The US Sent Tons of Medical Supplies to China Even as Senators Warned of Virus Threat Here

Now the Trump administration is begging other countries to send us masks and respirators.

Lee County Emergency Management Coordinator Lee Bowdry, right, drops off boxes full of new N-95 face masks to a medical center warehouse facility in Tupelo, Miss. United States hospitals are facing an unprecedented shortage of masks.Thomas Wells/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

The United States government sent nearly 17.8 tons of donated medical supplies to China—including masks and respirators—almost three weeks after the first case of the coronavirus was reported in the state of Washington

In a press release from the State Department dated Feb. 7, the agency announced it was prepared to spend up to $100 million to assist China as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continued to rise there. The day the press release went out, Trump tweeted that he spoke with China’s President Xi Jinping and that China would be “successful especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker and then gone.” 

At the time, sending supplies overseas may have seemed like the right thing to do. But it’s worth noting that this release of vital medical supplies came two days after several senators, including Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, offered to allocate congressional emergency funding for preventative health measures and research to ward off the virus in the United States—and President Donald Trump turned it down. “Local health systems need supplies, training, screening staff, etc…” tweeted Murphy, “and they need it now.”

Trump would go on to call the virus the Democrats’ “new hoax” and deny that it posed a risk to Americans for weeks after that. 

How the tables have turned. As of Saturday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 103,321 cases of the coronavirus in the United States and 1,668 deaths, the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide. Hospitals across the country are now experiencing an unprecedented shortage of respirators and masks. Desperate nurses and doctors are taking to social media to show their need for protective equipment with the hashtag #GetMePPE, as they treat patients who are dying of the virus. 

On Wednesday, the Trump administration asked the international community for donations of equipment, including N-95 masks, gloves, respirators, and hand sanitizer. But even as his officials ask for foreign aid, as CNN points out, Trump has a very different public message. As he boasted during Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing at the White House: “We should never be reliant on a foreign country for the means of our own survival.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday morning that Trump’s response at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic ultimately cost American lives. “His denial at the beginning was deadly,” Pelosi said. Trump’s continuous delay in “getting equipment to where it’s needed, is deadly.”

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate