It’s the one-year anniversary of former President Donald Trump’s fateful remarks dismissing the COVID-19 pandemic. At a Black History Month event on February 27, 2020, Trump predicted:
And you know what? If we were doing a bad job, we should also be criticized. But we have done an incredible job. We’re going to continue. It’s going to disappear. One day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear. And from our shores, we—you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens. Nobody really knows.
The fact is, the greatest experts—I’ve spoken to them all. Nobody really knows.
Two days after Trump’s comments, health officials in Washington State announced the first known coronavirus death in the United States (though later on the first known death was revised to February 6). Now, at the one-year mark of Trump’s denial, the United States has had more than 500,000 people die from COVID-19, roughly equal to the population of a major city like Atlanta. The toll has been worse for people of color, disproportionately taking Black, Latino, and Native American lives.
It also wasn’t true that nobody really knew what would happen. While CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield testified that same day before Congress that his agency “believes that the immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is low,” the Trump administration received warnings from top scientists and national security experts on the threat of a pandemic as early as January. Despite these warnings, the Trump administration failed to take needed steps to ensure the supply of medical supplies, issue mask mandates, and urge Americans away from large gatherings.
Read Mother Jones‘ comprehensive timeline for more on Trump’s deadly denial.