Pandemic Timeline

See the critical events that have led to over 300,000 COVID-19-related deaths in the US, and what the government did about it. This project is ongoing, and will be updated as new information comes to light.


During 2014
The Obama-Biden Administration sets up the Global Health Security Unit as part of the White House’s National Security Council. Its purpose is to monitor outbreaks of infectious diseases around the world and move quickly to counter their threat. A lengthy playbook is created to deal with such a contingency.
Thirty members of Trump's transition team meet with Obama officials to go over a pandemic simulation. It predicts a disease that comes from Asia, and concludes that the biggest risks are lack of containment and shortages of key medical resources like personal protective equipment and ventilators.
The National Security Council’s pandemic response team moves under Tom Bossert to develop a comprehensive biodefense strategy. It is to be directed by retired Admiral Tim Ziemer.
US Intelligence creates a "Worldwide Threat Assessment" to warn of any “virulent microbe” capable of person-to-person spread.
Trump fires Tom Bossert at request of the incoming National Security Advisor - John Bolton.
Trump dissolves the NSC Pandemic Response team (and the position of its director Ziemer), leaving no senior officials focused solely on global health security. When a Jan 3, 2020 briefing on the Wuhan viral outbreak is convened, only 1/3 of the participants in the Jan 13, 2017 simulation are remaining in the Trump administration.
The Worldwide Threat Assessment of US intelligence agencies warns that the United States and the world remain vulnerable to a new flu pandemic.
August 2019
US Health and Human Services (HHS) completes CRIMSON CONTAGION, an eight month drill exploring federal, state, and NGO response to a hypothetical infection arriving in the US from China. This joint exercise concludes that the US lacks capacity to manufacture PPE, needles, syringes, antivirals, and respiratory equipment in the event of a major infectious disease outbreak. This lack is due primarily to their manufacture being off-shored. No actions are initiated by the Trump administration in the wake of these findings.
The GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY INDEX is released. This GHS Index is based on a study by Johns Hopkins U and public health actors looking for weaknesses in the world's nations' abilities to prevent, detect, and respond to disease outbreaks. All countries are found to have major gaps in capabilities. The report calls on the UN to hold a "heads of state" summit in 2020 to address the growing risks of disease outbreaks. The US is felt to be the least ill-prepared, based upon its highly advanced health infrastructure - and an assumption that it will follow "best practices" guidelines in its actions.
One day after the GHS Index report is issued, Joe Biden tweets: “We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores.”
November 2019
Trump administration eliminates post of an American epidemiologist embedded in China’s disease control agency. Her job: to train Chinese epidemiologists to deploy to outbreaks and help investigate, track, and contain the pathogen.

Events Before December 2019 Summary

Health experts in the US who have worried about novel contagions arising in Asia like SARS or Bird Flu conclude that the capacity of the US to respond to such a development is a worry. Warnings to this effect are ignored by Trump. Former Vice President Joe Biden, in contrast, calls for forward leaning leadership and a more proactive stance.

By November 2019, it is evident that a long-feared disease outbreak is probably underway in China.

December 2019

First case of novel coronavirus documented in Wuhan, China.
Chinese note 41 cases of pneumonia-like syndrome by this date, which are later confirmed to be COVID-19. Many (though not all) such cases were associated with Wuhan’s wet market.
China’s doctors confirm an outbreak of a SARS-like virus causing pneumonia. By this date there are 180 cases reported - and later verified by tests.
Wuhan’s CDC sends internal memo for all hospitals to look into causes of the pneumonia. The Emergency Room director at Wuhan Central Hospital puts the word SARS onto data she forwards. Ophthalmologist Li Wenliang passes this apparent confirmation of a coronavirus onto WeChat. It is more widely disseminated than the small group he intended.
China officially reports to the World Health Organization the outbreak of a new virus with symptoms of pneumonia. Fifteen Trump administration officials are embedded at WHO headquarters in Geneva. In the weeks to follow, American officials and scientists engage in WHO deliberations and decisions.

December 2019 Summary

A novel virus spreads through China causing a cluster of pneumonias in Hubei province. The disease is soon shown to be related to 2003’s SARS virus, which almost created a pandemic. Doctors in Wuhan connect this virus to virulent cases of respiratory disease. The possibility of another coronavirus moving from animals to humans in China had been specifically feared by epidemiologists since the prior outbreaks of SARS (and a similar coronavirus causing MERS).

January 2020

Classified briefings begin in Washington. CDC Director Robert Redfield and Secretary of Heath and Human Services Alex Azar get word of China’s new virus. Azar tells his chief of staff to notify the National Security Council saying, “This is a very big deal.” Information on the virus’s potential to spread is put in the President's Daily Briefing. It is not clear that he became cognizant of the dangers. Secretary Azar does not converse with Trump about it for another 15 days.

In China, the authorities interrogate Dr. Li and censure him for “publishing untrue statements about seven confirmed SARS cases.”
The Chinese announce they have indeed identified the new disease as a coronavirus. The Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Program at the WHO points out that, as a respiratory pathogen, human-to-human transmission is possible.
The CDC issues an alert to clinicians in America to be on the lookout for patients with respiratory symptoms and a history of travel to Wuhan, China. Dr. Li, who has returned to work there now himself, contracts the virus from a patient.
The genetic sequence of the virus is put in the NIH’s databank.
The WHO is briefed on the genetics of the virus. It does not advise a ban on international travel.
Wuhan begins screening all departing air/rail/train passengers. It is later learned that those without symptoms can be carriers; also, many who are ill do not mount fevers. This renders the scanning of travelers by temperature checks quite imperfect.
German researchers produce - and release - the world’s first test kit for COVID-19.
Europe’s CDC publishes a summary of 44 cases in China. Imperial College in London estimates that the actual number is closer to 1,700.

America’s CDC sends workers to SFO, LAX, and New York’s JFK airport to assist in the screening of passengers returning from China, though it is unclear how many, if any, returnees were quarantined as a result of this.
After trying for weeks to get Donald Trump on the phone to warn him of this new virus, Secretary Azar finally succeeds. Trump interrupts him during the call to criticize Azar's handling of a ban on vaping products, which Trump fears will hurt him politically.
South Korea and the United States both confirm their first cases of COVID-19. The Koreans mobilize their health agencies and medical companies to deal with the new contagion through the standard approaches of aggressive testing, contact tracing, and isolation. In contrast, for the next six weeks, the United States does virtually no testing.
US CDC confirms first case of 2019 novel coronavirus in the United States in the state of Washington.
Asked about the virus at the Davos Summit, Trump says: “We have it totally under control… It’s one person coming from China. It’s going to be just fine.”
WHO warns the viral outbreak has reached Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Singapore. It urges all countries to prepare containment measures including active surveillance and early detection. Hubei province aggressively locks down.
South Korea engages its corporations to mass produce the needed test kits, promising they will receive emergency approval.
During a briefing, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien warns Trump that COVID-19 represents the “biggest national security threat” of his presidency. Deputy Matt Pottinger, a Mandarin-speaking former journalist with Chinese contacts, confirms its seriousness. He adds his opinion that it will be as bad as the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans. Pottinger adds that asymptomatic spread is now confirmed, and he was told 50% of people had no symptoms. The fact that carriers of the disease can be symptom-free makes it clear that only testing can detect individuals who are infectious. There are less than a dozen verified US cases at this point, given our extremely limited testing abilities.
WHO declares COVID-19 a Global Emergency. There are now 98 cases in 18 countries outside China. It urges all nations to review plans, find gaps, and evaluate resources needed to identify, isolate, and treat.

Secretary Azar again tries to warn Trump of the seriousness of COVID-19. Trump labels him an “alarmist.”

The first person-to-person transmission in the US is documented in Chicago. A woman returning from Wuhan comes down with the virus, then passes it to her husband who did not go to China.
Trump announces travel restrictions on Chinese arrivals. During the prior month of January, 390,000 passengers arrive unrestricted. Many exceptions permit continued travel between the nations. Trump later claims the ban was his idea - and that he was the first in the world to do so. In fact, aides urged him strongly to act, and by this date 20 other nations had implemented restrictions on arrivals from China.

In Wuhan, Dr. Li publishes an account of his experiences with the police. The post goes viral, causing many around the world to wonder why Chinese doctors who gave early warnings about the disease were silenced by the authorities.

January 2020 Summary

The officials in China are not forthcoming about how extensive the contagion has been in their country. A severe lockdown is put in place in China, but thousands of infected individuals have already left to spread the virus all over the world.

In the US, a failure to halt the flow of passengers flying in from China insures that the country is seeded with this coronavirus for which human beings have limited immunity. Though this is exactly the scenario long feared by health authorities in the US and around the world, owing to a standing down of groups specifically set up to monitor such developments, the alarm is not sounded with vigor. In January, as a consequence of this, virtually nothing is done to counter this threat.

February 2020

Trump in pre-Super Bowl interview says about arrival from China that "we pretty much shut it down." In fact, between now and April 1, ~40,000 more people come to the US on direct flights from China.
South Korea ships thousands of test kits. America's CDC ships enough to test ~150,000 people, but problems immediately develop with them.
WHO sends 250,000 test kits around the world. The US declines them in favor of tests developed here.

California experiences first death in the US from COVID. This case was not recognized at first as so little testing was being done at this point. It is confirmed at autopsy only on April 21.
Trump tweets: “President Xi leads a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help.” The US does in fact help by shipping out 18 tons of medical equipment including masks, gowns, and respirators.

Speaking with Bob Woodward, Trump admits to knowing that the new virus is highly contagious, and quite virulent: “It goes through the air Bob… You just breathe the air and that’s how its passed… It's more deadly than your strenuous [sic] flu.”
CDC is the only agency in the US processing COVID tests. This causes delays, and to make matters worse, it receives reports its test kits are useless. At this point, the minimal testing being done grinds to a halt.
Trump tells the US Border Patrol: “We have a very small number of people in the country right now. It's like around 12. Many are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape.”
The second death due to COVID in California and the nation takes place, but is also confirmed by autopsy only by April 21 as the patient did not receive a pre-mortem test.  
Asked again about the coronavirus, Trump claims: “I think it's going to work out fine… when we get into April the warmer weather has a negative effect on the virus.”
The Director General of the WHO warns that while the chance to contain the virus globally still exists, “the window of opportunity is narrowing.”

CDC issues a press release noting it has deployed a team to work with doctors in Washington state in support of efforts to contact trace people exposed to patients sick with respiratory illness, and presumed to have coronavirus.

CDC official Nancy Messonnier tells reporters COVID-19 likely to spread in US, and that the disruptions to daily life it produces could be severe. An enraged Trump, returning from India, calls Azar and threatens to fire her for spooking the stock market with such statements. Trump then tweets: “Coronavirus is very well under control. We have few with it and those that have it are getting better. They’re all getting better. We’re doing a great job.”
Trump states: “Because of all we’ve done the risk to the American people is very low. 15 people. Within a couple of days it’s going to be down close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

HHS Secretary Azar is starting to be moved towards the sidelines by Trump who announces that a new coronavirus task force will be put together under Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump tweets: “Only a very small number of cases in the US and China… numbers are going down.” At a White House reception this same day, he says: “It's going to disappear… one day it's like a miracle, it will disappear.”

At a press conference on the federal government’s response to coronavirus Trump defends his actions in eliminating the Obama-established Global Health Security Unit in 2017 and reducing the 2020 budget of the CDC, saying: “I'm a businessperson. I don't like having thousands of people around when you don't need them." To which he adds: "When we need them, we can get them back very quickly."
US testing resumes with a new test. By this point the WHO has shipped 1.4M tests to countries around the world, but not the US, who turned the test down. The total number of tests conducted in the US by this point is numbered in the hundreds.

The first death in the United States recognized at the time as COVID takes place in Washington state. Epidemiologists near Seattle have been convinced that the disease has been spread person-to-person in the communities of Washington for weeks.
Late February
New Scientist reports that COVID-19 has spread to 70 countries. At this point China is doing 1.6M tests/week. South Korea is doing 10,000 per day. By Feb 28 the US had done about 2,500 total.

February Summary

The US acts late to slow arrivals from China and is NOT able to ramp up COVID-19 testing due to problems with the test developed in the US. Only two Americans are reported as coronavirus deaths by this point. Without a doubt many more went undetected.

Trump continues to claim that the virus is not going to be a problem, and will soon “go away.” There is no evidence to support this. Trump is quite concerned about the effects of COVID news on the stock market (and thus his re-election chances). From this point forward he minimizes the fact that a pandemic has arrived on our shores though he is fully aware of its seriousness. As a consequence of such posturing no comprehensive national plan is devised. Standard epidemiologic methods are resisted in the US. This is in contrast to other nations. COVID testing flounders and contact tracing is stymied by lack of sufficient personnel. Masks are discouraged. Insufficient social restrictions will be put in place late and discarded prematurely as a second month of extremely limited action draws to a close.

March 2020

Regarding COVID-19 Trump says: “some people… won’t even go to a doctor or hospital and they’ll get better. There are many people like that."
South Korea sets up drive-through clinics to detect viral infections in 10 minutes. By this point this nation of 52M people has done 136,000 tests. The US with a population of 329M has still done fewer than 1,000.
Trump visits the CDC with Director Redfield and Secretary Azar. While praising his own uncanny ability to almost intuitively grasp the details of COVID-19, which he states amazes the medical professionals, he announces that “anyone who wants a test can get a test.” This was flatly untrue, and has remained a lie from this date to the present time.

Off the California coast the Grand Princess cruise ship with COVID-19 infected passengers aboard is in limbo as it has not been given authorization to come in to port and offload the sick. Trump says he does not want them offloaded because they will boost America’s number of official cases. Says Trump: “I like the numbers where they are. We don’t need the numbers to double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”
March 7th issue of New Scientist reports that COVID-19 has spread to 70 countries. At this point, China is doing 1.6 million tests per week and South Korea upwards of 10,000 per day to screen their populations. By Feb 28 the UK had tested 13,000 people. All of them are suspected infections, as screening tests are not being performed on the general population. By the same date the US had tested about 2,500.
Trump, at a donor event, criticizes those who seek to raise the nation’s general level of alarm about the virus: “They’re trying to scare everybody… destroy the country.”
The White House task force receives the Imperial College of London study. It predicts that if the US government does not take swift and aggressive actions to counter the virus 2M deaths in the United States could follow.
As US testing slowly moves forward the numbers diagnosed begin to rise. Cases now exceed 1,000, with 37 deaths reported.
Trump announces restrictions on travel from Europe effective March 14. Later study of viral strains indicates that the East Coast got a strain which came through Europe, suggesting that some Chinese restricted from direct travel to the US may have first flown to Europe before it too faced restrictions.
Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner joins the coronavirus task force. His focus is to be on the insufficient testing and inadequate equipment supply. It is later reported that Kushner urged Trump to not aggressively help those states first hit hard by the pandemic as these were blue states, not Trump’s political allies.
Asked at a press conference if he takes responsibility for the country’s delays in testing Trump replies: “I don’t take responsibility at all.” When a reporter then questions his dismantling of the pandemic response team, Trump calls the question “nasty” and claims to know nothing about it.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, possibly the nation’s top physician in dealing with epidemics dating to his experiences during AIDS crisis, urges consideration of a national shutdown. Many European nations have already done this.
Bay Area local officials announce shelter-in-place regulations to go into effect the following day. They act in the wake of no declarations by federal or state health authorities to restrict people's activities. Trump now reverses his previous rhetoric and recommends that for 15 days Americans should work at home, avoid unnecessary shopping, avoid eating in at restaurants, and avoid groups greater than 10. Masks are not recommended.
Trump admits to Bob Woodward that he has been downplaying the dangers of COVID-19 purposely in order to avoid “creating a panic”. He reveals that he is aware that COVID is not merely a disease of the elderly: “it’s not just old, older people. Young people too. Plenty of young people.”
Over a 14-day period starting March 3rd the US goes from 159 confirmed COVID cases to >100,000. Trump claims that “Nobody knew about the pandemic” despite the reality that international health authorities had predicted that such a thing would inevitably happen for decades.

Trump also claims that the system he “inherited” was “obsolete and didn’t work”. He further claims falsely that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have been approved by the FDA.
Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts that Americans will have to stay home and practice social distancing “at least several weeks.”
Armed with only anecdotal evidence from a rural New York primary doctor, Trump tweets: "HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine."
Trump reverses himself again seven days into his stay-at-home guidance to downplay the need for such actions, saying: “America will again, and soon, be open for business… we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.
The WHO warns that with 46,500 cases and 600 deaths the US stands to become the world’s disease epicenter. Just one week earlier those numbers stood at 6,300 cases and 108 deaths.

Trump says he wants the country “back to work by Easter” (19 days in the future). At a Texas town hall meeting he states that: “In the last 8 days we’ve done more testing than South Korea has in 8 weeks.” While this number is close to true in absolute terms the Koreans have done 7x the number of tests as the USA on a per capita basis.
The WHO spokesman who noted the possibility of the US becoming the next epicenter says there is still time to turn things around. His formula for success is to employ viral testing, perform contact tracing, and isolating the sick and exposed via quarantine.
Trump labels his minimalist actions to counter the contagion a great success, saying: “… think of the numbers… potentially 2 million people if we did nothing” adding “If the US death toll remains below 100,000 it would mean my administration had done a very good job.”
Trump admits that even with mitigation the US could suffer 240,000 deaths.

March Summary

Social distancing actions are taken in piecemeal fashion across the country, with widely varied standards under federal, state, and local recommendations. The universally recognized methods needed to control a pandemic – testing, contact tracing, and isolation as appropriate – are not vigorously pursued in the United States. Cases explode across the country during the month.

Europe is ahead of us in this. In certain hard-hit areas like Italy's Lombardy region the public health systems soon get overwhelmed. There is great concern that numerous American jurisdictions could follow this pattern and in the weeks that follow many do.

The lackadaisical US response is clearly influenced by political considerations overriding public health concerns. Trump’s conversations with Bob Woodward show that he is well aware of the dangers of COVID-19, but publicly he takes a stance that aggressively minimizes the dangers.

April 2020

The CDC issues new guidelines: a lab test should be used to confirm COVID-19 as the cause of death. Across the US, however, tests are being conserved for the very ill, owing to shortages, so CDC notes that if not tested it is acceptable to report COVID-19 on the death certificate if “circumstances are compelling” to a reasonable degree.

Trump again falsely claims that: “no one anticipated a pandemic.” He blames Obama for lack of equipment and supplies: “the shelves were bare.”
Asked if the US needs expanded COVID testing before re-opening the economy Trump minimizes the need saying: “We want to have it, and we’re going to see if we have it. Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes.”
CDC Director Redfield sends the White House step-by-step instructions on how to safely re-open businesses across the nation. Flow charts are included. The White House does not respond.
Trump falsely claims in a press briefing he has "total authority" to overrule state governors and re-open the country. 24 hours later he reverses himself.
Trump tries to shift the blame for the nation’s failures to test for COVID-19 onto the states: “The governors are supposed to do the testing. It’s up to the governors.”
As governors and officials report shortages of reagents, swabs, etc., which restricts the ability to perform tests, Trump releases his guidelines for re-opening the economy. Compared with the CDC's plan it is vague and less restrictive.
As part of his continued emphasis on reversing social distancing and the shuttering of businesses Trump tweets: “LIBERATE MINNESOTA, LIBERATE MICHIGAN, LIBERATE VIRGINIA and save your great 2nd amendment.” Armed protesters erupt in state capitals. The states mentioned in his tweet all have Democratic governors taking a more conservative approach to halting the control methods put in place. Asked what metrics will be used to re-open the country, Trump points to his head saying: “The metrics are right here.”

The Washington Post reports that everything the WHO knew about COVID-19 the Trump administration likewise knew.
With the country finally doing 150,000 tests per day a Harvard panel states that the safe re-opening of businesses will need 5M tests per day by early June.
A study by the Veterans Administration shows no value to hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID. Meanwhile a study by researcher De Kai suggests that there would be a significant reduction in infections if 80% of people wore masks.

Trump continues to advocate for the anti-malarial drug, while downplaying the usefulness of masks. CDC Director Redfield tells the Washington Post that Trump’s calls for states to be “liberated” are not helpful. He also points out that winter may worsen the pandemic.
Trump tells the press Redfield was “totally misquoted” regarding a resurgence of the virus saying “it’s possible it won’t come back at all.”
In one of the most bizarre moments in the entire course of the pandemic Trump at a coronavirus task force press briefing suggests that ultraviolet light might be used inside the body along with bleach injections to fight the disease: "I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that." His remarks leave medical advisors in stunned silence, and some companies and state agencies feel it necessary to issue warnings to the public about ingesting disinfectants.
Redfield again asks the White House to approve the CDC’s 63-page set of guidelines on safe re-opening. He is told April 30 it will never see the light of day.
The White House coronavirus task force holds its last public briefing for a 2 month period. The next one on June 26 does not include Trump. On about this date, the US reaches 1M cases of COVID-19; just 50 days earlier it stood at 436.
Some states lift coronavirus restrictions though none are near the standard, per Trump’s own guidelines, of a 14 day decline in new COVID-19 cases.

Mike Pence, on a tour of the Mayo Clinic, refuses to wear a mask, saying, “I’m tested on a regular basis. Everyone around me is tested on a regular basis.” Days later, his wife tries to claim on a television program that Pence was unaware of the requirement.
Dr. Anthony Fauci warns that states that move to reopen without adequate testing and tracing in place are bound to suffer disease outbreaks. Trump meanwhile continues to pressure governors to reopen and encourages protesters to turn out and push for this.
By the end of April
White House starts banning Fauci from TV appearances. At HHS an assistant Director is brought in to control public relations. Michael Caputo, a long-time Republican political operative with no background in medicine or science, assumes control of media for the CDC, NIH, FDA, and Alex Azar. Caputo emphasizes a need for loyalty to the president, and moves to censor the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

April Summary

The country continues with no comprehensive national pandemic plan through the month of April. Resources are not mobilized to produce the needed tests. Resources are not mobilized to produce the amount of medical equipment required to combat the disease including masks, PPE, and ventilators. Shortages continue for all of the above.

What controls are put in place by local and state officials, along with the limited federal restrictions, are under attack from the Trump White House, which pushes to relax the standards – but health officials warn that doing so without adequate testing and tracing will bring about spikes in cases. Masks are ridiculed. Shortcomings in testing and/or equipment are blamed on state governors.

Other nations' efforts to halt the virus – often involving far more restrictions than put in place in the US (and certainly more per capita testing) – begin to slow the spread of the contagion. As Italy only doubles its 100,000 cases in April, US cases increase by a factor of 5.5x, to over 1.1 million.

May 2020

In a post-business-hours move, Trump replaces HHS Deputy Inspector General Christi Grimm. Grimm had filed a report in April highlighting supply shortages and testing delays in the nation’s hospitals, which angered Trump. This may have played a role in his taking more direct control of HHS due to officials not showing sufficient “loyalty” to his positions.
An epidemiology model cited by the White House revises its projections in light of reduced social distancing and increased mobility of Americans expected over the next week in 33 states. Deaths expected by "early August" double to ~135,000. (That number is, in fact, be achieved by July 8th, a month earlier.)

The New Yorker reveals that epidemiologists in Washington state were unable to test for COVID in January as suspected cases did not meet a criteria of arrival from China. Lab workers jury-rigged tests to confirm the presence of COVID and its person-to-person spread. Former CDC Director Tom Frieden opines that if New York had implemented stay-at-home orders 10 days earlier deaths there might have been reduced 50-80 percent.
Trump visits a mask factory in Arizona, but refuses to wear one. He announces that the coronavirus task force will wind down as the country moves into a “second phase” focusing on the “aftermath” of the outbreak. He states that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx will remain as advisors afterwards.

Mike Pence says that Trump is eyeing May 25th as the time to shift management of the pandemic, adds country “could be in a very different place by late May…”
USA now doing 250,000 tests per day. Trump continues to blame the frightening rise in cases on the fact that we are testing for the diseases: “If we did very little testing we wouldn’t have the most cases.”

Trump tells Bob Woodward he does not recall being briefed on January 28th that the virus would be the “biggest national security threat of his presidency.” He says: “No, no I don’t. I’m sure he said it, you know? I’m sure he said it. Nice guy.”
The Associated Press reports that the Trump admin buried the CDC’s detailed re-opening guidance. Most re-opening states fail to meet even Trump’s lax guidelines. More than half have increasing case counts and/or positive tests though it was advised that such numbers needed to be on the decline for safe reopening.
Trump again states publicaly that the virus “will just go away.”
Dr. Fauci testifies before the Senate that if states disregard guidelines for re-opening safely, “There is a real risk you will trigger an outbreak you cannot control.” He warns that it will not simply disappear. He also warns that a second wave is possible.
Trump states that schools should re-open in the fall and calls Fauci’s warnings “unacceptable.”

The US COVID-19 death toll now exceeds 78,000 over the past 10-week period; more than double a typical flu season’s total spread over a year.

Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times explains why claims the COVID numbers are inflated are wrong. He cites massive under-reporting in April due to test shortages and points out the numbers generated by study of prior year’s death rates point to large numbers of excess deaths which jibe with the viral case figures.
Visiting a Pennsylvania factory, Trump tells workers: “If we didn’t do any testing we’d have very few cases,” suggesting again that the testing itself is the problem.
Mid May
Trump stops receiving briefings from Dr. Fauci.
CDC issues its guidelines for schools to re-open. Recommendations include: staggered scheduling, masks, social distancing, closed communal spaces, and physical barriers.
Asked by Michigan authorities to mask up for a visit to a factory being re-tooled to make ventilators Trump refuses, explaining: “Not necessary, I’ve been tested” adding: “I don’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”
Columbia U. estimates that had Trump acted to mitigate viral spread one week earlier (March 9) he would have saved 36,000 lives by May 3rd. Acting two weeks earlier (March 2) would have saved 54,000 lives. As the May 3rd total was ~63,000 these estimates point to the fact that about 3/4 of lives lost were lost unnecessarily.

[Projecting this to October with its death toll of 210,000 means ~150,000 more lives have been lost than should have been. A number that inevitably will grow in October.]
The Atlantic reports that CDC has mixed data from direct viral testing with blood antibody tests. This sows confusion in states looking to re-open as antibody testing is not useful in making those decisions. CDC had halted publishing a complete database on testing Feb 29, but resumed in mid-May.
US death toll officially hits 100,000.
During a Rose Garden press conference Trump accuses a reporter of wearing a mask to be “politically correct” and asks him to take it off because he alleges “I cannot hear you.”
Dr. Fauci asks Americans to wear masks, calling them a safeguard even if not 100% effective.

Carnegie Mellon U reports that 82% of the most influential online accounts pushing to re-open the country were bots. These bots also pushed stories that death counts were inflated and hospital rooms were filled with actors. Russia is the primary suspected source of the bots.
Trump shares a tweet arguing that mandated face masks represent a “culture of silence, slavery and social death.”
Trump sets out to terminate the US’s relationship with the WHO, saying that China “controls” it.
Late May
The Economist reports that White House efforts to handcuff the CDC have sidelined the world’s premiere public health agency. Dr. Birx is quoted as saying, “There is nothing from the CDC I trust.”

The Washington Post reports that the manner in which the European travel ban was instituted – i.e., allowing people to return before the ban through crowded airports and jamming people into tight corridors – made matters worse by facilitating spread of the disease.

Dr. Rick Bright, the former top federal vaccine official, testifies to the House of Representatives that in January/February he saw a pandemic coming and pleaded with HHS superiors to ramp up production of N95 masks, saying, “I believe lives were lost.” Bright predicts that without a master plan in the US a second viral wave will arise in the Fall.

May Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be treated as an economic and PR problem by the Trump administration through the month of May. There continues to be no national mobilization of resources to fight it, and the contagion is downplayed again and again.

The ever increasing number of cases in the US is blamed on the testing, rather than the fact that a large number of people continue to contract the disease.  It is implied that limiting testing could solve the problem of the spread of the contagion and it becomes clear to observers that this logic is dictating the limited push to test.

State and local authorities stand for continued precautions (in most jurisdictions). The administration and its political allies, on the other hand, push in the opposite direction. They seek to limit social restrictions and re-open businesses. There is a concerted administration effort at this point to turn the national dialogue away from COVID-19 to focus instead on how thing are allegedly improving across the country in the wake of increasing commerce. Unfortunately, reducing the restrictions put in place, without the necessary testing and contact tracing, points the country towards the surges in coronavirus cases feared by Dr. Fauci and others.

June 2020

Distinguished British medical journal The Lancet publishes a study showing that masks reduce infection risks – from 17% to 3%.
The New England Journal of Medicine publishes a study noting that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective COVID preventative.
The US hits 2M cases - doubling over 41 days. The first 1M took ~60 days.
Trump falsely claims in a press briefing he has "total authority" to overrule state governors and re-open the country. 24 hours later he reverses himself.
Mid June
Reports surface of “long-hauler” COVID patients suffering from troubling symptoms for months.
Asked if he would attend an indoor rally Dr. Fauci says “of course not.” He and Dr. Birx counsel Trump not to hold them.

Brazil surges towards the world’s second highest COVID totals. Like the US, Brazil put no national lockdown in place, instituted no national testing campaign, and has no agreed-upon plan of action.
Trump tells his press secretary he will not wear a mask at Tulsa rally.
Prior to June 20
The Trump campaign urges supporters to seed his audience in Tulsa. DC surrogates do fly out in chartered planes. Few wear masks. Campaign sets up exclusive testing site available only to staffers, local leaders, and top supporters.
Tulsa venue managers affix “do-not-sit” stickers on alternating seats, but campaign managers demand their removal.

As Trump is en-route to Oklahoma news breaks that six staffers test positive for COVID. Trump is livid that this got reported.

Trump ally Herman Cain sits close to others at the rally and tweets a photo of him doing so - without a mask.

During speech Trump admits he slowed COVID-19 testing: “When you do testing to that extent you’re going to find more people… more cases. So, I said to my people slow the testing down please.” This ignites an angry reaction from medical authorities and scientists.
Trade advisor Peter Navarro tries to counter the bad PR of admitting that testing has in fact been slowed by claiming Trump was kidding; “tongue in cheek.”
At an indoor rally in Phoenix Trump reiterates his Tulsa statement on slowing testing: “I don’t kid. Let me tell you. Let’s make it clear.” He also claims that COVID is “going away.”
Herman Cain becomes ill, tests positive for COVID. By July 2nd (10 days after the rally) he is hospitalized.
Late June
One month into re-opening ten states report new records in COVID hospitalizations. Models predict Florida will be a new epicenter (which is soon the case). Mike Pence and Wall Street Journal label this resurgence “overblown.”

June Summary

Despite an attempt to downplay COVID and move the national attention elsewhere the pandemic continues to roll. Cases increase ~50%: from 1.9 M to 2.8M. Deaths “only” jump about 22% to 131,000, but deaths always lag cases by weeks.

The death rate continues to be debated. At the beginning of the pandemic it was claimed that the rate might be 5-10x that of the flu (0.5 to 1%) but stats comparing deaths to resolved cases continue to run ~5% or 50x worse than the flu.

The actual number of infected patients also continues to be argued about. Estimates from antibody tests imply that many more people have been exposed, but such numbers remain at odds with data suggesting that ~40% of cases are asymptomatic, so the idea that there are many non-sick for each ill person (meaning a much lower death rate) looks unfounded. Many labs move away from blood antibody testing over concerns about their accuracy and usefulness.

July 2020

USA Today reports PPE remains in short supply. Workers are forced to re-use masks and use hefty trash bags in lieu of gowns. It also notes that hospitals in recent years eliminated maintaining warehouses full of supplies in favor of keeping stockpiles as low as possible to cut costs. Also notes that after receiving 18 tons of medical supplies from the US in Feb China nationalized its facilities, directed mask production to domestic use.
Trump holds a large rally at Mount Rushmore. Few wear facemasks.
Trump ally Florida Governor Ron DeSantis orders all public schools to re-open in August.

The USA hits 3 million cases, adding the 3rd million in just 30 days by averaging >30,000 per day.
Trump announces he wants all students in classrooms come fall as he belittles those who disagree: “They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed.”
Trump threatens to “cut off funding" to schools that don’t open.
The Kaiser Foundation notes that of 1.5M American teachers, one in four has a condition putting them at high risk.
For the first time, Trump is photographed wearing a mask while visiting Walter Reed Hospital.
Florida hits 15,000 new cases per day. This is more than New York’s worst day in April. Meanwhile White House releases a statement that officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong.
Peter Navarro writes USA Today Op-Ed saying “Dr. Fauci has been wrong on everything I have interacted with him on.” Advisor Stephen Miller tells the paper his team is preparing a memo highlighting Fauci’s wrong predictions, adding, “It’s time for him to go away.” After negative responses to criticism of Fauci, Trump disavows the Op-Ed. Says Navarro was only “representing himself” and “shouldn’t be doing that.”

HHS issues new orders changing how COVID data gets forwarded by hospitals. Instead of going to the CDC, it will be routed to Teletracking, a private firm. Michael Caputo says “The CDC… will certainly participate in the streamlined all-of-government response. They will simply no longer control it.” Gregory Koblenz, biodefense expert at George Mason U., tells AP the change appears consistent with administration moves to bypass the CDC. “We know the administration has been trying to silence the CDC. Now it looks like the administration is trying to blind [it]… as well.”
South Korea publishes a study of 5,700 cases of COVID-19 and notes that children 10-19 years old can spread the virus at least as easily as adults.
Trump tells Fox News Fauci is “a little bit of an alarmist” but apparently now resumes briefings with him.
Salon reports that Dr. Fauci has been sidelined by Mike Caputo since his hiring in April to reign in Secretary Azar. Azar was thought by some in the administration to be making himself look better than Trump. [In February Trump was enraged that he was being called slow-to-respond while Azar was perceived as wanting to be more aggressive.]
The CDC publishes new guidelines which repeatedly describes children as being at low risk for infection or transmission - contrary to the conclusions of the South Korean study.
Dr. Fauci continues to offer opinions less sanguine than the White House saying we are not winning the battle against the virus. Fauci tells the WSJ COVID-19 is a health expert's "worst nightmare" and we are not even midway through it.
The CDC website notes that of COVID patients who tested positive - yet never got sick enough to be hospitalized - 35% were not back to their usual health 2 to 3 weeks after testing.
“America’s Frontline Doctors,” an ad hoc assembly of physicians, puts out a video advancing the claims of the administration on hydroxychloroquine and other Trump-supported ideas. One doctor claims to have “cured” patients with the drug. Dr. Stella Immanuel is later shown to support the idea that certain gynecologic conditions are the result of “evil spirits.” The doctor group is affiliated with Tea Party activism.
US intelligence reports that two senior Russian GRU intelligence officers have placed disinformation related to the covid pandemic on websites as part of an effort to of advance false narratives to the US public. Influencing the November election was not specifically cited but some of the content of the website denigrates Joe Biden.
The EU re-affirms restrictions on travel. Given its out-of-control COVID-19, the US remains on restriction.

40 days after contracting COVID-19 at Trump’s Tulsa rally, Herman Cain dies.

Trump publicly repeats his claim that young people are “almost immune” to the virus despite telling Woodward four months previous that it was also a disease of the young.
Late July
The Washington Post notes that “Six months after the coronavirus appeared… the nation has failed spectacularly to contain it. Many countries have driven infection rates to nearly zero… If there was a mistake to be made in this pandemic the US has made it. The biggest single mistake was to reopen the economy while the virus was still spreading at high rates…”

July Summary

The spread of COVID-19 continues to be downplayed. Though doctors know there is certain to be a COVID-19 spike when cooler weather returns there is no call to ramp up testing nor increase production of medical equipment. The dangers of the pandemic continue to be downplayed in July as it has been for months.

Efforts to discredit Dr. Fauci are halted when Trump’s team discovers that the doctor is the most widely respected expert in the US.

In the wake of a premature “reopening of the economy” the number of cases in the US surges from 2.8M to 4.7M during the month - an increase averaging 64,000 cases a day! This mainly red-state surge is spearheaded by Trump-allied Republican governors who support the relaxation of social restrictions.

Deaths for the month run ~900 per day, and at month’s end tally ~160,000.

August 2020

The SF Chronicle reports that contact tracing has largely failed in many US states. California COVID-19 cases surge past 500,000.
On Fox Dr. Scott Atlas of Stanford’s Hoover Institute ridicules testing people who do not have symptoms. He also advocates for re-opening schools.
Trump introduces Atlas, a neuroradiologist, as the newest member of his White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Mayo Clinic posts results of a convalescent plasma study. A slight improvement in 5% of patients was unclear given simultaneous use of other modalities. White House nevertheless pushes for emergency approval for widespread use. NIH Director Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci argue the data is too weak.
In final taped interview with Bob Woodward Trump addresses criticism of his not doing enough in the pandemic with a spectacularly false claim: “Nothing more could have been done.”
The NY Times reports that a drop in testing is hampering the fight against COVID-19 in the United States.
Asked about the FDA holding off approving convalescent plasma pending a verdict from the NIH that it was effective Trump says at a briefing: “… it could be a political decision because they want to do it after November 3rd… I’ve heard it was over 50% success.”
Announcing FDA emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma (and citing the Mayo Clinic study!) Trump claims: “… its been proven to reduce mortality 35%.” Alex Azar repeats the incorrect claim, as does FDA head Steven Hahn. The real figure was an uncertain 5%.
CDC issues a revision of guidelines on testing - without a press release or media briefing (or underlying scientific basis). Where it had advised getting a test if recently exposed to COVID (even if the person lacked symptoms) it now states that if a person was less than 6 feet from an asymptomatic COVID-19 patient for less than 15 minutes “you do not necessarily need a test unless vulnerable or recommended by a provider or an official.”
Health officials leak that the decision to change the CDC guideline was top-down. Brett Giroir, the administration's “testing czar,” alleges that doctors made the decision, including Dr. Fauci (who, it turns out, was under anesthesia when the meeting to change the advice was held).
Doctors and health groups across the nation erupt in criticism over the changes. The AMA calls it a “recipe for community spread”. The Assoc. of American Medical Colleges warns that the change “will result in less testing at exactly the time when we need more testing….”
Continued negative responses to the CDC’s change. The American Academy of Pediatrics calls it “a dangerous step backwards.” The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America “vehemently” disagrees with the change, urges the CDC to rescind it.

August Summary

While the number of cases somewhat flattens in August vs the prior month - the US goes from 4.7 to 6.2M - this nevertheless represents an increase of ~50,000 COVID-19 cases per day.

The American death toll goes from ~157K to ~188K. An addition of ~1,000 deaths each day.

The continued decisions to limit COVID testing dovetails with Trump’s positions since the onset of the pandemic – i.e., testing, and finding large numbers of cases, simply makes him look bad.

Objections to the CDC recommending the testing of fewer people resonates among health organizations. It becomes apparent that this was a politically motivated effort, not justified by science. Downplay the seriousness of the pandemic by finding fewer cases of it seems to be the motive.

September 2020

Mayo Clinic finds there is insufficient data to recommend for convalescent plasma while the NIH still does not back its use.
Undaunted by the NIH Trump tweets: “convalescent plasma has had a tremendous impact already”.

CDC tells states to be ready to distribute a vaccine by October, despite no chance of one being ready for large scale distribution by then. Dr. Larry Grey, director of federal COVID vaccine trials, says seven months are required to evaluate the “endpoints” of trials begun in July. While it is possible a limited number of still-experimental vaccines could be given out before the election, no mass immunizations can commence before summer of 2021.
CNN breaks the story that Bob Woodward has Trump on tape describing that he knew the virus was more deadly than he has ever publicly admitted (by February 7th). Trump was also recorded admitting in private to Woodward that COVID-19 is more deadly to young people than he has ever been willing to acknowledge publicly.
Trump urges colleges and universities to stay open.
Politico reports that HHS assistant Secretary for Public Relations Michael Caputo, along with his aide Dr. Paul Alexander, have attempted to censor the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. That was done in the wake of data being published in the MMWR about America’s response to the pandemic, which they felt made Trump look bad.
The death toll in the US reaches 200,000 officially though it probably reached that milestone a month earlier. Assuming Sept 12 to be accurate the 2nd 100,000 deaths took place since May 25th, or over 112 days. The first 100K took ~82 days. The slowing of the rate of fatalities is credited to the counter-measures of mask wearing and social distancing, along with hospitals improving treatment.

Yet estimates emerge that by December the US will have suffered 300,000 deaths in eleven months. By comparison, combat death totals for WWII tallied 291,000 over 3.5 years.
HHS public relations big-wig Mike Caputo rails on Facebook about “disloyal” employees and post-election violence. The rant is widely seen as being off-the-rails. It is announced three days later he will take a 60 day leave-of-absence.
Asked about the safety of supporters during a crowded indoor rally in Nevada two days previously Trump replied that he was not worried, telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “I’m on a stage, it’s very far away, so I’m not at all concerned.” He did not express concerns for those that had gathered to hear him standing in close proximity for hours ahead of the speech.
At a town hall meeting Trump says: “there are a lot of people who think masks are no good.”

CDC Director Redfield, to the contrary, says publicly that masks are more important to prevent COVID-19 than the hoped-for vaccine as masks are available right now, while the vaccine will inevitably be delayed. Redfield opines that vaccinations will be unavailable till the 2nd or 3rd quarter of 2021. Trump then belittles his Director and contradicts the doctor’s medical evaluations. Trump says Redfield is “confused” and insists that vaccines are our most important means of dealing with the virus, adding that contradicting his position on this is “just incorrect information.”
A staffer from Pence’s task force, Olivia Troye, denounces Trump for his disregard of human life. Troye says the task force knew by mid-February that COVID would be an American epidemic, yet Trump didn’t want to hear about it. He focused instead on economic numbers despite the obvious fact that halting the toll of the virus was critical to health of the US economy. Troye is critical of Trump putting his interests ahead of those of the nation.
Washington Post reports that the White House halted April USPS plans to mail five masks to every household in America, a total of 650M, because the VP was concerned people would be “scared” by this. By some estimates perhaps 80% of the lives lost in the USA could have been saved had masks been used early and consistently.

CNN reports that Europe is now experiencing a second coronavirus wave. Cases hit new highs as children return to school and workers return from their vacations.
CDC reverses its reversal on viral transmission. Referring to the statement about “airborne” transmission posted just days earlier it now says that a “draft version” of a proposed change was “posted in error”. Mention of spread through the air is now absent, as it was previously.

A Public Affairs official at the NIAID is outed as the anonymous author of blog posts on a right-wing website, Redstate, that mocked masks and disparaged Dr. Anthony Fauci. William Crews labelled Fauci a “mask Nazi” and called masks a “political statement.”

NBC reports that signs of an “October Vaccine Surprise” - political maneuvers to advance vaccinations ahead of the time they are ready – are alarming scientists and doctors.

At an Ohio rally, Trump claims (to a mostly mask-less, not social distancing crowd) that COVID-19 affects “virtually nobody” under 18. This contradicts what he told Bob Woodward on March 19. Trump suggests that only older people with pre-existing conditions need fear the virus. He promises to end the pandemic if re-elected.

The Ohio Lt. Governor tries to promote Trump-branded masks sold at the event: “If somebody tells you to take it off you can say you’re trying to save the country by wearing one of Donald Trump’s masks.” He is roundly booed for mentioning mask use.
WSJ reports that antibody tests suffer from worries over accuracy. Scores of manufacturers self-certified their product and quality was inconsistent. The FDA announced May 4th that manufacturers had to submit validation data to sell them. Only 15 tests qualified by Sept 22. The CDC warns that antibody tests must not be used in decisions about letting people gather.
Experts discuss vaccines before the Senate. Rand Paul challenges Dr. Fauci using incorrect info on “herd immunity” and events in NY. He is rebuked by Fauci. Stephen Hahn, FDA Director, reiterates that vaccines will be verified as safe before being given to the public. CDC Director Redfield repeats that mass vaccinations cannot come before July.
California becomes the first state to hit 800,000 cases. Texas has 760,000, Florida 695,000. California’s cases per 100K are in the mid-range of the states at 2,000/100K or 2%. Most of the states with worse rates (17) are red states. Worst hit are Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida – all with rates of 3% or more.

The US continues to add ~43,000 new cases per day, double the rate of June at that point when many states began opening up.

On Facebook, Dr. Fauci notes that a vaccine will not replace other public health measures like masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizing.

In the wake of a united front that insists vaccine development must and will be guided by science (the position of Fauci, Hahn at FDA, Redfield at CDC, test czar Giroir, and Francis Collins at NIH), Trump pushes back. He says he may override the FDA if standards for authorizing a vaccine are too rigorous.

Alex Azar had recently moved to require his signature on all HHS authorizations. This took away the normal controls of FDA scientists and was feared to be a move to insure top-down control of the vaccination process.

U. of Washington study predicts >370,000 deaths by January 1st. The study also notes if 95% of Americans wore masks the increase of 165,000 would drop by almost 100,000. Meaning 60% of predicted deaths could be avoided.

GOP Governor Mike Parton, who has refused to require masks in his state of Missouri, tests positive for COVID-19.

CDC reverses its highly criticized August 24 change. It now recommends that someone exposed for more than 15 minutes to someone with COVID-19 in fact does need a test.
Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam tests positive for COVID. Despite the governor's warning, a Trump indoor rally of 4,000 people goes forward in Newport News. Despite there being no such rules Trump claims that in Virginia you are “not allowed to go to church, not allowed to go to a restaurant, not allowed to go to a friend’s house.”
Dr. Chris Murray, Director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), states that per their modeling the US death rate - currently 765 per day - could increase to 3,000 per day by the end of December.
NY Times reports that the White House blocked CDC orders to keep cruise ships docked until February, a step that would have displeased the powerful tourism industry in the crucial swing state of Florida. The current W.H. plan is for ships to sail after October 31.

September Summary

Trump and his administration dig in to reinforce their position that COVID-19 is not as dangerous as alleged… and anyway a vaccine will be available soon - before the election in fact.

The startling revelations coming from Bob Woodward’s tapings show that Trump has been aware - all along - that the disease is far worse than he will admit publicly. His denials have been aimed at convincing the public things are not-so-bad, while maintaining stock prices at high levels.

The news that the White House halted the sending of masks to all Americans in April is as shocking as the taped Woodward revelations. Showing again that considerations of a negative public reaction and a downward effect on the stock market were put ahead of the public’s welfare.

Trump continues to hold rallies that put the health of followers in direct jeopardy. And in turn the rest of the public.

The states with the largest number of Trump supporters - and which followed his directives on the virus most closely - suffer most from both the increase in cases and the inevitable increase in fatalities that follows soon enough.

The control of the COVID-19 data can be expected to continue into October both through playing down the numbers by not testing and manipulating the data reported by hospitals to HHS.

October 2020

Study by researchers at Cornell U. based on a comprehensive survey of 38M articles from traditional and online media finds that Trump is, in fact, the largest source of misinformation about COVID-19 in the entire world. Say the authors: “… media mentions of US president Donald Trump within the context of COVID-19 misinformation made up by far the largest share of the infodemic.”

Currently ~935,000 tests per day are being done in the United States. Analysis by Axios shows new daily infections to be rising in 25 states over the past week as ~43,000 cases a day test positive for COVID.

India, the country with the second highest number of infections, is testing ~1.2M cases per day. Its number of new COVID cases is >80,000 per day.

White House aide Hope Hicks tests positive for COVID-19. She has been in close proximity to the President for weeks. Testing and contact tracing is initiated among Trump’s inner circle.
In a 1 AM bombshell tweet Trump reveals that both he and the First Lady have tested positive for COVID-19. Early reports say he is “fine” without explaining what symptoms he may be experiencing. As a 74-year-old man with obesity Trump is considered a high risk patient.
While doctors paint an optimistic picture of Trump’s condition WH Chief of Staff Mark Meadows informs the media “the president’s vitals were very concerning, and the next 48 hours will be critical.” When Trump hears about this he gets angry at Meadows. Meadows had revealed that Trump’s oxygen levels had dropped rapidly the prior morning.

Attention focuses on the WH Rose Garden event of Sept 26 where social distancing was minimal and masks rare. It becomes clear that the gathering to honor Judge Amy Barrett was a “super-spreader” event with numerous attendees testing positive for COVID afterwards. Included among them are the First Lady, aide Kellyanne Conway, and GOP US Senators Tillis, Lee, and Johnson.

Despite the importance of contact tracing, the CDC, the nation’s agency best suited to perform the task, is sidelined in favor of the White House Medical Unit. In lieu of proper tracing – which involves looking backward to identify the source of the cluster, and coming forward (or at minimum trace the contacts) of those who attended – these efforts are limited in scope. E-mails are sent to those who were in contact with Trump in the two days before his positive test on Oct 1.

Based upon statements made while Trump is at Walter Reed it seems he tested positive on Wed Sept 30.

The Medical Unit downplays the President’s condition. Though chest x-rays and CT are performed, Dr. Conley declines to say if lung damage was present. That Trump’s oxygen saturation levels dropped at least twice is obfuscated. Conley later states bizarrely he didn’t want “to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction.”
Over the weekend Trump receives dexamethasone a steroid shown to help critically ill patients by tamping down an immune response that can itself do harm. He also receives an experimental Regeneron treatment of polyclonal antibodies designed to specifically attack COVID-19. Trump became one of fewer than ten people to receive the drug under a “compassionate use" provision. The treatment is still undergoing clinical trials.

Trump also received famotidine, which is currently being investigated as a COVID treatment. Asked why a reportedly stable patient who was not on supplemental oxygen was taken to the hospital (where he would soon receive the aggressive regimen provided), Dr. Conley said “because he’s the President of the United States.”

By evening Sunday a combination of feeling better, boredom, and a yearning for adulation motivates Trump to board a Chevy Suburban and, accompanied by secret service agents, drive down Rockville Pike to wave at supporters.
Late Monday morning, Trump tweets he will be leaving the hospital that day, adding: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life” despite the fact that virtually no Americans have the VIP treatments he received available to them.

Hydroxychloroquine is not used at therapy despite Trump’s persistent advocacy for the drug for months. Neither does he receive convalescent plasma therapy, a promising but still investigational treatment which he has also touted.

Trump nevertheless takes personal credit for the treatments he received, tweeting: “We have developed, under the Trump administration, some really great drugs and knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago."

Trump returns to WH in evening. Upon stepping back onto the building’s balcony he removes his facemask and claims he has “recovered” from the virus.
For the third time in less than a month the CDC changes its position on the spread of COVID through the air. It now says that airborne transmission is possible, but that it's not the most common way the virus travels from person to person. This is the same position that was published in September, then removed from its website three days later.
News breaks that Trump aides told the FDA that pharmacy execs objected to standards aiming to hold companies’ vaccines to a higher bar for safety and effectiveness. Blocking more stringent standards means that authorizations will not be pushed beyond Election Day. Trump remains keen to roll out some sort of vaccine before Nov 3 though it is universally agreed that mass vaccinations cannot take place until next year. The FDA OTOH has remained committed to assuring the public that decisions on vaccines will be based on science, not politics.

In an unprecedented move, the New England Journal of Medicine publishes an editorial written by its editors condemning the Trump administration for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic - and calling for the current leadership in the United States to be voted out of office.

At the VP debate Pence blames America’s lack of equipment on the Obama administration. Senator Harris says she would take an early vaccine if Dr. Fauci endorsed it. Pence, whose coronavirus task force downplayed masks and social distancing, and author of the June 16th WSJ op-ed predicting no COVID wave in the fall, accuses her of “playing politics with people’s lives.”

Pence also claims that the super-spreader event at the WH was conducted as advised by “all of our scientists.” In fact masks were rare, social distancing was not observed, and part of the ceremony was indoors.

This Rose Garden super-spreader event is not properly contact traced.

The administration refuses to acknowledge the value of masks and continues to claim a vaccine will be ready by election day despite a lack of evidence for this.

Trump receives care for COVID that is promising, but still being evaluated. It is definitely not available to anyone not a VIP. His behavior seems to be more erratic than usual, possibly due to the medication he was given, possibly due to the mental fog associated with the infection.

October First Week Summary

Donald Trump heads the list of a COVID cluster centered on the Sept 26th Rose Garden event at the White House. The discouraging of mask use and lack of proper social distancing lies central to the explosion of cases. This super-spreader event is not properly contact traced.

The administration continues to minimize the value of masks while continuing to claim a vaccine will be ready by election day.

Trump receives VIP care for COVID that is definitely not available to the public at large. His behavior is noted as more erratic than usual with speculation centering on the steroid drug he was given and/or the mental fog associated with the infection.

All states but two report increases in the number of COVID cases vs the previous week. CDC’s web site reports its models predict 233,000 deaths by month’s end, an addition of roughly 800 per day. September averaged about 770 deaths per day. Texas with 72% of California’s population now has 98% of its number of COVID cases, and should surge to first place over the next two weeks.
Trump falsely claims on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show “we have a cure” for COVID-19. He was evidently referring to one of the still-under-investigation treatments which he received at Walter Reed. It is unclear if he meant the high-tech antibody treatment or the antiviral infusions. No public health authorities back the claim that either treatment is a cure.

In addition to telling the public they should no longer fear the virus, Trump openly calls for his Justice Department to prosecute domestic political foes saying that Joe Biden “should not be 'allowed' to run against him because of his criminality. AG Barr is urged to indict Democratic political opponents.

FEMA has reported that the White House cluster has expanded to involve 34 staffers, housekeepers, and “other contacts.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admits he has not been to the WH for two months because of lax enforcement of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 
Trump addresses a crowd of about 1,000 on the WH lawn. Some masks are in evidence, but social distancing is not. Trump again falsely states just ten days after he himself tests positive that the virus is “disappearing.” In fact, the USA records its third consecutive day with over 50,000 new cases. The increase of 57,000 over the prior 24 hours is the highest since August 14 when about 65K cases were reported.

The world records its highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began fueled by a second wave taking place in Europe. India joins the US as the two nations with over 7M cases. Brazil has gone over the 5M mark and remains in 3rdplace. The University of Washington’s model predicts a peak of 2,300 deaths per day in January and a total death count of ~400,000 by February.

These projections are based on current conditions. Given the further easing on social distancing now underway the Feb 1 total is projected to be over 500,000. The model also predicts a world-wide death toll of 2.5Mby then. Infectious disease experts predict Florida to again become a disease hot spot as it was this summer in the wake of fully reopening bars and restaurants. Florida’s death toll of 15.2K is third to CA and Texas. Texas at 17.0K has now overtaken CA (at 16.5K) for second place in COVID deaths. New York which was overwhelmed in spring still tops the list at 33,000 dead.

The CDC reports that young people testing positive precedes a county becoming a hot spot by about one month. Percent positive in young people is followed by percent positive in older, more vulnerable contacts. Chris Christie discharged home after receiving the anti-viral Remdesivir.

NY Times reports the CDC drafted a sweeping order in Sept requiring passengers and employees to wear masks on public and commercial transit in the US. It was blocked by the White House. Officials say it had been drafted under the CDC’s “quarantine powers” and while it had the support of HHS Secretary Azar the WH Coronavirus Task Force, led by Mike Pence, declined to even discuss it.
Former CDC Directors make notable statements on COVID at a CNN Town Hall.

Dr. Thomas Frieden says 20,000 additional deaths (to the total of ~215K) are inevitable by the end of October, adding that the true number of dead is well over 250,000 as older patients may not have COVID listed as cause of death.

In reference to political interference with the CDC, Dr. Julie Gerberding says: "It is going to be very difficult to crawl back into a situation where people believe that we really do have their best interest at heart."

Commenting on the idea that we should not be fearful of COVID, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan said the country should retain fear: “When your leadership is working against you in this virus, the virus has an ally that makes it a pretty strong contender for further destruction."

Dr. Richard Besser says we can get the virus under control with masks, social distancing, hand washing, and investigating cases.
Dr. Fauci  tells CNN he hopes latest data on a rising number of COVID cases (and projected high numbers of additional deaths) will "jolt" the public into reality. He adds holding large rallies is “asking for trouble.”

Trump holds campaign rally in Florida where he continues to claim the pandemic is nearly over: “Under my leadership, we're delivering a safe vaccine and a rapid recovery like no one can even believe… If you look at our upward path, no country in the world has recovered the way we have recovered."

JAMA publishes study showing 225,530 excess deaths in the US from March - July. Deaths linked to COVID accounted for 67% of that total or 151,000. They also publish a study comparing US death rates to other advanced nations. At 60.3 deaths per 100,000 compared to 24.6 in neighboring Canada the US can be said to have had 117,000 more deaths than expected. Says Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel, chairman of the Dept. of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania: “That’s tens of thousands of Americans who have unnecessarily died.”

USA passes 8M COVID cases and 220,000 deaths. 2.6M cases are considered “active.” Of those termed “resolved” either by presumed cure or dying the death rate is running at 4% - forty times the rate for the seasonal flu.

Campaign surrogate Rudy Giuliani tells crowd in Philadelphia, “People don’t die of this disease any more.” The Lancet confirms the first US case of a patient getting COVID twice. The 25 year old man’s subsequent infection was more severe than his first.

October Second Week Summary

The American Medical Association cites unnecessary death numbers of about 150,000 in the US thanks to the insufficient national response to Covid.

Despite his experiences with Covid - and super-spreader events traced to lax standards of prevention - Trump continues to hold campaign rallies. He claims that the disease can now be “cured” which is simply not true.

The Coronavirus Pandemic continues to spread around the world. The United States of America continues to lead the pack due to a refusal to change the counter-productive policies of the Trump administration. Cases soar across the country.

Trump ally Chris Christie urges people to wear masks. After seven days in an ICU (where he, like Trump, received antibodies and remdesivir) Christie warns the virus is "something to take very seriously" adding "I was wrong to not wear a mask at the Amy Coney Barrett announcement, and wrong not to wear a mask at my multiple debate prep sessions with the President and... team." He adds "No one should be cavalier about being infected or infecting others."

In a televised town hall meeting Trump described Dr. Scott Atlas as "one of the world's great experts" on pandemics, and suggested that he has adopted Atlas's  "herd immunity" plan. Trump also continues to downplay the value of masks citing a study that "85% of people who wear masks get Covid." His implication that masks are not just ineffective, but a set-up for infection, represents a complete misinterpretation of the findings. He repeats the lie that we have a "cure" for the virus.
The US sees >69,100 new COVID cases in one day, the highest number since July, as ten states note highest single-day tallies in ten weeks. Experts say the long-feared fall surge of coronavirus infections is well underway. Epidemiologist Dr. Abdul El-Sayed states "When we saw this kind of transmission earlier in the pandemic, in March and April, the virus hadn't seeded everywhere ... This surge has the potential to be way worse than it was than either spring or summer." Daily US case averages had dipped to around 34,300 by September 12. The country is now averaging >55,000 new cases daily over the past week - up more than 60% since mid-September.

Trump, in contrast, continues to minimize the threat to public health posed by the virus. At a campaign rally in Fort Myers, Florida, he tells the audience, "The light at the end of the tunnel is here," emphasizing that the United States is "rounding the turn."

Over 1,000 current and former officers of an elite CDC disease-fighting program sign an open letter decrying the nation’s public-health response to coronavirus. Signatories, members of the Epidemic Intelligence Service of outbreak investigators, call for the agency to play a more central role in battling the pandemic, writing to “express our concern about the ominous politicization and silencing of the nation’s health protection agency," adding, “The absence of national leadership on COVID-19 is unprecedented and dangerous.”

Trump tweets: "The United States shows more CASES than other countries, which the Lamestream Fake News Media pounces on daily, because it TESTS at such a high (and costly) level." He added, "The more you TEST, the more CASES you will be reporting. Very simple!" The US is doing more testing, but it is not true that we see an increase in cases only because of that. Trump keeps making this claim, but at no point has it been true.  There is an ongoing increased spread of the virus, not merely more cases captured by testing. Hospitalizations are rising in many states. The percentage of US tests coming back positive has increased throughout October.
Despite requests from the governor to not do so Trump holds rally in Wisconsin as it experiences a Covid surge. Masks were required upon entry, but for the most part removed once past check-in. Wisconsin physicians had warned before the event that such rallies "endanger pubic health." A report from the WH's own task force had explicitly recommended against such events in the state amid its surge of cases - the 4th worst in the nation at this time.

At a Michigan rally, Trump berates Governor Whitman's efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 by restricting economic activity "You've got to get your governor to open up your state." The crowd chants "lock her up" the refrain used in 2016 against Hilary Clinton. Trump adds "Lock em all up!" Whitman, threatened by a kidnapping plot which came after Trump tweeted "LIBERATE MICHIGAN" herself tweeted “This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family, and other government officials’ lives in danger while we try to save the lives of our fellow Americans. It needs to stop.” Former Trump aide Anthony Scaramucci agrees Trump's rhetoric is "inciting violence. He accuses GOP leaders of being complicit by not denouncing it.

At a campaign rally, Trump mocks Biden for wanting to heed the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying, "he’ll listen to the scientists. If I listened totally to the scientists we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression.”
Twitter removes a tweet from Dr Scott Atlas claiming masks don't work to halt the spread of Covid-19. It was replaced with "This Tweet is no longer available" and a link to Twitter policies explaining why certain posts are removed or limited. Twitter is taking a more aggressive approach to limit or remove misinformation as the election nears, especially regarding voting or coronavirus issues.

Despite Trump's hospitalization for Covid-19 earlier this month he, and aides, do not wear masks at a church service in Nevada. It is held indoors with over 200 people in attendance. Many others at the crowded ceremony follow the lead of the presidential team and go without face masks.

A 60 Minutes interview with Dr Fauci aires wherein he says that “the president’s conduct made it unsurprising that he caught the coronavirus." He also notes that the administration has tried to muzzle him. A Morning Consult poll conducted October 9-11 showed almost 2/3rd of voters rate Fauci’s coronavirus response "excellent or good.” This poll indicated in early October, that 58 percent of voters believe Trump’s handling of the virus has been by contrast “poor” or “just fair.”
In a phone call to aides Trump says "People are tired of Covid.... They're tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots." Later in the call he says gets back at the 60 Minutes interview, and possibly polling data, by saying "Fauci is a disaster. If I listened to him, we'd have 500,000 deaths." He later embellishes this to "700,000 or 800,000" and makes it clear he does not care if the press quotes him. He has stopped attending coronavirus task force meetings.
Scientific American magazine publishes an analysis of claims that the coronavirus death toll has been inflated noting: "Researchers know beyond a doubt that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have surpassed 200,000. These numbers are supported by three lines of evidence, including death certificates. The inaccurate idea that only 6 percent of the deaths were really caused by the coronavirus is “a gross misinterpretation” of how death certificates work."
The "John Snow Memorandum" appears in the British journal The Lancet to counter the "Great Barrington Declaration" of the previous week by a Libertarian think tank. The Lancet piece from 80 international researchers notes that the "herd immunity" championed in the "Declaration" would be disastrous for society and the entire healthcare system. Its researcher-authors represent many specialties including medicine, public health, epidemiology, virology, and infectious disease. They point out that managing COVID by allowing immunity to develop in "low-risk populations" - as advised in the Declaration - is “a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence.”

October Third Week Summary

For a high-risk individual - 74 year old man weighing (allegedly) 244 pounds - Trump's illness has had a relatively benign course. He received unusually advanced care at Walter Reed Hospital not generally available to the public, however. As cases increase across the nation, more and more people speak out to support the use of masks, and to emphasize the seriousness of the COVID infection. Trump, to the contrary, continues to assert that the pandemic is getting better in America. He continues to minimize both the value of masks and the seriousness of the disease in his statements and his actions.

During the presidential debate, Trump repeats numerous lies about the coronavirus; among them: his leadership "prevented" 2 million deaths, a vaccine is "ready," and the nation is “rounding the turn." He also tries to pin his administration's COVID missteps on Dr Anthony Fauci, accusing the nation's top expert of flip-flopping on his advice through misleading quotes taken out of context.
Johns Hopkins U notes the daily case count hits 75,056 - the second-highest number of cases reported in a single day since the pandemic began. The record was 77,362 cases on July 16 led by cases across the Sun Belt as the nation entered a second surge in summer. With 32 states now reporting rising COVID cases, it is clear the nation has entered a third surge of the pandemic in the Fall as has long been predicted.

Dr. Fauci notes that Trump hasn’t attended a coronavirus task force meeting in “several months.” Fauci’s remarks echo those of Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH, who also sits on the task force. Collins told NPR earlier in the week that Trump has primarily received his information from Mike Pence and Scott Atlas. Said Fauci: “I definitely don’t have his ear as much as Scott Atlas right now."
The USA hits 82,900 new COVID infections, surpassing the record set in July, with 38 states reporting increased hospitalizations over the past week and the number of deaths cresting nationally to over 1,000 per day this past week. The rising numbers indicate that the nation is on the precipice of a third surge. Hospitals in the West and Midwest are reporting being overwhelmed, with death counts rising as a consequence.

At a rally in Wisconsin, Trump suggests that doctors may be inflating the COVID-19 death count in order to make more money, expanding upon his claim from March 30 that the reason facemasks were in short supply in hospitals was the doctors were selling them "out the back door."
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows says that the US is "not going to control" the coronavirus pandemic. Meadows states that the US isn't aiming for containment, and will instead focus on treatments and vaccines. Containment methods would involve masks and social distancing plus the standard epidemiologic tools of testing, contact tracing, and isolation as appropriate. Thus, Meadows confirms that there will be no changes to administration policies of minimizing masks and slowing testing in favor of promising treatments which are not yet a reality.

At least five staffers in VP Pence's orbit test positive for COVID. Pence heads the WH's Coronavirus Task Force but has often gone maskless. In defiance of CDC guidelines given his exposures, he has no plan to quarantine and will instead continue campaigning.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tells Face the Nation, "We're entering what's going to be the steep slope of the curve, of the epidemic curve." With cases surging across the country, Gottlieb said things will start looking worse over the next two to three weeks as he foresees no implementation of forceful policy interventions to curb the spread of COVID.

60 Minutes airs a Trump interview, which contains untrue statements and lies. Among them: Democratic governors in Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania have put their states on lockdown (none have); 2.2M people were "supposed to die" until he acted (a misinterpretation of a modeling forecast); and we have "rounded a corner" with COVID (all evidence points to a Fall surge in infections).
The seven-day average of new cases of 68,767 confirms that the current surge of infections is taking the pandemic to new heights in the US. Oct 23 and 24 both see over 83,000 new cases - the highest ever. Experts predict the country will increase to 100,000 new cases per day in the near future.
The US tops 9M COVID cases. India goes over 8M. The US leads the world in official deaths at 231K with Brazil second at 158K. Rural states that support Trump have now overtaken urban Democratic-leaning states on new COVID cases in the USA. (See Dan's COVID Charts in our Graphs section for details on this trend.) Both Spain and France have now topped 1M cases as the Fall coronavirus surge in Europe continues to worsen.

Emory U study provides signs that COVID patients' immune systems may turn on the body, as with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. The study suggests the body’s defenses can shift into attack mode with "autoantibodies" targeting human cells instead of the virus. This response can both worsen the disease and explain why “long haulers” have problems months after their primary illness resolved.

“Science and Technology Accomplishments" from Trump's first term are included in a press release from the White House science office. His top accomplishment? "Ending the pandemic." Quotes on this landmark achievement are included from Ivanka Trump and Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, the office's director. According to this glowing report, Trump has "solidified America's standing" as the most scientifically advanced nation "the world has ever known."
CNN reveals that last April, in conversation with Bob Woodward, Jared Kushner said: "There were three phases. There’s the panic phase, the pain phase, and then the comeback phase," adding, "we’ve now put out rules to get back to work. Trump’s now back in charge. It’s not the doctors. They’ve kind of – we have, like, a negotiated settlement." The statement clearly reflects the Trump political strategy focusing on pushing the economy forward instead of following the suggestions of health experts on how to best fight the pandemic.

With cases surging, Dr. Anthony Fauci notes there is scant chance a substantial proportion of the US population can possibly be vaccinated against COVID before the second or third quarter of 2021, even assuming a vaccine clears human trials in the next few months. Fauci added, "things aren't looking too good for the US as the winter approaches."

October Fourth Week Summary

The COVID surge is accelerating. Health care experts provide dire predictions about the course of the disease. They remain sidelined by the Trump campaign on account of said predictions - for their science-based forecasts are more pessimistic than the rosy pictures painted by Trump and Pence who, in fact, continue to mislead the public. The lies include (a) asserting we have a cure, (b) claiming vaccines will soon be available, (c) the epidemic is nearly over anyway, and (d) masks do not work. COVID testing and the contact tracing/isolation that must follow remain deliberately slowed based on the concept that to test is to find cases, and to discover who is afflicted is bad for the country.

No federal plan to deal with the virus has been developed by Trump despite his contracting the virus earlier in the month. He remains opposed to state/local restrictions trying to curb the contagion. In short, the realities of the pandemic continue to be denied by Trump and allies while counterproductive policies remain in place.

In the final week of campaign 2020, the contrast between candidates Trump and Biden is stark. Refer to the first section of this timeline before the pandemic began and the statement made by Joe Biden after the Global Health Security report detailed flaws in disease preparedness. On Oct 25 2019, he said: "We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores.”

Biden sought and seeks a different course. On the eve of election 2020, voters have a chance to replace the policies of Donald J. Trump. With a change in leadership we can begin treating the pandemic like a medical problem that threatens the public, rather than a public relations snag that makes the president look bad if and when you pay attention to it. A change in leadership can allow us to apply the treatments that epidemiology dictates instead of downplaying (and thus magnifying) COVID's dangers to the public via deceptions, half-measures, false hopes, and phony cures.

At a campaign rally, Trump says: "You know the bottom line, though? You're gonna get better. You're gonna get better." This is said just days after the country hits 9M cases, breaks the single-day record for infections (over 80,000), and sees 1,200 deaths in a 24 hour period.
At a Michigan rally, Trump claims doctors fighting COVID are lying about the number of cases for financial gain. In a remarkable attack on the healthcare professionals fighting the worst pandemic in a century, Trump says, "Our doctors get more money if someone dies from COVID. You know that, right? I mean our doctors are very smart people. So what they do is they say, 'I'm sorry but everybody dies of COVID.' " The president of the American Medical Association responds, "The suggestion that doctors, in the midst of a public health crisis, are overcounting COVID-19 patients or lying to line their pockets is a malicious, outrageous, and completely misguided charge."

At a rally in Omaha, Trump predicts an imminent decline in COVID cases, saying. "They'll go down. They'll go down very quickly. They'll be down within two weeks." Meanwhile, the nation continues its upswing in cases with ~90,000 reported, a new record.
Trump continues to deny the pandemic by lashing out at physicians, casting doubt on science, and attacking the press for reporting rising cases numbers, as the rift between the WH and Dr. Fauci widens. In a WaPost interview, Fauci is critical of a neuroradiologist with no special training in infectious disease shaping policy. Fauci said he appreciated the honesty of Mark Meadows admitting the administration had given up on controlling the spread of COVID. As Trump continues holding large rallies with rare masks and rarer social distancing, Fauci told the Post that the nation is "in for a whole lot of hurt" as the colder weather sends us indoors, adding, "All the stars are aligned in the wrong place."

Dr. Scott Atlas answered Fauci's criticism by noting that the nation's leading epidemiologist threw the ceremonial first pitch rather poorly at the Washington Nationals' opening day.

November 2020

Scott Atlas apologizes for appearing on RT, saying he did not realize the television network is a registered foreign agent. He misrepresented the effectiveness of masks, suggested that lockdowns kill, and discouraged testing asymptomatic people. This he does not apologize for. He also dismissed the U. of Washington IHME forecasts of 400K deaths in the US by Feb. 1 under current conditions, arguing that "anybody who's even focusing on models has not learned from the past." In July, the IHME model predicted 208K Americans would die from coronavirus by Nov. 1. The actual total is over 230K.

Two days after a Biden campaign bus traveling to Austin got surrounded by cars and trucks adorned with Trump flags and screaming profanities, resulting in passengers (which included US Rep. Lloyd Doggett) having to call 911 for a police escort, Trump tweets: "I LOVE TEXAS." During the incident, the trucks slowed to 20 mph after boxing in the bus. It is being investigated by the FBI.
One day before the general election in the United States, a daily caseload of 100,233 is reported by Reuters. This demonstrates that the long-expected six-figure increase per day has been reached in the nation's third COVID-19 surge. Dr. Anthony Fauci made such a prediction just days earlier, and this still-increasing surge had itself been long predicted for the fall. It is furthermore anticipated that the pandemic will worsen in the USA in winter, with a surge in deaths expected to naturally follow the surge in cases.

Global fatalities saw their deadliest week since April as the world's death toll now surpasses 1.2 million. US deaths are reported to be nearly 240,000, but numerous estimates suggest a more comprehensive and accurate tally would place the total at about 300,000.

In the wake of Trump's refusal to change his policies, Dr. Fauci, a leading member of the government’s coronavirus response team, says the United States needed to make an “abrupt change” in public health practices and behaviors. Fauci's criticism of the White House's COVID response evokes a "Fire Fauci" chant at a Trump campaign rally. Trump's response is to quip, "Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election.” As supporters cheer, Trump adds, “I appreciate the advice."
Election Day 2020. The referendum on the Trump presidency takes place. Large numbers of votes are cast via mail-in ballots, so it is certain that the results cannot be known on the night of the election. Polls show it is virtually certain that Joe Biden will win the popular vote handily. The nature of the electoral college ensures a great advantage to small rural states, which have tended to vote Republican, and have supported Trump's policies throughout the pandemic. All of the top ten states in the surge voted in 2016 for Donald Trump: North Dakota (currently the leading state), followed by South Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana, Wyoming, Iowa, Alaska, Utah, and Idaho.
Election results show that nine of those top ten surging states vote for Trump again in 2020. The only exception: Wisconsin.

Despite Trump's often-repeated claims at rallies that the pandemic would vanish on November 4 (and the media would stop covering it), COVID case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths, in fact, continue to rise. Pundits also point out that Dr. Anthony Fauci is not subject to dismissal by Trump, despite threats to that effect, because (like all civil servants who are government employees and not political appointees) cause must be shown for firing, and standard procedures followed.
Trump continues to demand that vote counts in the nation be halted, claiming he has won the election. There is no justification for halting the counting of votes. Since the beginning of the American republic, the process has taken many days to complete. Trump is currently losing the popular vote by ~4 million, a margin almost certain to be the final result. Legal challenges are filed by Trump in several states. Biden remains in need of just one of the four states still undecided to become president-elect.

In the aftermath of the presidential election, 23 states over the past week reach a record number of coronavirus cases.

The US gains 121,054 new cases nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins U, with at least 1,187 reported deaths. These figures represent a 20% increase from the same date last week. Health experts warned weeks ago that the nation's daily cases would reach six figures, but those figures hit sooner than some expected. COVID-19's death toll may officially reach 265,000 by month's end, according to a new CDC forecast.

Twitter suspends consultant/strategist Steve Bannon's podcast account after Bannon said that a second Trump term shouldn’t just start with firing FBI Director Chris Wray and top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on national TV. He noted it should then move on to their beheading: “I’d actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England. I’d put the heads on pikes, right, I’d put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats.” Bannon stressed his insistence on loyalty to Trump by adding: “You either get with the program or you’re gone."
The pandemic continues to not miraculously disappear after the election. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has tested positive for coronavirus, though it is unclear when he was tested. Meadows traveled with Trump November 2nd and attended the WH party on election night, where he was in close contact with the First Family. Officials are concerned that Meadows was likely around other staffers this week while contagious.

The United States crosses the threshold of 10 million COVID-19 cases. Texas becomes the first state to hit the benchmark of 1 million cases.

Several nations in Europe are seeking to battle a second wave of coronavirus by drafting their militaries to help overburdened healthcare systems. Across the continent, armed forces members have been taking on roles ranging from supporting hospital staff to the disinfecting of testing sites to directly transporting patients. Such actions are not even being discussed in the USA.
Joe Biden is declared the victor in the US Presidential race. His campaign notes that dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is his top priority.

The day before, the US again broke the record for new COVID cases with more than 126,000.
A Biden deputy campaign manager announces on "Meet The Press" the selection of Vivek Murthy, former surgeon general, and David Kessler, former FDA commissioner, to co-chair the new administration's task force on COVID. It is expected that, when the announcement is made, Marcella Nunez-Smith, Yale physician and professor, will be named as the third chair. Both Murthy and Kessler spoke out in recent months about a need for the FDA to avoid perceptions of political interference as COVID vaccines are evaluated. Murthy was forced out of his position just three months into the current administration for holding views Trump did not like on such things as vaccinations.

Demonstrations by Trump supporters - fueled by misinformation spread via social media - continue to follow the line that the election has been stolen from him. No credible evidence has been presented to support this. Trump refuses to acknowledge he has lost, and encourages lawsuits in numerous states, so there is no cooperation between outgoing and incoming administrations on COVID or anything else.
President-elect Biden officially announces a COVID-19 advisory board of science-driven clinicians, health policy experts, and scientists. Among them: Zeke Emanuel, Obama health advisor; Dr. Celine Gounder, medical journalist experienced in combating HIV; and immunologist Rick Bright, director of the government's agency tasked with disease countermeasures - until he blew the whistle on efforts to push hydroxychloroquine and was ousted. The Biden announcement signals that fighting the pandemic will indeed be the top priority of his new administration, in marked contrast to the current one.

Dr. Ben Carson, Trump's HUD Secretary, tested positive for COVID. Carson’s deputy said he was “in good spirits and feels fortunate to have access to effective therapeutics which aid and markedly speed his recovery.” Carson attended the same election night party at the White House as WH chief of staff Mark Meadows, who has also tested positive.
In a significant update to its recommendations on face coverings, the CDC notes that wearing a mask protects the wearer - not just those around the wearer. The agency also pointed out that multiple studies now confirm the benefit of “universal masking policies.”

Coronavirus cases grow in Europe as multiple countries struggle with surges in hospitalizations. Belgium leads in the rate of deaths. Blame for this centers on an incoherent COVID response from a caretaker government after 2019 elections produced no ruling coalition until September 2020. Without federal leadership, provinces and local communities adopted conflicting measures, much like the USA under Trump. Belgium's COVID advisory body removed scientists in favor of business leaders opposed to efforts to mitigate the virus - a parallel to efforts in the USA and, again, with similar results.
Coronavirus infections hit 140,000 cases over the last day. Cases have topped 100,000 cases per day, every day, for the first ten days of November, as the fall surge accelerates.

Hospitals in North Dakota, currently the US's worst hit state, are at 100% capacity. Staffing shortages are so severe that the Governor has issued orders allowing workers with active infections to continue at their jobs in COVID units, so long as they lack symptoms and take "extra precautions" (despite the fact that they are actively infectious). There is still, however, no requirement to wear a mask in the state.

One of the last remaining COVID-free countries in the world - the island nation of Vanuatu - announces its first positive test. Prime Minister Bob Loughman told a press conference that an indigenous man returned from the United States infected.
Just one week after hitting 100,000 cases a day for the first time, the US hits a new record of 160,000 cases of COVID-19. California joins Texas as the second state with over 1M cases of coronavirus.

As the fall surge continues, reports emerge that despite having 9 months to prepare for the need, the United States has not produced enough personal protective equipment. Hospitals in New York are again facing the prospect of recycling masks and gowns in the wake of shortages.

Trump and his administration have responded to the above with.... no response at all. Their concern instead appears to be how the election results can be overturned, a task made much more difficult by the calling of Arizona and Georgia for Biden today, giving him 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232, with 270 required to win.

Overturning the election now requires Trump flipping enough states to change 37 electoral votes - and countering Biden's popular vote plurality (currently at 5,320,000 votes) in the court of public opinion.

Despite warnings that it was premature to do so, the administration authorized resumption of cruise ship activity at the beginning of this month. The first ship to do so is today reporting at least five cases of COVID aboard. The ship remains docked in Barbados as passengers and crew undergo testing.
US COVID deaths top the quarter million mark in official totals, though many experts estimate the actual number to be closer to 350,000.

Over the prior week, the United States has added another 1 million cases, to top 11M.

Dr. Fauci notes that Trump has not attended a coronavirus task force meeting since June. Trump continues non-cooperation with the incoming administration on pandemic management... and everything else.

Dr. Scott Atlas tweets that citizens in Michigan should "rise up" against new restrictions being instituted in that state following a sharp increase in case numbers.
As Trump's GSA administrator refuses to take the needed steps to begin the transition process, Biden's team continues to lack a budget, and remains unable to work directly with federal agencies. The president-elect warns that such actions could hamper the incoming administration's ability to rapidly distribute a coronavirus vaccine. Said Biden bluntly, "More people may die if we don't coordinate."
A World Health Organization panel recommends against the use of remdesivir for COVID-19. The panel of experts “concluded that remdesivir has no meaningful effect on mortality or on other important outcomes for patients, such as the need for mechanical ventilation or time to clinical improvement.” Their report did not rule out using the drug, but said evidence was lacking to recommend usage.

Recent promising announcements from Pfizer and Moderna have raised vaccine hopes, but many state officials now say they need federal government money to ensure distribution once vaccines are released. The states say they need more funding to hire staff to administer the vaccines, develop information systems to track doses, and promote the need to get vaccinated. Despite this, officials at Operation Warp Speed insist that vaccine distribution will begin within 24 hours of an Emergency Use Authorization.
Trump participates in a virtual G-20 summit with a message sent from the White House Situation Room during the opening session. He tweets messages on election fraud just 13 minutes later. A side session on global pandemic preparedness convenes later in the afternoon, including speeches by Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel. By this time, Trump is playing golf at his private course. Trump reportedly used his address to the summit to complain about the Paris climate accord, and state he was right to withdraw from it.
The fall COVID surge continues to accelerate. Johns Hopkins University reports that, in just three weeks this month, nearly a quarter of all cases in the United States have been recorded - 2.8M of the nation's 12M total. Under the circumstances, health officials across the country are counseling people to consider skipping the Thanksgiving holiday, given the strong possibility that indoor gatherings will make matters even worse.

The head of the US's COVID-19 vaccination plan, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, says that if all things go according to plan, first responders could receive vaccine injections as early as the second week of December. Were everything to continue to go well, he estimates that enough of the population could be vaccinated for life to return to normal by May. Issues remain on distribution networks, and how the vaccines can be kept cold enough to remain effective.
The General Services Administration finally authorizes the start of the process of presidential transition. Trump has heretofore been blocking the coalition of federal agencies overseeing vaccine distribution plans from communicating with the Biden-Harris team. Three weeks after the election, the White House is now giving formal approval for the president-elect to receive the President's Daily Brief, classified information and analysis on national security matters. Trump has still not acknowledged his electoral defeat.
Health authorities across the nation urge families to limit the number of people gathered for the Thanksgiving holiday as the number of COVID-19 patients in US hospitals hits a record for the 16th straight day, at approximately 90,000. Many medical centers across the nation note that they are running out of beds.

November Summary

The case rate in the US increases from about 90,000 cases a day to over 200,000. By month's end, the number of Covid-related hospitalizations in the US exceeds 98K per day. It is widely predicted that the Thanksgiving holiday will produce a further acceleration in cases given the country's disjointed and piecemeal approach to public health actions.

The planned commencement of vaccinations in the USA gets closer to being a reality, but the lack of a unified national response - and continued resistance in some circles to employ such basic health measures as masking, social distancing, and restricted business operations - costs the nation tens of thousands of lives during the month.

The deployment of resources and institution of comprehensive actions avowed by President-elect Biden are curtailed throughout the month by Trump, who refuses to allow coordination of planning between the outgoing and incoming administrations.

Despite presenting no evidence in support of his claim, Trump claims he actually won the election, both in the popular vote and electoral college. His efforts are directed at lawsuits in dozens of jurisdictions claiming fraud. All are thrown out due to lack of evidence and specious legal reasoning. The Supreme Court supports court rulings unfavorable to Trump. Biden proceeds to plan for an assumption of presidential power Jan 20, and a new attitude towards addressing and fighting the pandemic. Trump meanwhile attempts to influence state legislators to appoint electors who will vote for him despite his loss of the vote in those states.

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be dealt with in a manner that is inadequate at best, and counterproductive at worst, in the United States
. Other nations with poor responses, like Belgium and Brazil, also suffer from excessive numbers of cases and deaths. States most supportive of Donald Trump (which followed his leadership most closely) lead the states with the worst rates of disease transmission, hospital overloading, and death.

Even with the more aggressive approach anticipated by the incoming administration, it is certain that the winter months will produce high numbers of cases and fatalities. As the number of American deaths approaches 300K, it can be reckoned that over 200K of those deaths could have and would have been avoided through standard methods of epidemiology -- i.e., extensive testing, contract tracing, and quarantine in conjunction with limitations on public interactions. These deaths can, and should, be blamed on the gross mismanagement of the pandemic by the President of the United States, who has at every point lied to the public about the seriousness of the disease and downplayed effective actions to deal with it, all the while promoting ineffective measures and a notion that the disease will go away on its own. At no point has he admitted to mistakes. At all points he has blamed others for problems.

We call for Donald Trump to be held legally accountable for his disastrous misbehavior once he is removed from power.  

December 2020

The COVID Tracking Project notes that, with 98,700 hospitalized cases on Dec. 1, the United States has hit the highest number yet experienced during the pandemic. Per CTP, this is more than double the number of hospitalizations reported Nov. 1, and it represents more than triple the number reported Oct. 1.

The Trump administration holds to prior policies regarding the pandemic, meaning inaction for the most part. Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services seeks to force administrators of Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare to review regulations to evaluate which should be continued. They are to prioritize such evaluations over the running of such programs during the pandemic. This is expected to produce distractions for the incoming administration.
Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani is admitted to Georgetown U Hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.
The United States sustains 200,000 new cases per day over 5 straight days, pushing the total from 14.3M to 15.3M. California regains the top spot in the nation with 1.38M cases vs 1.36M for Texas, though Texas's death total of 23,300 still reigns supreme. Despite the nation's most populous state hitting the highest total, its per capita case rate remains well below the median for the country.

As Pearl Harbor Day is commemorated, the deaths from COVID-19 in the US have soared to more than 2,200 a day, a number comparable to the 2,403 lives lost in the 1941 attack, as well as levels seen last spring when US hospitals were overwhelmed. Fatalities are expected to accelerate as Thanksgiving gatherings produce a bump in cases. Cases per day have eclipsed 200,000 on average for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
The White House holds a vaccine "summit" where Trump signs an executive order to supposedly halt the shipping of Pfizer's vaccine to other countries. The company had offered 100M doses to the US by spring, which the government did not elect to purchase. As a result, the vaccination of many Americans was expected to be delayed until summer. Trump's executive order was an effort to circumvent this. Although the Pfizer vaccine did not result from funding by Operation Warp Speed, Trump attempted to take credit for its development. After saying "We’re working very closely with other nations also to get the vaccines out to other nations. And that’s very important. We work with the world. ... We have great companies, and we’re working with the world,” Trump then signed his executive order "prioritizing" the vaccine's distribution to American citizens. Presidential science advisors say they do not know what effect an executive order will have on vaccine distribution.
CDC director Robert Redfield warns the public that the COVID pandemic has not yet peaked. In fact, for the next 60 to 90 days, it will continue to kill more people each day than the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Redfield estimates we will see more than 3,000 deaths per day for this two to three month period, for an additional loss of life of roughly a quarter million Americans. This would push the total number of lives lost to over half a million. Across the nation, more than 107,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 at present.
The nation's most populous state arrives at two grim milestones. Today, California added 51,000 new cases and 428 deaths. California's case rate remains better than the US average, however. Despite CA's surge, North and South Dakota demonstrate per-capita case rates that are 3.5x worse, for example. The hard-hit Dakotas owe their high numbers to the Sturgis motorcycle rally in August, when hundreds of thousands of bikers converged on the area and then ignored social distancing and mask requirements.

South Korea, with a population 25% larger than California, reports just 41,700 cases and 578 deaths since the start of the pandemic last January. Thus, S. Korea's population, at 1/6th that of the USA, has sustained a loss of life 1/600th as large.
More than 1 million people have received their first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine. The US government has said it intends to distribute 20 million first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in the coming weeks. This is slightly later than originally planned. The use of a messenger-RNA-based vaccine, a never-before-used approach, accounts for the remarkable speed of the rollout. The previous record was 4 years.

California becomes the first state to top 2 million cases, more than the official total of all but 8 countries. This milestone was hit just six weeks after the state stood at 1 million cases (November 12). Given a population of 39.5 million, about 5% of Californians have tested positive for Covid-19. Texas remains in second place with about 1.7M cases. Its limited restrictions relative to California have produced a higher infection rate, however, of about 8%. The increases across the country have been attributed to people relaxing their physical distancing efforts and gathering with people outside of their households during the Thanksgiving holiday. Christmas is expected to fuel yet another acceleration of cases.

The latest projection from the U. of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation notes that the US death toll will climb to 567,000 by April 1. Should states ease their mandates aimed at containing the virus, that number could explode further to 730,000 by that same date. The IHME says that the use of masks has increased to 74% across the country, but says that if that number could expand to 95%, 49,000 lives might be saved by April 1.
California reports a dramatic increase in Covid cases after the Thanksgiving Holiday. On November 1, the seven-day average for new daily cases in California was 4,183. On December 29, it was 31,245. "Covid fatigue" has contributed to the surge, especially in Republican House districts. Despite the large number of cases in California, which holds 11% of the nation's population, the state remains better than the nation's median. The hardest hit states per capita remain the "red" conservative states, which most aligned with Trump's direction on Covid actions.
Dr. Drew Pinsky has coronavirus. The television doctor stated very early in the pandemic that the virus was much less serious than the flu, calling the concerns of many "press induced." By early April, he apologized for "getting it wrong," and advised his audience to follow Dr. Fauci and the CDC and take appropriate measures to stem the virus, including masking and social distancing. Pinsky states he is now on the mend.

Donald Trump issues a New Year's Eve video about his historic victories. He includes in these his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump, who contracted Covid, frequently played down the severity of the pandemic while overseeing a national response that health experts have criticized as disorganized and cavalier (and one which ignored the science behind the transmission of viruses). At year's end, the United States leads the world in fatalities, with more than 354,000 officially attributed to Covid. This is 82% higher than the country with the second highest number of official deaths (Brazil at 195,000).

January 2021

Data for the last day of the year shows over 3,700 US fatalities due to Covid, a new record sure to be broken as the pandemic continues in 2021. The new record number of deaths exceeds the total of the entire Tet offensive during the Vietnam war.
Georgia officials release the tape of a conversation between Secretary of State Raffensperger and Trump wherein state officials are asked to come up with enough votes to switch the official vote total away from Joe Biden's victory. In the conversation, Trump clearly commits the crime of soliciting officials to falsify returns or falsify reports of votes. The tape is released to counter a Trump tweet hinting that they, the officials, might be guilty of wrongdoing in the election.
CDC statisticians note that Covid-19, which took no American lives in 2019, was the 3rd highest cause of death in the US in 2020. Heart disease claimed 659K lives while Cancer accounted for 600K in 2019. Using data dating to late December, the CDC concludes that there were 316K to 432K excess deaths last year, and based upon death certificates, at least 301,000 of those (at minimum) came from Covid. This would put it in 3rd place ahead of accidental and unintentional deaths, which in 2019 tallied 173,000.
As the United States Senate convenes to certify the election of Joe Biden as the 46th US president, Trump organizes an insurrection to halt the proceedings. After months of false claims on election fraud which fail to gain any traction with election authorities and the courts - and Vice President Pence informing Trump he has no authority to set aside the electoral results - Trump incites rioters to directly halt proceedings. In this - a coup attempt unprecedented in US history - the pro-Trump mob attacks the Capitol building, breaks in, and halts the certification process. After sufficient police and National Guard (authorized not by Trump, but by Pence) arrive to force the occupiers back onto the street, the electoral process resumes and Biden is certified as the winner.
For the first time, the United States tops 4,000 deaths in one day from Covid as top health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, warn that the outbreak is going to get worse before it gets better.

Administration of the Covid vaccine continues to run far behind schedule. While most states drew up plans that initially followed CDC guidance for the first phase of vaccinations, the rollout has been marred by lack of federal funding and unclear communication about the number of doses coming each week.

The office of the President remains focused elsewhere. Congressional Democrats vow to impeach Trump a second time. With the Senate now in Democratic hands, it is clear that a real trial will be held. It is unlikely that sufficient votes can be obtained among GOP Senators to actually remove Trump from office in the 12 days he has left.
This is a living document, check back regularly for more updates