During yesterday’s coronavirus task force briefing, President Trump threatened to put a “very powerful hold” on the massive amounts of taxpayer dollars that are given yearly to the World Health Organization. WHO has come under fire over recent weeks for lying about the COVID-19 pandemic and basically propping up all of China’s claims.
The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2020
Reiterating his complaints from a tweet earlier in the day, the president said that the WHO “has been wrong about a lot things.” Trump has been critical of the WHO for opposing the travel restrictions from China and Europe.
He added: “We’re going to put a hold on the money sent to the WHO.”
Trump, however, backtracked when questioned on that statement by members of media, saying he was “going to look into” cutting off funding to the WHO and denying his earlier statement.
The WHO has praised China for its transparency on the virus, even though there is reason to believe that more people died of COVID-19 than the country’s official tally.
WHO has increasingly been the focus of questions about its response to the coronavirus pandemic, including information it tweeted in January that quoted “preliminary” findings from Chinese authorities that downplayed the seriousness of the virus that has since turned into a pandemic, shutting down daily life around the globe.
The United States is the single largest contributor to the WHO. The most recent invoice from the WHO to the United States, which is one of many countries that fund the organization, was for nearly $116 million per year. The United States also voluntarily gives between approximately $100 million and $400 million more per year to the WHO for specific projects — contributions that totaled over $400 million in 2017, the most recent year for which figures are available.
That means the United States contributed over $500 million in total to the WHO that year, which is just under one-quarter of the organization’s yearly budget. The WHO’s total budget for 2016 and 2017 combined was over $4 billion.
“WHO receives vast amounts of money from us,” Trump added.
The president’s main gripe with WHO saying in late January that “travel bans to affected areas or denial of entry to passengers coming from affected areas are usually not effective in preventing the importation” of coronavirus cases and instead could have a “have a significant economic and social impact.”
“In general, evidence shows that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions,” the WHO reported, adding that such measures could “interrupt needed aid and technical support” and “disrupt businesses.”
The organization did note that a travel ban “may have a public health rationale at the beginning of the containment phase of an outbreak, as they may allow affected countries to implement sustained response measures, and non-affected countries to gain time to initiate and implement effective preparedness measures.”
But it countered that the measures should be “short in duration, proportionate to the public health risks, and be reconsidered regularly as the situation evolves.
Trump also addressed the growing concerns over the impact the coronavirus is having on the African-American community, saying his administration is trying to address what he termed a “tremendous challenge.”
Speaking at the briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the medical community has known for a long time that diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma hit minority populations, especially African Americans.
He added the coronavirus hits these people suffering from these underlying conditions hard and often require intubation, intensive care and sometimes death.
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said it’s “very sad,” but there is not much that can be done right now except to try to give these people the best care possible.
The comments from the White House come after Louisiana’s health department released data showing the virus’s victims are disproportionately black and two-thirds of those who have died suffered from high blood pressure.
The new data released by Louisiana’s health department, which will be updated weekly, gives a glimpse of who is most at risk of dying from the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus in a state deemed one of the nation’s most unhealthy.
Although African Americans account for one-third of Louisiana’s population, they represent more than 70 percent of the state’s deaths from COVID-19 caused by the virus, according to the data. Gov. John Bel Edwards called that racial disparity disturbing.
“We are looking into this further and trying to figure out everything we can about that,” the Democratic governor said Tuesday. “We have a lot more questions than we have answers at this time.”
Trump also weighed in on the resignation of Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who left his post following a profanity-laced upbraiding of the officer he fired as captain of the coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Trump said Tuesday that he didn’t know him or speak to him but credited Modly for resigning “to end that problem.” It was, he said, an “unselfish thing to do.”
The WHO repeatedly and vocally opposed any countries imposing travel restrictions against China, but the Trump administration went ahead and placed limitations on travel to and from China at the end of January. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has credited this move with helping slow the spread of COVID-19 in the United States.
U.S. officials and lawmakers have repeatedly raised questions about whether WHO was being unduly influenced by China. Taiwan has claimed that it warned the WHO about the contagious threat posed by the coronavirus back in December, but its warnings went unheeded. WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward, who has lavished praise on China’s response, got the WHO into a storm of bad publicity recently when he refused to answer questions about Taiwan.
Sen. Rick Scott of Florida blasted WHO over its “work for Communist China” and called for a congressional investigation.
There is well-documented evidence that China tried to cover up the existence and spread of the coronavirus, muzzled whistleblowers, misled the WHO, and attempted to block outside health experts. At least one study indicated that if the Chinese government had acted more quickly, the coronavirus’s global spread would have been greatly reduced.
The U.S. intelligence community suspects that China continues to lie about the outbreak.
Reports show Chinese doctors knew around late December and early January that human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus was almost certainly occurring, and the Chinese government silenced medical professionals who attempted to make the evidence public.
Yet the WHO tweeted on Jan. 14 that “preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in Wuhan, China.” They tweeted a similar message at least six times that day, and WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised China’s response after a meeting with President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Jan. 28.
“Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally is WHO’s highest priority,” Tedros said. “We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated, including sharing data and genetic sequence of the virus.”
Two days later, Tedros praised the Chinese government again, saying it was “to be congratulated for the extraordinary measures it has taken to contain the outbreak.”
“We would have seen many more cases outside China by now — and probably deaths — if it were not for the government’s efforts, and the progress they have made to protect their own people and the people of the world,” Tedros said. “The speed with which China detected the outbreak, isolated the virus, sequenced the genome and shared it with WHO and the world are very impressive, and beyond words. So is China’s commitment to transparency and to supporting other countries.”
The same day, Tedros argued, “There is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade” and “the WHO doesn’t recommend limiting trade and movement.”