An exclusive report from Reuters reveals that the Trump administration cut staff members from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who were inside China before its coronavirus outbreak.
The majority of the reductions were made at CDC’s Beijing office and occurred over the last two years, according to public documents viewed by Reuters and four individuals with knowledge of the events.
When President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the Beijing office had 47 staffers. That number has shrunk to 14. Epidemiologists were among those who lost jobs as a result of the cuts.
Reuters reports that the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also shut their Beijing operations after Trump took office. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was also impacted, losing the manager of an animal disease monitoring program.
“We had a large operation of experts in China who were brought back during this administration, some of them months before the outbreak,” said one of the people who witnessed the withdrawal of U.S. personnel. “You have to consider the possibility that our drawdown made this catastrophe more likely or more difficult to respond to.”
The news comes after The Washington Post revealed that the U.S. intelligence community warned the Trump administration about a likely pandemic as early as January and February, but that these warnings were ignored. The president, according to White House insiders, only began to take the pandemic seriously after watching Fox News personality Tucker Carlson deliver a monologue on his program.