Fact check: A timeline of how President Trump responded to the coronavirus

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Governor JB Pritzker have not shied away from criticizing the White House over its response to the coronavirus or calling it inadequate.  In Washington, D.C., President Trump continues to say his administration could not have known what was coming. 

Here’s a closer look at the decisions that led us to this moment:

March 2017

The first Trump administration budget proposal calls for cuts to CDC funding. Congress intervenes passing a year-over-year increase – the start of an annual funding fight.

April 2018

White House National Security advisor John Bolton begins dismantling the team in charge of pandemic response.

December 31, 2019

Chinese health officials inform the World Health Organization about a cluster of patients with pneumonia. Eight days later, there’s the first death in China.

January 20

The first case on U.S. soil is a man from Washington State.

January 22

Wuhan is locked down and people at airports are screened while the WHO sounds the alarm, saying they need to “prevent international spread.” The Trump Administration insists America is ready.

“We don’t yet know everything we need to know about this virus. But that does not prevent us from preparing and responding,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.

January 24

The first case is reported in Chicago. Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike says the city has, “more questions that there are answers.”

Late January

President Trump downplaying (almost ignoring) the threat.

“Hopefully, it won’t be as bad as many people say it will be,” he said on January 30. “We have it under control. 

Then on February 3rd he said: “We’ve pretty much shut it down coming from China.”

February 5th

The Senate impeachment vote distracts the nation. But five days later, the president raises COVID-19 at a campaign rally.

“Looks like by April when it gets warmer it will go away,” he said.

February 25

As Coronavirus ravages South Korea, Iran and Italy in late February, President Trump tweets the virus is under control and the stock market is starting to look very good. 

“We’re very close to a vaccine,” he said on February 25.

February 26- 28 

Expressing a heightened sense of alert, the White House announces a Task Force led by Vice President Pence. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better, we’ll see, who really knows.”

March 10

The virus is spreading rapidly in the U.S, and it’s clear efforts at containment have failed. While Trump said he thought “the US has done a very good job on testing,” the lines at testing sites in Chicago tell a different story.

March 11 & 13 

No more denial. The World Health Organization declares the outbreak a pandemic, and President Trump addresses the nation.

“Today, I am officially declaring a national emergency, two very big words,” Trump said

Throughout Mid-march

COVID-19’s devastation sets in and the number of deaths soar as hospitals are overwhelmed, the stock market tanks, and states issue stay-at-home orders. 

But President Trump, still likening COVID-19 to ordinary flu, announces he wants the country to “reopen” by Easter.  

March 26th

The total number of cases in the U.S. reaches the highest in the world. The states bearing the heaviest brunt of the national emergency beg the federal government for more help.

March 27th 

President Trump signs an unprecedented $2 Trillion rescue package.

March 30th 

In a presidential about-face, social distancing guidelines are extended through the end of April.

March 31

COVID-19 is now a national nightmare with U.S. infectious disease experts warning of possibly 100,000 to 200,000 deaths.

The president, who just one month earlier called the virus, a “hoax” offers this grim assessment: ”This is going to be a rough two-week period.”

When WGN asked the White House for comment, an official said the federal government continues to provide critical resources and support to states, and that President Trump and his Administration are committed to doing everything possible to protect the health and safety of every single American.

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