By eliminating red tape, President Trump will be able to make this drug available almost immediately. — Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) March 19, 2020
The Obama-Biden Administration set up the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense to prepare for future pandemics like COVID-19. Donald Trump eliminated it — and now we’re paying the price.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 19, 2020
The FDA says it has not approved Chloroquine for Covid-19 use, contradicting the president’s statement https://t.co/AtzMxn6Vgp— Bloomberg (@business) March 19, 2020
Trump tells Woodward he played down the threat of the coronavirus.— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 9, 2020
"I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don't want to create a panic."
He also tells Woodward that "plenty of young people" are vulnerable — different from his public message pic.twitter.com/fJZUZtJTIv
Wow, @timkmak obtained a recording of Sen. BURR three weeks ago in which he tells attendees of a private luncheon of dire coronavirus consequences long before the WH was acknowledging them publicly. https://t.co/mbWrEkhNlI— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) March 19, 2020
As Intel chairman, @SenatorBurr got private briefings about Coronavirus weeks ago.Burr knew how bad it would be. He told the truth to his wealthy donors, while assuring the public that we were fine. THEN he sold off $1.6 million in stock before the fall. He needs to resign. https://t.co/IAITMbJ3R5 — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 19, 2020
COVID-19 is teaching everyone what socialists already know: the whole world revolves around labor. https://t.co/RgCQyNAV5n— DSA 🌹 (@DemSocialists) March 19, 2020
News today:— Dr. Abdul El-Sayed (@AbdulElSayed) March 20, 2020
– The maker of chloroquine (around since 1944) DOUBLED its price when it found it could be used to treat #Covid_19.
– A US Senator dumped $1.7M in stocks AFTER telling the public WE WERE PREPARED.
Tell me again how our system had 'nothing to do with' this pandemic?
* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (https://www.ajmc.com/view/a-timeline-of-covid19-developments-in-2020), the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (https://www.justsecurity.org/69650/timeline-of-the-coronavirus-pandemic-and-u-s-response/), the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (theweek.com), as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.