White House Removes Public Health Experts from Coronavirus Discussions

, former deputy director, Center for Science & Democracy | March 11, 2020, 3:33 pm EDT
Bookmark and Share

This post is a part of a series on COVID-19 and the Coronavirus Pandemic

The White House held dozens of meetings about coronavirus response that excluded government experts because the discussions were unnecessarily classified over the objections of HHS Secretary Alex Azar, reports Reuters. Experts were not just barred from speaking openly about what we knew about the emerging pandemic. Apparently, they weren’t even allowed in the room.

“It is not normal to classify discussions about a response to a public health crisis,” an unnamed official from the Republican George W. Bush administration told the wire service. Yet this is President Trump’s approach to nearly every public health and environmental threat: find some way to exclude the experts, stop them from speaking publicly, and make decisions in a vacuum. The deliberate sidelining of public health experts and science leads to bad policy, and ultimately, to more sickness and death.

Instead of prioritizing transparency and facts, the White House is choosing secrecy and confusing contradictions. This has likely allowed the coronavirus to spread more quickly and widely in the United States, with massive consequences for the entire US population and especially for those who contract the disease, plus all of the collateral damage that comes with this kind of large-scale disruption.

People are desperate for accurate and up-to-date information about this pandemic, and CDC experts are doing their best. But their work is in spite of the administration, not in concert with it.

Every day without full transparency means we are less prepared and more vulnerable. Scientists must be at the table to help slow the spread of coronavirus, and they should be able to share what they know without being subject to political control.

I urge all scientists to add their signature to this letter urging the White House to let us hear directly from the experts.

C. Todd Lopez, Department of Defense

Posted in: Science and Democracy, Scientific Integrity Tags: , ,

Support from UCS members make work like this possible. Will you join us? Help UCS advance independent science for a healthy environment and a safer world.

Show Comments

Comment Policy

UCS welcomes comments that foster civil conversation and debate. To help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion, please focus comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand, and refrain from personal attacks. Posts that are commercial, self-promotional, obscene, rude, or disruptive will be removed.

Please note that comments are open for two weeks following each blog post. UCS respects your privacy and will not display, lend, or sell your email address for any reason.

  • Carol Green

    END TRUMP AND PENCE IMMEDIATELY. Or they will end us.

  • Rose Mazzio

    We need a MUTINY!!!!!!
    THAT POS avoided being thrown out by impeaching him. We all know HOW GUILTY he is.
    When a disgustingly evil pirate doesn’t do what’s good for his men , they THROW HIM OVERBOARD!!!

  • justinquiring

    Hey UCS, would you name the so-called scientists who were removed? Innuendo is wonderful.

  • Diane Wolford Stevenson

    Every Executive news conference I have seen has scientists and doctors speaking.

    • BJR1961

      What is your Security Clearance? This meeting was Classified.

      • Lisa O’Connell

        When you are discussing a global pandemic, classified or not you do not exclude the scientists that know the most about the virus that is killing the people. PERIOD!!!

  • cheryl

    Quit spreading lies…he is working closely with all personnel and just spoke (again) about what everyone is trying to do to stop the spread of it and not have people (like most here) panic.

    • sTv0

      “Experts were not just barred from speaking openly about what we knew about the emerging pandemic. Apparently, they weren’t even allowed in the room.”

      I’m sure this was just an oversight on your part.

      • Independent voter

        The president does not want this virus to unnecessarily send the country into a panic. This is a left leaning blog, and they would like nothing more than to tank the confidence in Trump. The current infection rate in the country is infintecimle at this point, with only 3.2% of those infected dying. And those that did were primarily over 70 with an underlying health condition. The misinformation has to stop

      • D Spall

        Anything that is factual and makes good sense is left leaning!

      • Katherine Grace Bond

        3.2% is not infinitesimal (I spelled that correctly, but, full disclosure, only after my spellchecker caught it.) And we are now hearing 3.4%.

        Here in Washington, we are at an 8% death toll compared to reported cases. (373 cases and 30 deaths have been confirmed in Washington US. Last updated March 11, 2020.) I expect that to decrease as more testing happens–right now it is still hard to get tested, so the higher risk people with active symptoms are the ones getting the tests. Even at 3.4%, a lot of people are going to die. This spreads very quickly. (Source: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/4fdc0d03d3a34aa485de1fb0d2650ee0)

      • Realist

        Katherine Grace Bond posts: “Here in Washington, we are at an 8% death toll compared to reported cases. …”

        There’s always a silver lining …

        And, if UCS is lucky … perhaps Washington DC will have similar stats, and perhaps DJT will be in the 8% … ya never know …

        Of course … of the now 31 deaths reported as ‘due to COVID 19’ … according to an article from kiro7.com, “… Twenty-three of the deaths in King County were linked to Life Care Center nursing facility in Kirkland. Federal authorities are investigating.”

        Hmm. People living in a ‘life care’ facility are usually quite compromised, where their health is concerned.

      • Alexand875

        We don’t know what the infection rate is because Trump is doing everything he can to prevent people from being tested. His administration delayed testing and put roadblocks up to prevent people outside the CDC from testing.

      • sTv0

        Yes, “The misinformation has to stop”. In fact, it should be “The no information has to stop”, because of the ineptitude of the Drumpf administration, the appalling lack of concern for the citizenry, disinviting healthcare experts from important meetings, banning them from even being in the room, keeping the meeting notes classified, blaming his political opponents for the problems his administration had created and calling the virus threat a “Democrat hoax”, referring to himself as an expert on viruses, blaming the Chinese, blaming the EU…

        “only 3.2% of those infected dying”.

        You’re just as delusional as your boy, Cadet Bone Spurs.

    • Frosty2319

      When has he EVER worked closely with or even listened to the top advisors and professionals in their field. What he does is fire them and replace them with yes men.

  • Mister B

    CNN spinning about what the President says and does. It’s Time to knock off the politics so the people know what is happening.

    • BJR1961

      This is not CNN. And Trump made it political when he called it a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats…

      • Mister B

        Another CNN lie. He did not call it a hoax. He referred the politicization of the virus by the Democrats a hoax. And he was right. He has taken this very serious from the outset.

      • sTv0

        LOL!! You do realize that you just defeated your own argument, right? I mean, watch what he says at his rallies. “A Democrat hoax.”

        Amazing how people will *still* defend this moron. Don’t tell me, let me guess: Russkies got a pee tape on you, too?

      • Mister B

        I didn’t defeat my own argument, but you and your liberal friends defeat yours whenever take seriously, the lies and nonsense coming from CNN. Further, I stated nothing about defending Joe Biden.

      • sTv0

        Defending Drumpf is one of the dumbest things his supporters continue to do, There are less and less of them as time goes on, so you must be one of the die-hards.

        And judging by your grammar, yeah, you are. LOL!!

        Flush the Turd, 2020!

      • Mister B

        “There’s less and less of them”. Yep, you are indeed glued to fake news CNN.

      • Realist

        Hmm … anyone writing ” … , There are less and less of them as time goes on, …” might want to be just a bit forgiving of any grammatical errors in posts from other people. Just sayin’ …

        Just a ‘BTW’, I don’t even know the guy, but I loathe DJT. So, this isn’t about DJT – it’s about being a bit less like DJT.

      • Frosty2319

        Point is….Trump delayed response that would have safe guarded more of the American people by his desire to protect the almighty dollar above humans.

      • janeinthemtns

        You mean like how he said people are even going to work and getting better?

      • Mister B

        That’s another. What he actually said was that for many the symptoms are very mild and many don’t realize they have it so the continue to go to work. Much different than what CNN claimed he said.

      • BJR1961
      • Craig Duyck

        You still believe that hoax stuff. Trump said what democrats are saying about his actions against the virus are a hoax. They are full of it.

      • BJR1961
      • Frosty2319

        AMEN !

      • Mister B

        Which is something Trump did not do.

      • BJR1961
      • Mister B

        While Snopes is liberal, it is encouraging that they told the truth on this. Thank you.

  • summer

    This glitched as I signed – where are the signatures, so I can be sure my signature made it on? I don’t want to sign twice – that would create the appearance of this having “fake” signatures.

    • Michael Halpern

      Hello! The form will not take duplicate entries from the same email address. We also vet all signatures to ensure that those who sign are indeed scientists and not named Mickey Mouse. We also check for duplicates before formatting the letter and delivering it to the recipient. Feel free to try again, and let me know if you have any trouble. And thanks for adding your name.

  • BobSF_94117

    Our government is acting less like America and more like China.

    There is ZERO evidence that the top levels of the Chinese govt excluded scientists from discussion on what to do.

    • Michael Halpern

      Good point. Removed that reference. Thank you Bob.

  • David Whitlock

    There need to be Congressional Hearings about this.


    • justinquiring

      waste more time & money.

    • Mister B

      That’s part of the problem. Congress was wasting time on the Russia Collusion hoax instead of tending to the business of government.

  • densely

    It’s time to build a shadow government, at least to shadow the CDC and the FDA, to take responsibility for making fact-based decisions to protect the people of the US. This might require disobeying orders from the Executive Branch and disobeying some privacy guidelines. It’s necessary. Some of the people best able to contribute to this are members of the UCS.

  • David Thompson


    • Steven H

      Exactly! ^^^^