President Donald Trump issued travel restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19 too late to help New York City, concluded a report released Thursday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“They failed, and the virus came to New York, and Americans died because of government failure. Period,” declared New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) at a press conference Thursday where he responded to the report.
“These are facts. They missed the science. Government failed in its job, and they are still failing,” Cuomo added.
Trump didn’t impose restrictions on Europeans entering the U.S. until March 13 — almost six weeks after his curbs on Chinese travelers. But community spread of COVID-19 was already occurring in New York City by March 8. The viral strain in the city closely matched that of the coronavirus circulating in Europe — not China — indicating it was transmitted from Europe or possibly from other areas of the U.S.
None of the New York City strains were directly connected to Wuhan, China, where the global outbreak is believed to have originated — an “unanticipated” finding, wrote CDC researchers.
“By the time the European restrictions were implemented, importation and community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 had already occurred,” the study says. More than 23,000 people in New York City have died of COVID-19.
Testing at the time was also limited in New York, so COVID-19 cases were increasing undetected, the report said.
Cuomo has repeatedly insisted that the virus circulating in the city came from Europe, which had been supported by earlier studies. The CDC report “definitively explains what happened in New York,” he said at Thursday’s press conference.
From Feb. 2 to March 13, Cuomo said, more than 3,900 flights arrived from Europe at John F. Kennedy International and Newark-Liberty airports.
Cuomo said federal officials “still are not following the science, and the government is still not competent, and that is the increase we’re seeing all across the country.”
Cuomo warned that the “second wave” in the state is going to be a “rebound of COVID from the other states that now got infected, transmitting it back to New York.” He called it a “double-barreled shotgun of federal incompetence.”
“You know what virus is worse than COVID?” he asked reporters. “The virus of American division and federal incompetence. That’s the virus that’s wreaking havoc on this country.”
Trump has repeatedly blamed China for not stopping the virus within its borders, though the Trump administration was unable to do that when there were just a handful of known cases of the coronavirus in the U.S.
He has also repeatedly boasted that he saved millions of lives with travel restrictions. But the restrictions, which now appear to have been of limited help in New York, applied only to foreign nationals. U.S. citizens were free to fly back and forth to China and Europe.
Now, ironically, Americans are not allowed into Europe because of the spike in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. The European Union extended the ban for two additional weeks on Thursday.
British epidemiologist Neil Ferguson told HuffPost said that likely “many hundreds of thousands of lives” were saved in the U.S. by state leaders who issued stay-at-home and social distancing orders and required quarantines.
The CDC study looked at data collected by the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene from March 1 to 20, the early days of the pandemic in the U.S.
As of late Thursday, there were more than 3,570,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., with a death toll surpassing 138,000.
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