Biden claims Trump eliminated office to deal with pandemics, facts prove otherwise

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Last Thursday, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden remembered where he was long enough to claim that the U.S. is “paying the price” of coronavirus because President Trump “eliminated” an office that dealt with pandemics.

“The Obama-Biden Administration set up the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense to prepare for future pandemics like COVID-91. Donald Trump eliminated it—and now we’re paying the price.”

First of all, Joe probably didn’t write that. There are far too many big words in there for Biden.

Secondly, it’s false.

However, this is where we are at in 2020. Put something on Twitter or Facebook and at least ½ the country will seemingly swallow it without even taking the time to fact-check it.

Last week, in the Washington Post, former National Security Council official Tim Morrison explained that the office was combined with others in a reorganization that “left the biodefense staff unaffected.”

In the Democratic debate in South Carolina on Feb. 26, failed billionaire candidate Michael Bloomberg made the same claim, which was fact-checked by Breitbart News and debunked.

For Biden, he doesn’t exactly have a lot of room to talk about pandemics. In 2009, the basically caused panic during a swine flu outbreak when he told Americans not to take flights or ride subways. Even today, he cannot even remember what disease we are currently fighting.

Instead of offering to work together with the president toward a common purpose of at least mitigating the coronavirus, Biden is just trying to score cheap political points with a left-wing base that would criticize Trump if he cured cancer.

Last week during his debate with Crazy Bernie, Biden made similar misstatements, or in truth, downright lies. While criticizing the Trump administration for the response to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden claimed that the administration refused to get coronavirus testing kits from the World Health Organization.

“Look, the World Health Organization offered the testing kits that they have available and to give it to us now. We refused them. We did not want to buy them. We did not want to get them from them. We wanted to make sure we had our own,” Biden said.

There was a similar claim that had been circulating on Facebook.

PolitiFact has called the claim “mostly false.”

The Biden campaign referred to a Politico article which said that the WHO shipped coronavirus tests to nearly 60 countries at the end of February, but the U.S. was not included in that list. While that is technically correct, it suggests that the United States wouldn’t have been on the list no matter what.

The fact is the WHO helped countries which lack the lab capabilities that exist in the United States. They cite the outreach work done by the Pan American Health Organization as a case in point. That organization is the WHO’s link in the Americas.

It has conducted training and sent materials to conduct tests to 29 nations, including Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and others.

PAHO says that it focused most of its efforts on “countries with the weakest health systems.”

“No discussions occurred between WHO and CDC about WHO providing COVID-19 tests to the United States,” said WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris. “This is consistent with experience since the United States does not ordinarily rely on WHO for reagents or diagnostic tests because of sufficient domestic capacity.”

Interviews with several infectious-disease experts note that Biden’s statement eliminates context about how countries decided on which test they’d use to identify the presence of the coronavirus.

WHO notes even different approaches—including that of the United States, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, France and Germany—each one targeting different parts of the COVID-19 genetic profile.

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Christopher Mores, a global health professor at George Washington University, said that the WHO will typically adopt the best test that a group brings forward.

The German one held the approach which the WHO issued as its preferred model.

Some aid organizations such as the PAHO took that model and built their training and supplies around it. Basically, how a country fulfills the training and/or supplies to fulfill that model was left up to their discretion.

In other words, the country could use whatever they wanted to fulfill that model and did not have to use the WHO to sell them their materials to follow it, even if the United States had picked the WHO protocol.

Germany had released its protocol on Jan. 17, however the United States decided to have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention develop its own, which was published on Jan. 28.

The CDC’s test was different and more complicated than the German test. While it worked in the CDC lab, when it was sent out to the state labs, results were inconsistent. The CDC had to send new packages out with new chemical reagents.

State labs began to develop their own tests and were ready to use them, however had to wait for emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration. This ended up causing a delay in testing capabilities, thus resulting in less Americans being tested and therefore an overall slower U.S. response compared with some other countries.

The Trump administration, in responding to Biden’s claim noted that it is not uncommon for the U.S. and other countries to develop their own tests during outbreaks.

They pointed out that the CDC had done so with the Ebola and Zika outbreaks when Obama (and Biden) were in the White House.

They also pointed out that the CDC’s test had a quick turnaround compared with other diagnostic tests, such as those for MERS and Zika, which took months to develop.

Biden’s claim that the Trump administration had somehow shunned the WHO’s testing protocol, it is not abnormal for countries with advanced research capabilities to want to develop testing and protocols that they trust.

“I don’t know if the WHO agreed to sell the kits to us, but it should never have been something we needed to do given our technological expertise and the fact we would have ‘taken kits from low and middle-income countries’ that otherwise could not make or afford them,” said Michal Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, in an email.

Mores also noted that it was “unlikely” that the WHO offered to sell kits to the U.S>, because they do not normally do that.

“In my experience, this is never something that I would have to purchase,” he said.

Mores noted that American labs have all of the basic ingredients and equipment to run the test—all that would be needed is the viral sequences and an exact testing protocol. The only catch is that supplies of those basic ingredients are currently stretched thin due to high demand.

Biden’s statement that the U.S. did not attempt to use the WHO test is factually correct, however it is missing important context. The United States would never have needed complete testing kits from the WHO, since even if we adopted the WHO testing approach, we already had access to the necessary materials to carry it out.

WHO also said there was never any talk of WHO sending testing kits to the United States. And we were not the only country that did so. China, Japan, and France also developed their own tests.  

In other words, Biden made it up.

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