Opinion: COVID-19 Response Is Underwhelming In Comparison to Ebola


"Trump meets with Obama in the Oval Office" by US Department of State is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

Ethan Devereaux, Black River 11th Grader

Covid-19, or seen in the news as the ‘coronavirus,’ is now a worldwide threat, and at the time of writing (March 30, 2020), there are 846,141 total cases. In the U.S. there are 180,789 cases. This worldwide pandemic could’ve been handled by the U.S. a lot better if President Trump actually knew what he was doing. In this article I want to compare the handling of the Ebola outbreak under the Obama administration, and the Covid-19 pandemic under Trump’s administration. 

The Beginning

In December of 2013, an 18-month-old boy in Guinea was bitten by a bat and later died of an unknown disease. Then there were five more fatal cases in Guinea. When Ebola spread out of the Guinea borders into neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone in March 2014, President Obama activated the Emergency Operations Center at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. The CDC immediately deployed CDC personnel to West Africa to coordinate a response that included vector tracing, testing, education, logistics and communication. Altogether, the CDC, under President Obama, trained 24,655 medical workers in West Africa, educating them on how to prevent and control the disease before a single case left Africa or reached the U.S.

What did Trump do when the Outbreak started in December of 2019? Well to preface this I want to say that before anyone even knew about the disease (even in China) Trump disbanded the pandemic response team that Obama had put in place, cut funding to the CDC, and cut our contribution to the World Health Organization (WHO). Trump also fired Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, the person on the National Security Council in charge of stopping the spread of infectious diseases before they reach our country – a position created by the Obama administration.

When the outbreak started in China, Trump disregarded the situation and assumed that it would be China’s problem. He also did not want to help them since we were in a trade war with them. In January he received a briefing from our intelligence organizations that the outbreak was much worse than China was admitting and that it would definitely hit our country if something wasn’t done to prevent it. He ignored the report, not trusting our own intelligence.

In the beginning, we can see two very different ways epidemics were handled, one with open arms to help countries that were in need of aid, and the other with the selfish mentality that “it’s not our problem, why should we have to do anything about it?”. Obama went straight to work when it started entering neighboring countries, while Trump wants to deny information from his own intelligence committees. 


Working with the U.N. and the World Health Organization President Obama ordered the re-routing of travelers heading to the U.S. through certain specific airports equipped to handle mass testing. While back home in America, more than 6,500 people were trained through mock outbreaks and practice scenarios. This was all being done before a single case hit America.

Back to Trump, when Covid-19 spread to Europe, the World Health Organization offered a boatload of tests to the United States. The Trump administration turned them down, saying private companies here would make the tests “better” if we needed them. But he never ordered U.S. companies (until very recently) to make tests and U.S. businesses had no profit motive to do so on their own. 

According to scientists at Yale and several public university medical schools, when they asked for permission to start working on our own testing protocol and potential treatments or vaccines, they were left waiting for weeks for an answer by Trump’s FDA.

Again, both presidents prepared for this outbreak in completely different ways. Oh wait, I meant one president prepared, while the other did not nothing whatsoever to prepare the U.S. for a possible pandemic. This blows my mind that when we were offered help, Trump said no, even though his intelligence committees warned that this could be devastating. This is one of Trump’s biggest mistakes on handling this outbreak.

First Cases in the U.S.

Three months after President Obama activated this unprecedented response, on September 30, 2014, we got our first case in the U.S. The infected man had traveled from West Africa to Dallas, Texas and had somehow slipped through the testing protocol. He was immediately detected and isolated. Unfortunately, he died a week later. There were two nurses who tended to him who contracted Ebola, and later recovered. All the protocols had worked. Ebola was contained in the U.S. due to amazing procedures that we set up ahead of time. 

When Trump knew about the first case in the United States he did absolutely nothing. It was just one case and the patient was isolated. When doctors and scientists started worrying in the media that this is a dangerous issue, Trump claimed it was “the liberal’s new hoax” conjured up to try to make him “look bad after impeachment failed.” 

The next time Trump spoke of Covid-19, we had 64 confirmed cases but Trump went before microphones and told the American public that we only had 15 cases “and pretty soon that number will be close to zero.” All while the disease was spreading. He took no action to get more tests. He also went to the American people to say that: “We’re going very substantially down, not up” and that “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear”. 

So let’s recap, When the U.S. had its first case of Ebola, we were already prepared for this, and due to our preparations months before hands, we brought a swift end to the Ebola outbreak. On the other hand we have a president that set up no precautions before it got to the U.S.. President Trump only started precautions after we had our first cases, which at that point, it was already too late. 

Trump’s Mistakes

Again, when I am writing this the U.S. has 180,789 confirmed cases. The actual number is undoubtedly much higher. But we don’t know because we don’t have enough tests. Why don’t we have enough tests? Remember back when Trump turned down the tests from the W.H.O. and prevented our own universities from developing them? Remember back when Trump had cut the funding to the CDC? 

Well, Coronavirus in Trump’s words is “very mild” and that “I’ve always known this is a, this is a real, this is a pandemic, I’ve felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic”. To me, it seems that Donald Trump was very lazy and unwilling to work with people who know more than him. The situation that we are in right now, is due to the irresponsibility of our president and his constant downplaying of the virus. Donald Trump went from saying that we should have no worries whatsoever, that it is “we’ve pretty much shut it down” to: “If we have between 100,000 and 200,000 [deaths] we’ve all together done a very good job.” 

Many people try to put the blame on China. And they are correct – after all, the disease started there. And the Chinese government handled it poorly and dishonestly. So it’s fair to blame the government of China for the EXISTENCE of the Covid-19 virus. But this misses the point of what we should be really focusing on. Obama didn’t blame Ebola on Guinea. He helped them stop it. Obama saved potential millions of Americans from Ebola while Trump let the disease invade the U.S.

Donald Trump needs to own his carelessness mistakes and not continue to downplay the virus, and work on a way to help the American people since he failed to prepare beforehand.

My Conclusions

I don’t want to be too extreme, but I blame Trump and his administration for the poor decisions and lack of planning for the future. I do not blame him for the virus spreading here, this was going to happen undoubtedly, but I just wish he actually set precautions so that we could contain and dissolve the threat similarly to the Ebola outbreak under Obama. What we’re stuck with is a president who disregards his own intelligence, spreads false hope and rumours of his administration’s “great” work, wants to blame everyone but himself for the situation we’re in, and does not look out for the greater good of his own country. 

If we had a better response and preparation for when COVID-19 would hit the U.S., we would not be in such a terrible state where our hospitals are being overrun and lacking supplies, where millions of people are filing for unemployment and losing access to their healthcare plans, where millions of student’s education is on a halt, where local businesses across the nation have to shut down, where current projections suggest tens or even hundreds of thousands of fellow americans will lose their lives. 

Remember to stay indoors, wash your hands, and stay safe!