In response to the Trump administration’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, we launched a nationwide public records investigation into all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C., American Samoa, and Guam seeking information on how the Trump administration’s incompetence hindered the states’ ability to adequately respond to COVID-19 while encouraging many states to reopen prematurely against overwhelming expert advice.
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Lack of planning and coordination from the Trump administration created chaos at the state and local levels as agencies sought to fulfill desperately-needed requests for personal protective equipment, ventilators, masks, and other supplies. The Trump administration added to the confusion by continuously changing its tune, often at odds with governors, and shifting responsibilities to the states in an attempt to absolve itself of any responsibility for the damage it caused. The result was a failed response to COVID-19 that continues to endanger ordinary people in desperate need of relief and support.
The results of the federal government’s lack of planning are bleak: states don’t have the supplies that they need, the rate of testing is far below where it should be, and first responders still don’t have the proper equipment. Unable to depend on the government for help, governors were forced to take matters into their own hands by creating regional coalitions to find solutions and coordinate efforts. Still, the Trump administration continues to peddle the idea of loosening stay-at-home orders and fast-tracking plans to reopen the country.
Records from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare revealed that:
- Top Idaho officials were given just 24 hours to review Governor Little’s reopening plan. After the head of the state’s emergency management department said Idaho wasn’t yet in the position to meet criteria set out for testing, PPE distribution, and scaling up medical surge capacity, Gov. Little then released the plan the next day anyway, keeping much of the language with which the emergency management head took umbrage.
- Idaho lost out on 2.5 million N95 masks after South Africa (allegedly) refused to let a shipment bound for the state out of the country after Trump said that the U.S. would stop sending PPE to its allies abroad. The state was working with a non-governmental contact to obtain the masks, who first told the state the shipment got held up by the FDA, and then said South Africa would not let the supplies out of the country. This shows that Trump’s belligerent conduct is negatively impacting our global relationships, and will likely continue to do so to the detriment of public health and safety in the U.S.
- Idaho proposed continuing with plans to cut provider Medicaid reimbursements, which historically disproportionately affects hospitals that serve lower-income and rural populations. Emails show that the vice president of an Idaho hospital asked if the state could postpone the cuts until after the crisis.
View the Idaho records report HERE.
Records from Oregon revealed that:
- In late March, a top HHS official acknowledged issues fulfilling public health laboratories’ orders for the CDC’s COVID-19 testing kit, even as Trump claimed there were no problems with testing
- On April 11, 2020 Oregon’s Health Authority discovered that it would only be getting four of 5,000 requested test kits from HHS. The state then tried to follow up with the federal government, asking how they could get closer to the requested number of tests. HHS responded 5 days later on April 16, stating that the ability to acquire more [test kits] was “very difficult and competitive…”
- On April 15, 2020, the Oregon Health Authority received an email from HHS’ Preparedness and Response Office regarding COVID-19 testing supplies, stating “we are now stealing from Peter to pay Paul…. and this is not sustainable.”
- In mid-March, the Oregon Health Authority ran low on transport media and asked the CDC if it could use sterile saline as a replacement.
- In an email chain titled “rapid assessment of US COVID-19 deaths” the CDC asked states for critical patient data for assessing COVID-19 mortality rates but did not ask for patients’ race or ethnicity.
- The CDC did not reach out to Oregon about increasing surge staffing until April 20.
You can view the original records HERE.
We received internal documents from Georgia revealing previously unreported details concerning Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s failure to properly manage the state’s response to COVID-19, which left public health officials with a severe lack of medical resources and put the lives of Georgians at risk.
Records from Georgia revealed that:
- Georgia state officials were warning about the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 for weeks, contrary to Governor Kemp’s claim on April 1 that he wasn’t aware of this.
- As COVID-19 cases began to wreak havoc on Georgia, Gov. Kemp was busy attending superfluous events, tweeting about VIP Gulfstream jets, and responding to the postponement of the Masters Golf Tournament.
- The Trump administration gave Georgia the runaround on necessary medical equipment, failing to deliver more than 20 of the state’s requested 250 ventilators — while also fulfilling multiple requests for a total of 5,000 ventilators to Florida.
- A pattern of administrative incompetence at the federal level hindered the government from efficiently and successfully delivering supplies to Georgia which left state officials confused and angry.
You can view the original records HERE.
We’ve sent nearly 200 records requests seeking information from state governments in order to find out:
- The means by which governors, health departments, and emergency management agencies have — or haven’t — received medical supplies (PPE & ventilators) from the federal government;
- The ways governors, health departments, and emergency management agencies have coordinated with the Trump administration — or gone against it — in order to implement social distancing and shelter-in-place orders;
- State-specific issues regarding safety protocols, medical supplies procurement, and general COVID-19 response, including:
- Florida not closing beaches during spring break;
- Wisconsin holding in-person voting on election day;
- South Dakota’s 3M factory shipments; and
- Massachusetts getting New England Patriots to carry PPE to hospitals in the team’s trailer trucks.
We’ll be receiving responses from states on a rolling basis. Sign up for our email list to stay up-to-date on the 50 States Open Records Project and get new information as it becomes available.