The Trump administration has made the US less ready for infectious disease outbreaks like coronavirus
Posted by admin on 5th February 2020
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As coronavirus continues to spread, the Trump administration has declared a public health emergency and imposed quarantines and travel restrictions. However, over the past three years the administration has weakened the offices in charge of preparing for and preventing this kind of outbreak.

Two years ago, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates warned that the world should be “preparing for a pandemic in the same serious way it prepares for war”. Gates, whose foundation has invested heavily in global health, suggested staging simulations, war games and preparedness exercises to simulate how diseases could spread and to identify the best response.

The Trump administration has done exactly the opposite: It has slashed funding for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its infectious disease research. For fiscal year 2020, Trump proposed cutting the CDC budget by US$1.3 billion, nearly 20% below the 2019 level.

As a specialist in budgeting, I recognize that there are many claims on public resources. But when it comes to public health, I believe it is vital to invest early in prevention. Starving the CDC of critical funding will make it far harder for the government to react quickly to a public health emergency.

As of Jan. 31, 2020, cases of 2019-nCoV had been confirmed in China and 25 other countries.
CDC

Cutting funds and staff

Every year since taking office, Trump has asked for deep cuts into research on emerging diseases – including the CDC’s small center on emerging and “zoonotic” infectious diseases that jump the species barrier from animals to humans. The new coronavirus is just the latest example of these threats.

The CDC’s program focuses on infectious diseases ranging from foodborne illnesses to anthrax and Ebola. It manages laboratory, epidemiologic, analytic and prevention programs, and collaborates with state and local health departments, other federal government agencies, industry and foreign ministries of health.

In 2018, Trump tried to cut $65 million from this budget – a 10% reduction. In 2019, he sought a 19% reduction. For 2020, he proposed to cut federal spending on emerging infectious and zoonotic diseases by 20%. This would mean spending $100 million less in 2020 to study how such diseases infect humans than the U.S. did just two years ago.

Congress reinstated most of this funding, with bipartisan support. But the overall level of appropriations for relevant CDC programs is still 10% below what the U.S. spent in 2016, adjusting for inflation.

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