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As U.S. discouraged mask use for public, White House team raced to secure face coverings from Taiwan for senior staff

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The Trump administration in one word: despicable. Carol D. Leonnig, Elizabeth Dwoskin, and John Hudson report in the Washington Post:

In mid-March, a National Security Council team rushed to fix what they saw as a threat to the U.S. government’s ability to function amid the advancing pandemic: a lack of masks to protect enough staff on the White House complex.

Alarmed by the small cache and the growing signs of an acute shortage of protective gear in the United States, a senior NSC official turned to a foreign government for help, according to people familiar with the situation.

The outreach resulted in a donation of hundreds of thousands of surgical masks from Taiwan, which had plentiful domestic production and had sharply curtailed the spread of the coronavirus on the island.

While the bulk of Taiwan’s goodwill shipment went to the Strategic National Stockpile, 3,600 were set aside for White House staff and officials, administration officials said.

“While the administration had detailed pandemic response plans, somehow those did not include maintaining a supply of masks for White House personnel,” said an administration official who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. “That was a lesson learned. We did look at buying some, but couldn’t find available supply.”

A White House spokesman disputed the notion that the complex did not have a sufficient supply of masks, but declined to say how many were on hand or why the NSC turned to a foreign government for a donation.

The urgent appeal to Taiwan on March 14 highlights a stark conflict between the Trump administration’s stance then on the use of masks and the race behind the scenes to obtain them for key White House personnel. At the time, the U.S. government was discouraging the public from wearing masks, saying that healthy people didn’t need them and that the gear should be saved for front-line medical workers most at risk of infection.

Because of that guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House was not issuing masks to its staff, according to two officials. But inside the NSC, a top deputy was convinced that face coverings should be used more broadly to protect both his team and the public at large.

The resulting arrangement he struck with Taipei made thousands of masks available for White House staff use two weeks before the administration reversed policy and advised that citizens should broadly begin wearing cloth face coverings in public.

[New face mask guidance comes after battle between White House and CDC]

The episode reveals how some top White House officials were pushing for a wider embrace of masks early on to help slow the infection’s spread.

President Trump resisted endorsing such guidance, the subject of sharp debate between his advisers and government health experts, and even after doing so, declared that he would not personally wear one. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2020 at 12:04 pm

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