Totally Under Control (2020) Movie Script

[electricity buzzing]
[low tone]
[uplifting music]
[ominous music]
[indistinct radio chatter]
male narrator:
Since the 1980s,
it's been a magical year
for science fiction writers,
a year of predictions
about the future
and the ruthless power
of technology.
Humanity would be bound
together by a world wide web,
artificial intelligence
would exponentially expand
the powers of the human mind,
and the world would be
dominated and controlled
by information-based
without need
for government intervention.
But all of that turned out
to be a technocratic illusion
when nature set loose
a terrible disease
that took advantage
of the very connectivity
we had manufactured.
In Seattle, the day
of reckoning was January 20th,
when America's first patient
tested positive for COVID-19.
On that same day in Seoul,
the first case in South Korea
would also be confirmed.
Korea moved quickly
to contain the disease
and save its economy
using a variation
on an American plan.
But in the United States,
politics got
in the way of science,
Allowing the virus
to spread invisibly and fast.
[tense music]
More than 200,000 people
have died.
In the first three months
of the pandemic,
30 million people
lost their jobs.
all: No more tyranny.
No more tyranny.
Now the Democrats are
politicizing the coronavirus.
You know that, right?
[crowd boos]
This is their new hoax.
Who's scared of coronavirus?
- Let go of my fucking cart!
- Are you recording me, dawg?
I have the right to buy food
without being forced
to participate
in a false flag pandemic.
At a moment of crisis,
the world's
most powerful nation
didn't rise to the occasion.
It descended
into division and chaos.
Back up!
What the fuck
is your problem?
Why did the United States
fail to reckon with a danger
for which it should have been
so well prepared?
It's one person coming in
from China.
It will go away.
Just stay calm, it'll go away.
In a couple of days it's gonna
be down to close to zero.
We have it totally
under control.
It's gonna be just fine.
Breathe in
and hold your breath.
[upbeat music]
narrator: Filming
during the time of COVID
presented unique challenges.
Okay, and I hold it...
- There's, like, two handles.
- Yup.
Wow, you guys have really
figured this out, okay.
narrator: One work-around was
a camera system we invented,
built off-site,
and sent to subjects.
We dubbed it "the COVID-cam."
So I was able...
can I hear you?
- Hello, yeah!
- Hi, it's working!
I'm Scott Becker.
I'm the chief
executive officer
of the Association
of Public Health Laboratories.
How about this?
Now, this is really something.
It's an actual board game.
My wife said,
"You know, we should really
get it out and play it."
I'm like,
"We're living through it!
I don't need the game!"
One of the functions
public health labs have
is looking for those early
indications of an outbreak.
And when did you first hear
about the coronavirus?
It was January 7th,
I believe,
that I first communicated
with some of our staff.
They had sent me an email
saying, "We're watching this.
"We just talked to CDC
and they're gonna
be standing up their
emergency operations center."
And I said,
"Well, thanks for the update.
"I've been watching this.
I'm concerned about it.
And happy new year."
[Irma Thomas'
"Time is on My Side"]
In early 2020,
Trump was indifferent
to the looming pandemic.
He was reckoning
with simmering conflicts
and the upcoming
presidential election.
We begin tonight with
the U.S. and Iran on the brink
for the drone strike
that killed Qasem Soulemani.
[cheers and applause]
Our economy is booming,
wages are rising,
poverty is plummeting,
crime is falling,
and America is the envy
of the entire world.
That you wanna be free
I won't have to cry
no more
The whole impeachment thing
is a hoax.
It's a total sham.
Yeah, yeah, time, time
This morning, President
Trump signed phase one
of a trade deal
between the U.S. and China.
The pact comes after months
of escalating tariffs
between the world's
two biggest economies.
And we just broke
the 29,000 mark on the DOW
just now as we're walking in.
Market's up
substantially today.
Up until coronavirus,
the way that Donald Trump
was gonna win reelection
to a second term
was largely going to be on
the strength of the economy.
[inquisitive music]
I covered all
of Barack Obama's two terms,
so I was there
during the Zika outbreak,
the Ebola response.
As a White House reporter,
we sort of cover everything,
so, you know, I've
bounced around every topic
that you can possibly
imagine in the Trump term
and had just finished covering
the president's impeachment
in the House,
and the trial in the Senate,
and was thinking that
we might actually get
a little bit of a break
on the White House beat,
such as it is.
And then a few weeks later,
COVID happened.
One of the first indications
that the United States
government had that
this was a potential problem
was a conversation
that the CDC director,
a guy named Robert Redfield,
had with his counterpart,
a gentleman
by the name of Dr. Gao,
who was essentially the head
of the Chinese CDC, and that
occurred on January 3rd.
Chinese health authorities
are still working
to identify the virus
behind a pneumonia outbreak
in the central city of Wuhan.
Gao basically said,
"Look, this is really serious.
"You need to be aware of this.
It's not something
we've ever seen before."
[speaking Chinese]
[solemn music]
I heard about
a novel respiratory virus
circulating in China,
and my ears perked up.
There you are!
I've been at BARDA
for about ten years
in the Department of Health
and Human Services.
BARDA's role
is to lead the development
between government
and industry
of vaccines, drugs,
and diagnostic tests.
So I'm very interested,
and have been my entire career,
of tracking early blips
of novel viruses
that are infecting people.
It's not unusual for us to
hear of a new virus emerging
in these wet markets of China.
They can spill over
into the human population,
especially the people working
in those wet markets.
But then we started seeing
China take actions
like build hospitals
rapidly, urgently.
All I could get at that point
was anecdotal stories
on Twitter, for example.
But anyone who'd worked
in preparing
for pandemic outbreaks knew
that we were dealing with
something very unusual, very
concerning, and very deadly.
[bird chirping]
You'll get to it.
Don't rush.
Here we go.
Now you got so exhausted.
So interesting about birds...
we had an earthquake,
and they were able to alert us
15 minutes
before the earthquake.
Because they are connected
to the earth's compass,
so they felt the earth
vibrating before it happens.
But you are also a predictor
of things before they happen.
Yes, I am obsessed
with predicting things,
but that's just part
of my mathematical training.
Dr. Lee's training allows her
to act like a canary
in a coal mine.
She's world-famous for the way
her mathematical modeling
can predict the likely spread
of disease
and assess the risk
of a pandemic.
I have built so many models
to describe many
different type of diseases.
When you see the first case,
it does not mean
you only have first case.
It means you have one case
plus many other cases
that you don't see.
It's by the time
you have 41 cases,
and it is, like,
at the end of December,
then that means you have
hundreds of others.
So I was really, really
nervous at that time.
I absolutely believe there's
human-to-human transmission
in China.
If there are travelers coming
back to the U.S. or Europe
for celebration of new year,
that would be truly a vector
to really transmit the disease
all over the world,
so I do feel that we are
marching to a pandemic
in the early part of January.
Starting tonight,
we're going to begin
screening passengers
arriving from Wuhan
at the three airports
that see the majority
of those passengers:
JFK, San Francisco,
and Los Angeles.
Nancy Messonnier was in charge
of public messaging for COVID
at the Centers
for Disease Control, or CDC.
An experienced
public health official
and expert in vaccines,
she had played a leading role
in the CDC's response
to the anthrax attacks
in 2001.
Just this week...
Our laboratory is using
genetic sequences
provided by the Chinese.
We're working
on a specific diagnostic test
to detect this virus.
We'll be distributing
this test
to state health departments.
This is
a respiratory virus.
It is spreading
silently, invisibly,
person to person,
in the air, on the surfaces.
Every moment counts
to be able to recognize
where the virus is
and to learn
as much as we can about it
so we can make life-saving
vaccines and drugs
and diagnostic tests.
So did the government have
some kind of plan or playbook
that they could look to in the
event of something like this?
There's absolutely
a playbook.
We've updated playbooks
through the various years,
and we actually used
those playbooks
to exercise what we would do
in an emerging, viral pandemic
the fall
before this virus emerged.
"Crimson Contagion" was
a federal government exercise
conducted in 12 states.
It simulated a pandemic
with eerie similarities
to the coronavirus
that was to come.
It was a very
thorough exercise,
highly detailed, with a highly
lethal influenza virus
that emerged in Asia
and spread quickly
around the world.
We were getting daily
on the outbreak,
the death count.
narrator: The mistakes made
during "Crimson Contagion"
played like a preview
of coming attractions
for the failures
of the COVID response.
So why did the government fail
to learn the lessons needed
to prepare
for what was to come?
The challenge has
always been who's in charge.
We would have disaster
leadership group meetings,
where we would bring together
the Health and Human Services
network of experts,
and the ASPR would
convene these meetings.
Who was, in fact, the ASPR?
The ASPR was Dr. Bob Kadlec.
The threats our country faces
in the 21st century
are very real and very serious.
narrator: A 26-year
Air Force veteran,
Kadlec was a specialist
in biological
and chemical weapons.
As ASPR, he downplayed
the danger of pandemics,
cut spending on emerging
infectious diseases,
and his office
eliminated a program
to manufacture N95 masks.
January 18th,
I asked Dr. Kadlec
if we could convene a disaster
leadership group meeting.
To my shock, his response was,
"I don't see
a sense of urgency."
I just don't think he thought
there was a real opportunity
for this virus to come
into the United States.
narrator: The same day Rick
Bright reached out to Kadlec,
Kadlec's boss, Alex Azar,
did try to get
the president's attention.
Azar was in charge
of the CDC and the FDA
as the secretary of HHS,
Health and Human Services.
After the previous secretary
had resigned in scandal,
Azar was appointed
to bring a businessman's
approach to government.
As a former Big Pharma
executive at Eli Lily,
Azar was infamous for having
tripled the price of insulin.
I actually knew him
in grad school.
Very conservative,
very ambitious.
Went on to clerk for Scalia
on the Supreme Court.
Within the administration,
Azar was known for his belief
that the free market
would meet America's
healthcare needs.
We, the government,
do not have the solutions
to healthcare.
We're usually the cause
of the problems.
narrator: With COVID, Azar
sensed that the government
might have to play
some limited role.
On January 18th, he knew
that the president
was leaving town in a couple
of days to go to Davos,
and Azar decided,
"You know what?
"I think I'd better make sure
the president is aware
of this virus."
Trump was actually on the
golf course down at Mar-a-Lago
when Azar called.
Azar's pitch to the president
was one,
this could be serious,
but also he wanted to convey
a sense of kind of,
"We got this."
Of those two messages, the one
that President Trump appears
to have really internalized
was the "we got it" message.
[mischievous music]
The CDC has identified
a case of coronavirus
in Washington State.
Have you been briefed
by the CDC...
I have.
Are there worries
about a pandemic at this point?
No, not at all,
and we're...
we have it totally
under control.
It's one person
coming in from China.
And we have it under control.
It's gonna be just fine.
I actually think
we were very fortunate
that the first case occurred
in the Seattle region.
I sometimes call Seattle
sort of the CDC of the West
because there are so many
public health researchers
and public health people
that end up in Seattle,
so in some ways I felt like,
"Okay, they're on top of it,
and we're in good hands."
My name's Alex Greninger,
and I'm the assistant director
of the Clinical Virology Lab
here at the University of
Washington Medical Center.
Everything about that
first case from Washington
was just so positive.
I mean, like... let's go through
all the positivity there.
You know,
someone self-identifies,
says, "Hey, I just flew in
from Wuhan and I have a fever."
The sample was sent overnight
to the CDC,
where they turned around
a test, which is crazy.
They actually had a test
for the virus,
where the genome had just
gone online 10 days prior.
CDC also sent a team out
upon that confirmation.
They, you know,
looked at all of his contacts
and there was
no onward transmission.
We never identified
another case in
the state of Washington until
the last week of February.
But if you recall,
he was not tested
until four days
after when he became ill.
And he took a share ride
back home from the airport,
he had lunch
with his colleagues,
and he did a lot of things
within four days.
And so I estimate that
that is at least in the order
of 2,000 people
that has to be tested,
and so we end up missing
a lot of the cases.
We're not doctors,
but we know a doctor,
and he's actually
an expert in viruses.
Dr. Alex Greninger at UDub,
you're one of the leading...
I just became
an assistant professor,
and so for this new virus, you
know, they sort of invited me
to go on the news
to talk about it.
I remember later that day,
I was in a second interview,
and like,
in the middle of the interview,
the interviewer stopped it
and said, "Oh,
"they just shut down, like,
the city of Wuhan
and there's no more transport
in and out of it."
11 million people
are under quarantine,
and you're just kind of like,
"Wow, that just
doesn't even seem like
it's what's gonna happen."
Like, you've just never
seen, like, a parallel world
like that, what was gonna
happen here too.
[eerie music]
How do you look
at that more than one month
of not having any other cases
in the state of Washington?
Oh, yeah, it was a total lie.
In terms of, like, you know,
whether there was actual, like,
you know, whether there were
no cases there, right?
I mean "lie" is not
the right word,
but just a sort of a...
you know, it was a delusion.
[overlapping chatter]
The delusion was
that the first COVID patient
was the only one.
In fact, the disease
was already spreading
inside the United States.
The challenge for scientists
was to convince politicians
to mobilize the country
to fight a virus
no one could see.
In a meeting on January 23rd,
Rick Bright made his pitch
to Alex Azar.
My assignment,
remember in BARDA,
is to make sure
that we start making
drugs, vaccines, and those
tests as quickly as possible.
We were told the CDC was
working diligently on a test,
and we were relying
solely on the CDC.
I raised the need to get
started immediately
on commercial test development
drugs and vaccines,
and the need for money
to do it.
The secretary looked at me
and said, "You need money?"
And I said,
"Yes, we've exercised
that it would take
about $10 billion."
Without that experience
and knowledge,
I might not have walked
into that room
and asked for those things,
but I knew exactly
what was needed.
I learned after
that meeting, actually,
that a lot of the people
were pretty offended
that I would come into
a meeting with the Secretary
on day one and ask for money.
And it caused
quite a shit storm,
is how it was described to me,
that I ruffled
a lot of feathers.
In fact, I wasn't invited back
to those meetings
for some time.
narrator: In the U.S.,
political appointees tightened
their purse strings and hoped
the virus would just go away.
South Korea reacted
very differently.
When it came
to this disease response
here in South Korea,
the politicians largely
stayed out of the response
and it was left in the hands
of professionals.
After confirming its first
case of the new coronavirus,
South Korea is stepping up
precautionary measures.
- Hello.
- Hello.
The first case was
a 35-year-old woman
who had entered the country
from Wuhan, China.
[solemn music]
[speaking Korean]
- Okay?
- No.
- No?
- [coughs]
[melancholic music]
MERS was a coronavirus
that terrified South Korea,
killing 38 people
and sickening hundreds more.
The government was vilified
for its response.
Soon after,
legislators pursued
a series of critical reforms.
As a result of that,
they passed a law
in order to speed up
the approval process
of these kits
in a time of emergency.
On January 27th,
South Korean health officials
summoned representatives
from more than
20 medical companies
to put in place
a national testing program.
It was such an urgent
request that they just met
in a conference room at one of
the train stations in Seoul.
The head of the equivalent of
the CDC, he basically said,
"Manufacture me
these tests now
and forget
about the approval process."
You know, "Start using them,
start testing.
"We will come back
to make sure it's accurate,
but we'll do that while
you're already in the field."
Within a matter of days
after that,
the first diagnostic test kit
was approved,
and it's a process
that typically can take
upwards of a year.
There were four cases
at the time,
and it would be another few
weeks before there was a death,
but they really felt the need
for diagnostic testing
to be able to see
where the problem was
and to deal with the threat.
By January 27th,
South Korea was on its way
to containing the virus
and preventing
an economic shutdown.
Good morning, everyone.
And thank you for joining us
here today at HHS.
In the United States,
Azar continued
to emphasize the response
that had so pleased
President Trump:
"We've got this."
The playbook for responding
to an infectious disease
outbreak is relatively
simple and multi-tiered.
You identify cases,
isolate people,
diagnose them, and treat them.
Then you track down
all the contacts
of the infected person, and you
do the same with those people,
and the same with contacts
of contacts if necessary.
narrator: It sounded
like a perfect plan,
but it was missing
a key detail.
There was no comprehensive
national testing
and tracing program.
Even so, the CDC stuck
to a version of the script
drafted by Azar.
The CDC will continue
its aggressive public health
response strategy,
working to protect
the health and safety
of the American public.
Right now, there is no spread
of this virus
in our communities
here at home.
Appointed by Trump
after his predecessor left
in disgrace,
Redfield was
a controversial virologist
with no experience leading
a public health agency.
During the AIDS crisis, he
preached a religious approach,
calling for abstinence
as a solution.
With his former assistant,
Deborah Birx,
Redfield's attempts to push
an unproven HIV vaccine
were twice investigated
for scientific misconduct.
Redfield is a little bit
of an oddity for the CDC.
The CDC is an institution
filled with scientists
and researchers who don't like
to be told that science has
to compromise for economics
or for politics.
You know,
they want to be purists.
Donald Trump is a president
who has expressed
an incredible disdain
for science
since before he took office.
Inside the West Wing,
they refer to the CDC
as the Deep State.
Certainly many of the people
at the CDC saw Redfield
as not having the kind of
backbone that they would like
to have seen in a CDC director
to stand up to the president
both privately,
but also publicly.
[ominous music]
narrator: Some scientists
were willing to push back.
Public health officials
from around the country
shared doubts that the CDC
was responding to the virus
with enough speed and concern.
They circulated
an email chain,
which included Trump
officials, called "Red Dawn."
[dramatic musical sting]
What's going on here,
my friend?
narrator: It was a
tongue-and-cheek nod
to a 1984 movie about a small
band of American citizens
who fight back
against a Russian invasion.
This is the Emergency
Broadcast System.
We are under attack by...
We were a little bit
like the Wolverines
from that movie.
They know who
all of you are.
They're looking for you.
A group of teenagers
that are fighting back,
and one of us thought
it would be funny
to use "Red Dawn"
as the subject title.
That email chain, it's a group
of former and current
state and local officials
within the federal government.
These are all very
dear colleagues that have been
in public health and emergency
response for a long time.
In late January, we were
consciously monitoring,
trying to assess
when it hit us,
how big the scope
of the calamity
that we are looking into.
and how to mitigate it.
I think in January,
the cat was already
out of the bag
in terms of we had cases
in the U.S.,
we had human-to-human
transmission going on
in the U.S.,
and we were going to be
dealing with COVID-19.
I mean, I wasn't able
to sleep.
I couldn't stop thinking about
what could go wrong for us.
narrator: The "Red Dawn"
emails would be full
of warnings
and recommendations
from experts
in pandemic response.
But politicians failed
to recognize
that there were lessons
to be learned.
There's never been anything
like this in history.
There's never been and nobody
has ever seen anything
like this.
narrator: Nothing could be
further from the truth.
To be ready for the perils
of the future,
all one had to do
is look clearly at the past.
female narrator: In 1918,
in the midst of war,
influenza marched across the
earth from country to country.
Epidemic lurked everywhere.
To ward off contagion, special
precautions were taken.
[whimsical music]
narrator: With no vaccine
and few treatment options,
simple but effective
precautionary measures
like masks
were all people had.
The H1N1 flu infected
500 million people,
1/3 of the world's population
at the time.
The death toll
can only be estimated
somewhere between
20 and 50 million people.
Since 1918,
scientific advancements
like the invention
of the electron microscope
have allowed us to see
the "invisible enemy."
But even with vaccines
and advances in pathology,
the growth
of global transportation
made other pandemics
ever more likely.
In 2003, a deadly
SARS coronavirus
spread from bats to humans
was quickly contained.
In 2009,
the Obama Administration
faced a challenge when
a new strain of H1N1 emerged.
Good afternoon, everybody.
There's no doubt that
every president should learn
from what has happened before.
President Obama felt it very
important from the beginning
and all the way through
our dealing with H1N1
that the scientists
make the calls.
H1N1 influenza is here.
I'm Dr. Tom Frieden.
I directed the CDC
from 2009 to 2017.
I just sprayed down
the chair with Lysol.
All right.
We dealt with epidemics
of Zika, Ebola, MERS,
and H1N1 influenza.
Our Emergency Operations Center
was activated
more than 90% of the time
that I was there.
That's the way of reducing
if there is a lot of H1N1.
We do think there may
be some challenges, though,
practical challenges.
President Obama made it very
clear that HHS was in the lead
and that I would be the
spokesperson for the flu,
as he would call me,
the face of the flu.
H1N1 was very scary
because children were
particularly vulnerable.
Hi, it's Elmo.
And I'm Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius.
and Secretary Sebelius...
Teaching kids to sneeze into
their elbows was a big thing.
First, you learn to sneeze into
the bend of your arm like this.
- Achoo.
- Oh, very good.
[solemn music]
narrator: 13,000 Americans
died from H1N1
and the Obama Administration
vaccine distribution,
but scientists gave
the administration high marks
for moving quickly
and being open
with the press and the public.
Just four years later,
the Obama Administration's
response to the Ebola crisis
would be criticized
for being too slow.
In the case of Ebola
I remember being in the room,
in the White House
briefing room.
You guys are up here
talking about,
"We have this great and
perfect system that's going
"to be able to, you know,
contain this virus
because we've done
all this preparation,"
and yet it doesn't
look like it's working.
Hindsight is always 20/20.
I can look back at any outbreak
I worked on
and say, "I made a series
of mistakes there."
We all do, but the key is,
are they unforced errors?
I think it is important
to reflect
on whatever lessons we learn,
we build and incorporate.
After the Ebola crisis
the Obama National Security
Council had essentially
created a unit within
the National Security Council
dedicated to sort of
pandemic response.
No, I cannot see Ben.
I can see his hand
when he moves it out here,
but he's got a face shield on.
It's pretty good.
narrator: Beth Cameron
was in charge of countering
biological threats
for the Obama Administration.
We set up a new directorate
on global health security
and biodefense,
and I was honored to be able
to lead that directorate,
and also to be able to take on
a lot of the lessons
that we really had learned
after the Ebola epidemic.
In 2016,
Beth Cameron and her team
at the NSC
drafted a 69-page playbook on
how to deal with a pandemic.
The playbook was intended
to allow people in the
White House to ask questions.
What should we do?
And also,
what do we need to do
to get ahead so that we're
not constantly reacting?
So what happened
to this playbook?
So the playbook is reported
to not have been used.
The Obama Administration
did not leave
to this administration
any kind of game plan
for something like this.
I have no idea why
Mitch McConnell said
that he didn't know
about the playbook.
There were a large number
of copies
that were spiral bound
of this playbook.
It was briefed to
the incoming administration.
It did become politicized.
Some have
erroneously suggested
that the Trump Administration
threw out
the pandemic response playbook
left by the Obama-Biden
What the critics failed
to note, however,
is that this thin packet
of paper was replaced
by two detailed, robust,
pandemic response reports
by the Trump Administration.
The last thing that they
wanted was to pay attention
to what the Obama people
wanted them
to pay attention to.
They were trying
to make a clean break
from what they saw
as a disastrous presidency,
and this was
the Trump presidency.
And I'm proud
to be An American
Where at least
I know I'm free
I think it's important
to understand
that biological threats
are not the thing
that is always top of mind
for a senior leader.
And I'd gladly stand up
But there really was
a lot of pressure
on all of the civil servants
in between Barack Obama
and Donald Trump
to explain why we need
high-level officials
who are looking at that issue
all the time.
After I left, I continued
to work with the Trump team
in my new position
outside of government
until the directorate
was dissolved in May of 2018.
narrator: The Global National
Security Team was disbanded
under a reorganization
by Trump's National
Security Advisor, John Bolton.
It was really shocking
that any administration
would get rid of so much
experience and expertise
and the collaboration
and coordination
that comes with that...
those years.
narrator: From the moment
of Trump's inauguration,
the guiding slogan of staffing
was not "you're hired,"
but "you're fired."
Key positions went unfilled.
Many more were eliminated.
And when people were hired,
experience was not nearly
as important as loyalty.
On January 29th, the White
House announced the formation
of an official task force
to confront the threat
of the coronavirus.
Well, good afternoon,
I'm Alex Azar.
Led by Azar,
the task force had
little scientific expertise.
Most were businessmen
and lawyers, seemingly chosen
for their political
or religious beliefs.
One had been Sarah Palin's
foreign policy advisor.
Another was
a climate change denier
who opposed homosexuality
as an act against nature.
The only two
public health officials
were Redfield
and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
At the National Institute
of Health,
Fauci had advised
six presidents
and had been at the forefront
of every epidemic response
for the last 40 years.
The issue now with this is
that there's a lot of unknowns.
As you can see
just from the media,
the number of cases
have steeply inclined
each and every day.
At the first briefing,
they announced
no concrete programs
to contain the virus
inside the borders
of the United States.
Instead, they offered
a variation
of a familiar Trump refrain...
"build a wall."
Foreign nationals,
other than immediate family
of U.S. citizens
and permanent residents
who have traveled in China
within the last 14 days
will be denied entry into the
United States for this time.
[tense music]
In the months after that,
tens of thousands of people
from China still make their way
into the United States,
mostly Americans
who are returning home
and are not blocked
by that ruling.
"Diamond Princess,"
this is your captain speaking
from the bridge.
We have been notified that
10 additional people
have tested positive
for coronavirus.
narrator: The captain
of the "Diamond Princess"
had docked his vessel
in Yokohama
after learning a passenger had
tested positive for COVID-19.
The Japanese government
ordered a 14-day quarantine.
over 700 passengers
would test positive.
That made
the "Diamond Princess"
the largest known outbreak
of the virus outside of China.
Donald Trump, save us.
Get us a government-based
- Not even that, just like...
- Get us off the ship.
I received a phone call
that a disaster
medical assistance team
was being assembled
to do a rescue operation
to go pull American citizens
off of the "Diamond Princess"
and bring them back to the U.S.
And I was asked
if I would be willing to go
as an expert
to go help the team.
Okay, they've got a bunch
of people in white coats.
They're not white coats.
They're white hazmat suits.
They're white hazmat suits.
They've got these
little tunnels down here.
The E.T. Tunnels, I call them.
At the time, we still
didn't know a lot
the transmission dynamics
or even the severity
and lethality of the disease.
The "Diamond Princess"
many, many of what
I was nervous about.
First of all, it shows
how it spread
in a confined environment
with lots of people, right?
Even though all of them
has their own cubicle,
but that's exactly
like apartment complexes
in New York City,
and you go out, right?
You go to places confined
in a mall, and in classrooms,
in dormitories,
in many, many settings.
It basically gave us
a very parallel world
of what could be happening
to us.
Even after the ship went
into quarantine
and passengers were really
restricted to their rooms,
the fact that the outbreak
continued to grow demonstrated
that there may be more
to transmission phenomenon
than we initially thought.
[solemn music]
So when we saw that,
that really hit home to us
that this is
a pretty explosive situation.
Okay, they quarantine, but
yet the spread is like fire.
It shows... it really highlights
strategic tests is a must.
narrator: Eva Lee began
to sound the alarm
in the "Red Dawn" emails
about asymptomatic spread
and the need to test widely.
She knew in early February
what federal officials
refused to recognize.
Only a vast infrastructure
for mass testing
could spot and contain a virus
that was already moving
invisibly across the country.
Then I thought to myself,
"That is it."
We will have no chance
to contain.
If we are not going
to take actions now,
we would regret and
we would be late, late, late.
The trifecta is test,
trace, and isolate.
You need to have all three
of those working in tandem
to be able to take down
any infectious disease.
I'm from Hong Kong,
and I grew up during SARS,
so I guess that was my first
experience with an outbreak,
which has turned out to be
an interesting reference point
during this outbreak.
[mischievous music]
My boss was like, "You
should cover the coronavirus."
So my question's gonna be,
where are we deviating
from the playbook?
That's where I hold
the government accountable.
So the CDC made a test
that worked in their lab
before the first case of COVID
landed in the state of
Washington on January 20.
What they saw as their next
step was sending test kits
based on their design
to public labs
around the country.
So CDC can't just
make a test and send it out.
They have to apply for
Emergency Use Authorization.
This week, the FDA issued
an Emergency Use Authorization
for the CDC's diagnostic test.
Having a declaration
of an emergency
allows you to, like,
cut through a lot of red tape
where, like, you don't have to
approve things
the traditional pathway,
which takes many, many years.
So it's like going through the
precheck line at the airport.
FDA issued the EUA to CDC
really on February 4th,
and test kits were available
on the 5th.
The test kits
will start shipping
to the over 100
U.S. public health labs.
Each test kit can perform
up to 800 patient samples.
It works in about
four to five hours' time.
And that's pretty heroic,
in two weeks,
to develop test kits
for the country.
So, so far,
speaking of the playbook,
everything was going right.
The first thing
public health labs have to do
after they get the test
is they have to verify
that the test works
in their hands,
in their laboratory,
with their scientists.
So on Saturday, February 8th,
labs opened up their boxes
and they started to get
the test up and running.
And then, the next morning,
I see a number of emails
from public health
laboratory directors saying,
"We're seeing this problem
with one of the components
"of the test, the N3,
and is anyone else
seeing that?"
Then my phone started
to blow up.
It became apparent that
we actually had a real problem.
And I thought to myself,
"Oh, my God.
This is a nightmare."
There were many labs that
were having the same problem.
So that was an indication
that this was coming
from the CDC labs.
There are three components
to the CDC-designed tests.
They are called
the N1, N2, and N3 assay,
and the N1 and N2 assay,
look specifically for
the COVID-19 coronavirus.
And then they had
a 3rd component, the N3 assay,
which was designed to look
for any coronavirus.
And I don't know
why they decided
to throw that third part in.
They didn't need it,
but that third part
is the part that caused
all the problems.
It was
a contamination problem.
This was just
a huge lightbulb moment
where... wow, we could
really be on pause.
The CDC says they're working
with states now
to fix the tests.
They did not say how many
of the kits have flaws.
Now, this was
really frustrating
to a lot of lab directors
because they were like,
"Look, the N1 and N2 part
of this test are working
"totally fine,
"so why don't we
just ignore the part
that isn't working?"
Under an Emergency Use
you're not supposed to do that.
You have to run that test
exactly as it's assigned.
As it turned out,
over 90% of public health labs
had tests
that were not working.
So it was really
as if we were flying blind,
and we knew it, and frankly,
there was nothing
we could do except wait.
[solemn music]
There was a working
effective test
that was created
in a German laboratory
that was being distributed by
the World Health Organization
to countries
all around the world.
It is available now
and we are shipping
an essential component to labs
to really start
working immediately.
The WHO test
quite frankly is used
for low and moderately
income countries.
I think it would've
been very unusual
to use another country's test,
and not for political reasons.
Just, I guess, because of maybe
scientific hubris.
We've never had a failure
like this.
narrator: Despite the
technical problems at the CDC,
the Trump Administration
could have insisted
on an alternate plan.
Public labs could have pivoted
to the WHO test
or removed the N3 element.
Test manufacturers
and clinical labs
were eager to start making
their own tests,
but for reasons
that remain unexplained,
the FDA put the brakes
on the approval process.
Looks like the setup
is pretty good.
Oh, good, doctor approved?
Yup, exactly.
My name is Taison Bell.
I'm an infectious disease
and critical care physician
at the University of Virginia.
I'm the director
of the COVID ICU.
It's really important to know
who's positive
in the community
and to be able to test in a
widespread, aggressive fashion
so we can really stop
the chain of transmission
of the virus.
there's a lot of leeway
when it comes
to federal regulations
and hospital laboratories'
to set up
their in-house testing,
but the thing about
the emergency declaration
was that it made
the diagnostic innovation
more difficult because now
it had to go through the FDA.
So now, all of a sudden,
any university laboratory
that has the experience
and the know-how to set up
their own in-house testing
now has to clear it
in order to make this work.
We're not
a public health lab.
As a clinical lab,
we're not part of this system.
You know, the CDC and the state
public health labs
are fantastic,
but clinical labs,
like hospital clinical labs,
commercial labs,
perform 90% to 95% of testing.
We really are the front lines
of the public health system,
and so it's really important
that we're a part of
that conversation as well.
So we're trying
to figure out, is it better
to just deal with the FDA
and the backlog there
and set up
our own in-house testing,
or do we just wait for the CDC
to fix the issues
with the test?
We decided initially to wait,
and that was
the wrong decision.
Many labs gave up
rather than face the thicket
of bureaucratic rules.
But Alex Greninger
did not give up,
and instead began
to slog through
the FDA regulatory process.
So at that point, you had
to really go fully in.
You gotta make your own test.
So we got the template
and the paperwork.
You couldn't get
the comments back
until you mail in
the document.
Even though you'd
email a document,
you had to burn it to a CD
or a USB
and physically send
the document as well.
The original process suggested
testing 50 positive samples,
but in that case in the U.S.,
there were 14 known cases.
But even getting
that one sample,
that one positive sample,
was the hardest part.
And obtaining clinical material
from the CDC
is very difficult.
And I think that was
when you realize
that the FDA and the CDC
maybe hadn't talked a ton.
Swing your partner
around and 'round.
And around.
And around.
While federal agencies failed
to talk to each other, the
virus swirled in mid-February
through a series of square
dances in suburban Seattle.
With every do-si-do,
the virus changed partners.
But without testing,
scientists couldn't
follow the spread.
The emergency steps meant
for speed and innovation
slowed the process down
to a crawl.
The White House could have
cut through the red tape.
The mystery
is why those in power
didn't force the bureaucracy
to find a quick solution.
While we were on pause,
the anxiety level
of our members just increased
exponentially, day after day.
There was just more
frustration, concern,
frankly sadness,
because we weren't
able to do our job.
That was really tough.
narrator: While testing
in the U.S. was stalled,
in South Korea, the government
was already moving
to contain the virus
by utilizing
a comprehensive national
testing and tracing program.
I think they did
a much better job.
I think starting
from the testing roll-out,
a lot of our jealousy early on
was just how rapidly
they were able
to test a large proportion
of their population.
And they were testing
relatively younger
asymptomatic people
as well as older people
who had more severe diseases,
and they were able
to do contact tracing.
Because of the laws
that were passed in 2016,
enabling contact tracers
to obtain vast amounts
of information in the name
of disease control,
there was a large amount
of data
that authorities here
can access.
Cell tower information,
CCTV footage,
credit card data.
And this information
was pushed out
to the general public
using cell phone alerts.
[both singing in Korean]
[sings in Korean]
To glance behind
The Phantom of the Opera
- Is here
- [squeals]
If two people singing
could spread the disease,
imagine thousands
singing in one room.
[all singing in Korean]
A major outbreak was traced
to the Shincheonji Church,
a doomsday Christian cult.
[all singing in Korean]
Led by a self-proclaimed
messiah, Chairman Lee.
- Hallelujah.
- "Hallelujah."
narrator: The Korean
government descended
on the city of Daegu,
where the church had
its primary place of worship.
By testing, tracing,
and isolating
the followers of Chairman Lee,
officials tried
to prevent the virus
from spreading
to the rest of the city.
Thousands of additional
people had been exposed.
It led to South Korea's
numbers soaring.
Because South Korea had
already started ramping up
diagnostic test production,
they were able to seek out
every member of this church
in Daegu
and get them tested.
The President of South Korea
has put the country
on the highest possible alert
after the number of cases
jumped to more than 760
and the death toll rose to 7.
Because of the surge
of cases in Daegu,
South Korea started opening up
these centers.
[speaking Korean]
Drive-through testing
and special testing booths
protected healthcare workers
while dramatically increasing
testing capacity.
And manufacturers were able
to keep up with the volume.
South Korea also
stepped up production of PPE
to protect health workers
and the public alike.
Early adoption of testing
would save South Korea.
At the same moment
in the United States,
testing was still halted,
and the nation was blind
to where and how
the virus was spreading.
Because of all we've done,
the risk to the American
people remains very low.
When you have 15 people, and
the 15 within a couple of days
is going to be down to close
to zero, we're doing great.
Other countries
have not been doing great.
Our consumer
is very, very strong,
very powerful economically.
narrator: Underneath
the booming economic wave
was an invisible undertow
of disease.
By mid-February,
pandemic models indicate
that there were thousands
of cases spreading
through Seattle, Chicago,
San Francisco, and New York.
By mid to late February,
the sort of top experts...
Robert Redfield,
Nancy Messonnier,
Anthony Fauci, Azar...
they decide,
"We gotta tell the president
"that we have to become
more aggressive
"about warning
the American public
that this is where
we're headed."
[overlapping chatter]
The problem was the president
just that next day
left for another foreign trip
to India.
Well, I look forward to being
with the people of India.
We're gonna have many millions
and millions of people.
They wanted to brief
the president obviously
before you sort of made
this sort of...
right turn on messaging.
Yeah, we're
very much involved.
We're very...
very cognizant
of everything going on.
We have it very much
under control.
Thank you very much, everybody.
And the doctors knew that
this wasn't the kind of thing
that you brief
over the telephone,
so they decided,
"We'll set up a briefing
for the president
the day he gets back."
Indian Prime Minister
Narendra Modi
rolled out the red carpet
for President Trump.
[traditional music]
[cheers and applause]
[cheers and applause]
President Trump often judges
events based on their size.
The bigger the better,
so it's fitting
that this stadium
was absolutely packed
with more than 100,000 people.
The rally kicked off
a whirlwind trip
packed with the pageantry
that the president so loves.
As of this morning,
we still have only 14 cases
of the China coronavirus
detected here
in the United States.
We have three cases
among Americans repatriated
from Wuhan,
and we have 40 cases
among American passengers
repatriated from the
"Diamond Princess" in Japan.
We're trying to engage
in radical transparency
with the American public
as we go through this.
This morning, Dr. Messonnier
from the CDC
the usual tele-briefing.
There was
a bit of confusion,
and it was Nancy Messonnier's
that the green light
had been given
for that new message
to be delivered
before briefing the president.
So at her next conference call
for reporters,
she went to town.
I remember being shocked,
thinking, "Does she realize
what she just said?"
I can't say that I know
what was
in Nancy Messonnier's mind,
but it wouldn't be hard
to guess
that there must have
been a level of frustration
built up inside the CDC
about a president who
doesn't take this seriously.
I mean, you know,
that was palpable.
Statements were made
for the first time
to prepare the psyche
of Americans
for what we, the scientists,
knew was coming.
It was a turning point
in this outbreak
because the truth was finally
broken through that shell
of so many people
standing there every day
telling Americans,
"We have it under control.
"We have it contained.
It's not a problem.
It's going away."
Those were the messages
every day up until that point.
She gives that briefing
at virtually the exact moment
that Trump
is walking up the steps
on "Air Force One" in India.
On a larger scale,
communities and cities
may need to modify, postpone,
or cancel mass gatherings.
Nancy Messonnier's comments
tank the market.
1,000 point drop in the DOW.
Stocks fall sharply
as fears spread
that growing coronavirus
will slow the global economy.
It was essentially
a kind of freak out.
The stock market
taking another beating
after a sharp new warning
from the CDC.
Also, tonight...
Trump doesn't like
to be surprised.
The one gleaming,
wonderful thing
that was giving him and his
advisors hope was the economy.
It was the silver bullet.
That was how he was going
to win a second term.
[eerie tone]
That, combined
with Messonnier's threat
of what she was suggesting...
shut the country down...
"You're saying something
"that's gonna threaten
the economy,
and by definition,
threaten my reelection."
It's an 18-hour flight back.
By the time Trump lands,
the whole thing had spun out
of control, and he was livid.
He calls up Alex Azar,
wakes him up,
screaming at him...
what had happened?
"Do you know Nancy Messonnier
had scared the shit
out of people?"
[overlapping chatter]
The CDC said yesterday that
they believe it's inevitable
that the virus will spread
in the United States,
and it's not a question
of if, but when.
Do you agree
with that assessment?
Whatever happens,
we're totally prepared.
We have the best people
in the world.
Notably missing
from "the best people
in the world"
was Dr. Nancy Messonnier.
It didn't surprise me
that the moment she said that,
that she would be removed
from that platform.
I'm going to be announcing
exactly right now
that I'm gonna be putting
our Vice President, Mike Pence,
in charge.
I'm gonna ask Mike Pence
to say a few words, please.
Thank you.
After the episode
with Nancy Messonnier,
when Pence's team
takes over from Azar,
essentially the message
gets contained.
Not in the least.
I was delighted that I get to
have the Vice President helping
in this way.
narrator: Now at the helm
of the task force,
Pence promptly promoted
Deborah Birx,
a doctor and a diplomat,
to be a spokesperson.
Dr. Birx, who is our right
arm at the White House on this,
and frankly, one of the
leading experts in the world
on infectious disease,
I think is...
Pence trusted Birx
on account of her Christian
faith and political instincts.
She'd become a go-to-explainer
for a White House interested
in packaging science
to serve partisan goals.
We really want
to understand
where the virus is spreading,
who we have to protect,
who's the most vulnerable.
narrator: That would have
been easy to understand
if there had been
a national testing program,
but that was still stalled.
While countries
all over the world
were testing thousands
of cases,
the United States was testing
fewer than 100 a day.
At that stage, the
only labs across the country
that could legally test
were a few
public health laboratories
and the CDC itself.
The frustration
was just boiling over,
and I remember going
to these meetings
with our clinical lab director,
and she'sliterally on the
phone with the FDA and the CDC
like, "You need to help us!
You need to help us."
After almost a month
of labs across the country
being unable to test,
the Trump Administration
finally made a decision
it could have made
weeks earlier.
On February 26th,
the FDA and the CDC
laid out the strategy,
and that was that we would
be able to get up and running
by using the original test kit,
but by throwing out
the N3 component.
Overnight with, you know,
with some crossing out
of lines on some paper,
the same test kits
that had been shipped out
to the state public health
labs were functional.
That amended EUA was
Wednesday, February 26th,
and you can watch the testing
curve in the United States.
I mean it really
didn't start going up
until that week.
Here in Washington State
at the state lab,
they had positive results
the very first time
they performed
authorized tests.
After desperate pleas
from health care providers,
the FDA also relaxed
regulations and
let manufacturers and hospital
labs use their own tests.
But it was too little,
too late.
The disease had spread to half
the states in the country.
And test kits were
in such short supply
that they were limited
to patients
who met rigid guidelines
set by the CDC.
Early on, our testing
was limited to people
who had traveled from China,
or they had had contact
with someone who was known
tested positive for COVID-19.
So written in our guidelines,
by necessity because we had
a strained testing supply,
it was designed to miss
community transmission,
meaning transmission
that happens
throughout the community
that's not connected to travel,
that we know at some point's
gonna happen.
And it's like we're
looking in this area,
and we know that
transmission's gonna happen
over here, and we're
gonna miss it
because we can't test for it.
[eerie music]
On February 27th,
the new testing
recommendations came out.
Do you mind
removing the mask?
- Is that okay?
- Oh, no, not at all.
Didn't know what your rules of
engagement were there, so...
The new addition was
this line that said,
"If you have severe
lower respiratory pneumonia,
"severe pneumonia or ARDS...
"Acute Respiratory
Distress Syndrome...
you should consider testing."
With the updated guidelines,
we initiated testing
in two individuals,
and both of those individuals
tested positive.
So that evening after
we got the first two back,
we looked around the
intensive care unit and said,
"Okay, who else is sick
with pneumonia
"that has not been diagnosed
with influenza
or another respiratory virus?"
And we selected
nine more individuals.
Eight of those turned out
to be positive for COVID.
It was an astounding
narrator: The revelation was
that while testing protocols
were on hold, the disease
had spread uncontrollably,
which would lead
to economic disaster
and loss of tens of thousands
of lives.
The real question is,
did more people die?
Did more dislocation
and economic problems
and societal change
have to happen than did?
The period that
in our reporting
that we have called
"The Lost Month,"
that really was the time
when things happened
in the United States
much more slowly
than they happened in,
for example, South Korea,
and it became impossible
to do containment.
[siren wailing]
narrator: Because the U.S.
failed to contain the virus,
state governments
moved to lockdowns
to avoid runaway contagion
and to prevent hospitals
from being overwhelmed.
Over 100,000 small businesses
would close and never reopen.
7 million Americans would be
infected by the disease.
But back in late February,
the government refused
to confront the reckoning
that was about to come.
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.
The president
is also quoted by saying,
"The virus we're talking
about having to do,
"you know, a lot of people
think it goes away in April
with the heat."
Dr. Fauci, does this go away
in April?
If it acts like influenza,
the heat will actually make it
diminish in its impact,
but we have no way of knowing
how it's gonna act.
Does the CDC agree
that this is a problem
that is going to go away
without intervention?
I think it's prudent
to assume
that this pathogen will be
with us for some time to come.
The President's expressing
confidence this team,
the public health
infrastructure in this country,
state and local,
that we can deal with this.
We will prepare for this.
We will work together on this.
He's trying to calm
a public that...
we see in China, panic can be
as big of an enemy as virus
in these situations,
and so there is always
that balance to...
Mr. Secretary, I don't want
to panic over this either.
The stock market's crashing.
He's outright contradicting
everything that you all
have just said.
Outright contradiction!
I think he's
expressing confidence in...
With no medical basis for it!
That's what you've
just explained to us.
Come on, sir.
The gentleman's time
has expired.
You're doing a great job for
the president, Mr. Secretary.
Now the Democrats are
politicizing the coronavirus.
You know that right?
[crowd boos]
One of my people came up
to me and said,
"Mr. President,
they tried to beat you
"on Russia, Russia, Russia.
They tried
the impeachment hoax."
And this is their new hoax.
And so far,
we have lost nobody
to coronavirus
in the United States.
narrator: The next day,
that would change.
Today, Public Health... Seattle
and King County... is announcing
three new presumptive positive
cases of novel coronavirus,
COVID-19, including
one person who died.
We have expressed
our condolences to the families
of the individual
who has passed away.
It was one of the first
two patients diagnosed,
it was my patient,
and all we saw was a future
of extremely ill individuals
like this.
So it was a challenging moment,
a daunting moment,
to come to that realization.
Today, health officials
in Washington State
announced four new deaths,
bringing the total to six,
all in the Seattle area.
narrator: By early March,
King County, Washington
had become the epicenter
of the coronavirus in the U.S.
due to the Lifecare
Nursing Home.
They're not answering
the phones, the lines are busy.
All the families
are really worried,
not knowing if our loved ones
are even alive.
It was a blur of activity.
[siren wailing]
We realized that our hospital
was now the tip
of the iceberg.
We soon found out
how deep that iceberg went.
narrator: Because test kits
were in short supply,
access was limited to patients
who were dangerously close
to respiratory failure.
The death count began to rise.
COVID began spreading
to health care workers
and first responders.
The job situation
put them at increased risk.
Nurses' aides in nursing homes
without the protective
equipment or training
they needed
to be safe and secure.
Individuals who have jobs
that were considered
essential jobs,
they're stocking
grocery shelves
and helping to pick up trash
in communities
and sweep the streets.
While many affluent Americans
worked on computers at home,
low-paid essential workers,
many without masks
and the ability to distance,
were jammed
into sites of contagion
like delivery depots,
industrial farms, factories,
funeral homes,
and meatpacking plants.
If the impact of the disease
was divided by occupation,
it was also sundered
by age and race.
My grandmother used to say,
"You know, when the country
gets the flu,
black people get pneumonia."
It's well-known in our circles
that we have worse outcomes
when it comes to a lot
of these different diseases,
you know, and part of that
is systemic racism.
A lot of it is
access to healthcare.
If you have the money, you
can get the best healthcare
in the world,
but without those resources,
you have inadequate care
and sporadic care.
So any kind of disease spread
then falls hardest
on communities that
are already at a health risk.
What are we dealing with?
With this coronavirus,
We're dealing with clearly
an emerging infectious disease
that has now reached
outbreak proportions
and likely
pandemic proportions.
The "Grand Princess"
Cruise Ship has been moored
off the coast of California.
I want to commend the efforts
of our Coast Guard
that heroically flew
coronavirus tests
to the ship.
21 tested positive
for the coronavirus.
[solemn music]
narrator: On his way
to a weekend trip
to Mar-a-Lago,
Trump made a stop at the CDC.
Watching the president go
to the Centers
for Disease Control,
he discussed with a reporter
the fact that one of the cruise
ships was still offshore.
I'd rather have them stay on
because I like the numbers
being where they are.
I don't need to have
the numbers double
because of one ship.
For the first time,
it occurred to me
that the government
of the United States
was intentionally
slow walking testing.
In this big vast land
of ours,
this great country of ours,
we have 240 cases.
Most of those people
are gonna be fine.
The vast majority
are going to be fine.
We've had 11 deaths.
All of our state labs
now have the ability
to test for this virus...
And they have had.
The testing has been
amazing, actually,
what they've been able
to produce
in such a short period of time.
Anybody that wants a test
can get a test.
narrator: Anybody who wanted
a test knew that was a lie.
Just finding a facility
was hard.
People with the disease
were denied tests
on account of supply backlogs,
which also caused delays
in results.
The next day,
while Trump golfed,
Pence and Redfield went
to Cruise Lines of America.
We all recognize
the recent challenges
on the "Diamond Princess,"
and the ongoing challenge
with the "Grand Princess,"
and we want to ensure
that the American people
can continue as we deal
with the coronavirus
to enjoy the opportunities
in the cruise line industry
and be confident.
I would not encourage anyone
to change their plans
at this point
based on what the epidemiology
is here in Florida.
They should enjoy Disneyland.
They should enjoy
the rest of Florida.
There is this
back and forth,
the medical folks saying
we need to take this seriously,
we need to be aggressive,
the economic folks pushing back
and saying, "Yeah, but..."
Fauci would march up
and answer questions.
Do you believe that people,
even if they're healthy, should
get onboard a cruise ship?
I would recommend strongly
that they do not
go on a cruise ship.
And then Trump or Pence
would come back
and sort of contradict him.
We're gonna work
with the cruise line industry
to improve the safety,
improve the health environment
on cruise lines.
Frankly, the testing
has been going very smooth.
If you go to the right agency,
if you go to the right area,
you get the test.
Will you admit that
there is a serious problem
in this country
obtaining access to testing
for coronavirus?
My colleague is looking at me
to answer that.
- Here we go.
- Okay.
The system
is not really geared
to what we need right now.
- That is a failing.
- A failing, yes.
It is a failing.
Let's admit it.
Dr. Fauci said
earlier this week
that the lag in testing
was, in fact, a failing.
Do you take responsibility
for that?
Yeah, no, I don't take
responsibility at all.
We're doing a great job.
Yeah, we have 40 people
right now... 40.
Compare that
with other countries
that have many, many times
that amount.
[ambient music]
To keep new cases
from entering our shores,
we will be suspending
all travel from Europe
to the United States
for the next 30 days.
There was a problem
with Trump's
sudden travel ban...
it had no plan attached.
If we do get back
to the U.S., then what happens?
Do we go into quarantine?
Do we go home?
narrator: Returning Americans
flooded U.S. airports,
where they were jammed in
makeshift COVID checkpoints.
They were perfect conditions
for more contagion,
as travelers from Europe
spread the virus into the U.S.
[daunting music]
The message to New Yorkers
from the beginning has been,
"This is something
we all can handle together.
Go about your lives.
Go about your business."
The Governor confirming
that coronavirus has arrived
here in Manhattan.
The coronavirus spreads
tonight as Governor Cuomo
announces five more
positive cases in New York.
The number of confirmed
cases has reached 121.
Today, Governor Cuomo
announcing a ban
on any gatherings
of 500 people or more.
And 613 confirmed cases
of coronavirus in New York.
That is more
than any other state.
I'm glad to see that you're
practicing social distancing.
That looks very nice.
We're announcing new guidelines
for every American to follow.
Avoid gathering in groups
of more than 10 people,
and avoid eating and drinking
in bars, restaurants.
And if everybody in America
does what we ask for,
we will see
a dramatic difference,
and we won't have to worry
about the ventilators,
and we won't have to worry
about the ICU beds.
Our volume
is just exploding.
We have so many people
in the hallways.
A day or so ago, we put
14 people on ventilators.
Mayor de Blasio says that
there have been 100 new cases
in the city today alone.
So we're going to put out
an executive order today.
New York State on pause.
19 million New Yorkers are
being asked to stay at home
as much as possible.
Now topping
85,000 confirmed cases
and more than 1,400 deaths.
I hate to say this,
but it's true...
we are now the epicenter
of this crisis
right here
in the nation's largest city.
And if this goes on for
a month, or two, or three,
or five like it did in China,
we don't have what we need.
[siren wailing]
This is not a country that
was built to be shut down.
We're not gonna let the cure
be worse than the problem.
Worried about the economy,
Trump tried
to limit shutdowns,
but the virus
was out of control.
By April, over 3,000
New Yorkers had died,
surpassing the death toll
of 9/11.
ICUs were over capacity with
patients who couldn't breathe.
Ventilators were
in short supply,
and many of those who got them
did not survive.
We had seen the pandemic
was really taking off
in New York City.
We were in a central area
of Virginia
where there's not
a huge population,
and it was like being
on a coastal city
and you hear
about an earthquake
that happens offshore.
You know that
a tsunami is coming.
You just don't know
when it's gonna happen
and how severe it's gonna be.
A U.S. Marine in Virginia
has tested positive
for the coronavirus.
This is the first
positive case in Virginia,
and here's what we know.
I remember one day, I was
rounding in our COVID ICU,
and our unit is structured
kind of like a V,
so there's one wing here,
another wing over there.
And you know, these are some
of the sickest patients
I've ever taken care of
in my life.
They're on breathing machines,
dialysis machines.
They are needing
lots of medicines
to keep them sedated and calm.
And I'm trying to get
through morning rounds,
and I see that on one wing,
it's almost
all Hispanic last names.
And then, on the other wing,
it's almost all Black names.
I grew up an hour away
from where I'm working.
These are the family names
that I grew up with,
and I know these families.
And I just was trying
to focus on the medical part
and just getting through it,
but I just felt this weight
on my chest.
I'm a Black male
in the United States
and my family members
have chronic diseases
at high rates,
and I've been dealing
with this my whole life.
And now I have family members
who are contracting COVID.
Those are smiles and hugs
and tears and barbeques.
They're not numbers
on a paper.
Through the spring,
the death toll would rise
to 100,000.
It was a terrifying marker
for the failure
of the American response.
The U.S. was 4%
of the world's population
and 20% of the deaths
from the virus.
Despite the fatal consequences
of inaction,
the government could not solve
basic problems
like supplies for test kits.
[tense music]
In March, we started to see
the global supply chain
really get jammed up.
So it was extraction kits,
The major producer of swabs
is in the Lombardy region
of Italy.
And Italy had just gone
on lockdown,
and the swabs company
was in a no-fly zone,
so the U.S. supply
is basically going...
grinding to a halt.
Every single step of the way,
we've encountered an issue
or a problem
with the supply chain.
Potential supply chain
had been identified
in "Crimson Contagion."
The focus was on testing
supplies and lifesaving PPE.
The most critical items needed
were N95 masks,
whose firm fit and tight mesh
offered healthcare workers
real protection
from the disease.
We had estimated the number
of N95 respirators
that would be needed.
That number was 3 1/2 billion.
And we had a fraction
of what we would need
in the stockpile.
And all of those had
a five-year shelf life,
and a lot of those,
they were purchased
almost ten years ago.
Despite Ebola,
despite Zika, despite H1N1,
filling up the national
stockpile for some virus
that we don't even know
is ever gonna come
has never been
the top priority.
You can say the Obama
Administration didn't do enough
to leave the next
administration prepared.
You can also say,
"Well, that's true,
but the Trump Administration
had three and a half years."
The Strategic National
Stockpile was not intended
to be everything that we would
need for an entire crisis.
I think in mid-January,
the U.S. government
should have been looking
at the stockpile
to see what was in it
and how we were gonna pivot
to manufacture more.
We should have been
having the conversation
about the Defense
Production Act in January.
There's talk
of invoking war powers
to require U.S. companies
to manufacture some goods.
That's right,
so that's called
the Defense Production Act.
I believe it came
into existence
during the Korean War.
Effectively, we can determine
that our production should get
to the front of the line.
We'll use it if we need to,
but we obviously...
if we can work cooperatively
with any vendor,
we'd rather do that.
narrator: "Let the market
work its magic."
That was the guiding
philosophy for Azar and Trump,
but their anti-government
ignored basic rules
of supply and demand.
Without a large order from
the United States government,
there really wasn't an
incentive for these companies
to start maximizing
their throughput.
I was getting reports from
Mike Bowen, one of the few
remaining producers
of face masks and respirators
in the United States
who had his finger on the pulse
of the supply chain.
I'm a salesman telling
a story that nobody believes.
The story is that the U.S.
mask supply is gonna collapse
and people are gonna die.
It doesn't cost much to fix.
That's the story.
Around 2005, all of the major
mask makers left the country.
It put the U.S. mask supply
in the hands of foreign control
and could be subject to
diversion during a pandemic.
And that's what I've been
warning about for years.
I wrote Barack Obama
20 letters.
"Tell America's hospitals
that they are going to be
"in a position to not be
able to protect their staff
and their patients."
I voted for Donald Trump.
I thought, "You know,
if I contact enough people
"in the administration,
somebody, one of these people
"are gonna look at this and go,
'Hey, this is a problem.
Maybe we ought
to call this guy.'"
And no, I couldn't get any...
I didn't get
any response there.
narrator: In January,
Bowen's predictions came true.
As China struggled to contain
the outbreak of COVID,
it limited the export of N95
masks to the United States.
At the end of January,
I'm hearing
from all over the world.
People are freaking out about
masks, and needing masks.
And that's when I got ahold
of Rick and said,
"Hey, here's what
I'm seeing out here.
This is gonna be bad."
He was sounding the
alarm bells almost every day.
We can't protect
America's population.
That's too late, but I said
I can at least make
enough masks to protect
America's healthcare workers.
I reminded him that we had
these four respirator lines.
To activate them we would need
more people, raw materials,
emergency NIOSH approval, and
large non-cancellable orders.
I see that our country's
gonna have a problem,
I get ahold of Rick.
I pushed every one
of those emails
up to the Strategic
National Stockpile
and Critical
Infrastructure Team.
I reminded them
of the H5N1 scare,
when people rushed to buy
masks and hoard masks.
The response I got was,
"We will just change
the CDC guideline.
And we'll just tell people,
don't do that."
Basically in March,
they realized
that the healthcare workers
are not going
to have enough PPE,
so they basically issued
a warning to the public,
"Do not use face masks."
Do you have any sense
of how many more N95 masks
would be on the market had the
federal government taken you up
on your offer to reactivate
N95 manufacturing lines
in January?
About 7 million
N95 respirators per month.
I sounded the alarm every day
about the shortage
of N95 respirators,
and we were doing nothing.
The numbers continue
to surge in hotspots
like California, Michigan,
Louisiana, Florida,
and especially,
of course, New York.
Medical resources
are stretched to capacity
and beyond.
[solemn music]
We had saved
some outdated N95 masks
that were part
of the Ebola response,
but quickly we ran out
of those supplies,
so we had to make do.
Some of the N95 masks
that we received
had been in storage
for years and years,
and while the actual
mask itself worked fine,
the rubber band was brittle.
So there were people
in the room
taking care of a patient,
and the mask just snaps off.
The CDC is now
advising healthcare workers
to ration masks,
to use expired masks,
even use bandanas or scarves
as a last resort.
Our usage increased
by several hundredfold.
We could see our equipment
supply going down dramatically.
So you kind of clamp down a
little bit and say, you know,
"We're gonna save it for these
very specific encounters."
So now, from the perspective
of a healthcare worker,
you're taking away my safety.
And what people really
wanted was a big enough supply
so that anyone who felt that
they were at a higher risk
could be safe.
One mask to be worn
for 12 hours.
It's just ridiculous.
No protective equipment,
the gowns.
We have to improvise
with what we have.
We have people coming in
sewing masks, sewing shields,
making things out of plastics.
This is what we're doing now?
I mean that would be like
a soldier going to war
and making a plastic gun
to bring with him.
This is what's happening.
both: PPEs!
all: Every day!
both: PPEs!
all: Every day!
We're here in the community
fighting every day,
and we need some help.
narrator: In February, the
Trump Administration actually
created the China-COVID
Procurement Service
to encourage
American producers like 3M
to sell their entire
inventories of N95 masks
to China.
When American hospitals
desperately needed N95s,
they were forced
to import them
and pay up to 10 times more
than the price charged
by American producers.
PPE has been sporadic,
but we do what we have to do.
We're nurses,
and we learn to adapt
and to get the job done
and get the care provided,
and that's what
we're gonna continue to do.
Sporadic for you,
but not sporadic
for a lot of other people.
Oh, no, I agree,
Mr. President.
Because I've heard
the opposite.
I've heard that they are
loaded up with gowns now.
And you know, initially,
we had nothing.
We had empty cupboards.
We had empty shelves.
We had nothing because
it wasn't put there
by the last administration.
In the midst of the crisis,
President Trump goes on TV
and says, "Don't worry.
We've got plenty of PPE
for healthcare workers."
What was your reaction
when you saw that?
I know what
my reaction was.
I turned to my wife and said,
"That's complete bullshit.
He has no idea
what he's talking about."
I'm getting 500
to 1,000 emails a day.
I'm getting emails from people,
not businesses.
I'm getting emails from moms.
I'm getting emails from old
people, "Please send me masks."
And I can't.
You make a product
that can protect people.
I can't help
all these people.
[tense music]
narrator: The PPE shortage
continued on for months,
even after Trump put
one of his most trusted
family members in charge
of procuring
protective equipment.
Jared Kushner formed
his own task force
to get supplies.
Was that confusing?
Like did you...
It was extremely confusing.
The president
wanted to make sure
that we had the best people
doing the best jobs
and making sure that we had
the right people focused
on all the things
that needed to happen
to make sure that we can
deliver in these unusual times
for the American people.
My old boss called me
and said he heard that
Jared Kushner's task force
needed younger volunteers
who had general skills
and were willing
to work seven days a week
for no money,
and if you fit those criteria,
that you should head to D.C.
and help
with the pandemic response.
I definitely
had some apprehension
about working
for the administration,
but it felt like the country
and the world
were under attack.
It seemed like if there
was something to do to help,
that was the right thing to do.
They basically gave us a day
to show up in D.C.
at the FEMA Headquarters.
We walked
into Conference Room A,
which was this windowless,
subterranean conference room.
There were televisions
all around the walls
all playing FOX News.
One representative from FEMA
and one representative
from the military
gave a quick pep talk.
They kept saying "the stuff,"
and by that they meant PPE.
And they kept saying, "There's
stuff all around the world.
"There's stuff in the U.S.,
and we need
to get it to hospitals
as fast as possible."
Everyone stood up and started
filing into different offices,
and I remember the only people
left were the volunteers.
We thought we would be
auxiliary support
for an existing procurement
team that just needed
to be expanded
as quickly as possible
and we would, you know,
do data entry for contracts.
And instead, we were the team.
I think when people imagined
the federal government response
in the war room, they thought
it would be this big,
you know, energized
group of experts,
not ten 20-year-old volunteers
all just with private laptops.
No industry relationships,
no experience working
in supply chain.
So we started cold-emailing
people we knew
who had business relationships
in China,
looking for factories online,
and emailing them from
our personal Gmail accounts.
Because we had never
done this before,
you know, there were all these
really basic questions
about how a federal procurement
operation should work.
We would call factories
and say,
"We think the federal
government can send you a check
in 60 days,"
and they would say,
"There's someone
with a briefcase of cash,
and they are offering
to pay me right now."
And we would run
around the FEMA building
looking for someone who could
tell us what payment terms
the federal government
was allowed to offer,
and no one ever told us.
One week into our work,
several government employees
walked into the room
and handed out NDAs
and told us we had
to sign the NDAs
or leave the room immediately,
and we all had built
our own relationships
with manufacturers, and it
felt like if we walked away,
it would negatively affect
our ability
to buy this critical,
lifesaving equipment.
And so we all begrudgingly
signed the NDA.
In the room,
there were those TVs
all around the walls
playing the news.
They always had
a death counter.
And so every hour
we were sitting there,
trying to buy PPE that
we all knew could save lives,
and we were watching the
number of deaths in the U.S.
tick higher
and higher and higher.
And that weighed on all of us.
The president also
instructed me to make sure
that I break down
every barrier needed
to make sure that
the teams can succeed.
The first time Jared Kushner
came into the room,
he had this big entourage,
and he said,
"I want to make this
as effective as possible.
"Tell me the problems
that you have,
and I will solve them today."
And we said, "We need
to be able to pay upfront."
And he said, "Done,"
but there was no action taken
that we saw whatsoever.
In the entire time
that I was a volunteer,
our team did not directly
purchase a single mask.
narrator: Kushner failed
to protect doctors and nurses,
but he was willing
to trade government help
for political benefits.
When the Democratic Governor
of California, Gavin Newsom,
desperately needed
testing swabs,
Kushner said Trump
would grant the request
on two conditions:
Newsom would have
to get on the phone
and ask Trump personally
and then thank him publicly.
I want to thank
the president,
not only for being available
for a phone call
at a moment's notice,
but being willing
to directly commit to all of us
in the state of California.
narrator: Built
around personal relationships,
Kushner's task force was run
by his college roommate
and Ivanka Trump's
former assistant.
Rather than rely on
experienced public officials,
the task force prioritized
private tips in a spreadsheet
called "VIP Update,"
which included
two Republican dentists
and a FOX News personality.
The whole philosophy
of the task force
was that the government
can't get things done
and they thought
the private market
could largely settle
this issue,
but it was only once
they had tried and failed
that they'd started to blame
other people and say,
"Actually, this was your job
the whole time."
You have instances where
in cities, they're running out,
but the state
still has a stockpile.
And the notion
of the federal stockpile
was it's supposed
to be our stockpile.
It's not supposed
to be states' stockpiles
that they then use.
My understanding
is the only reason
the federal stockpile exists
is to distribute it to states.
The people in charge
on the task force said,
you know,
talking about the president...
love him or hate him,
he's a marketing genius.
He came up with the strategy
to blame the states,
because the federal government
hasn't been able
to do this effectively.
[light music]
Federal government
has assets and abilities
that no state
can possibly mobilize.
They have a global
supply chain.
They have a logistic capability
the Department of Defense
and Department
of Homeland Security
to get stuff in
and distribute it
to places all over the country.
President Trump flipped that
on its head.
Then there became this mad
rush for each and every state
to try and find equipment
on their own.
[C.W. McCall's "Convoy"]
Breaker one nine,
this here's Rubber Duck.
Mercy sakes alive,
looks like we've
got us a convoy.
We continued to source and
ship as much PPE as we can
by whatever means necessary.
Arizona, noon,
on the seventh of June
When they highballed
over the pass
We had the governor of
Massachusetts using a plane
from the New England Patriots
to bring equipment from China.
'Cause we got
a little ol' convoy
The equipment is now in the
hands of the National Guard,
who will deliver it
to an undisclosed location.
- Whoo-hoo!
- [whistles]
We had the governor
of Maryland
using contacts of his wife's
to bring equipment in
from South Korea.
He felt it important enough
to guard that equipment
when it landed in Maryland,
because he didn't want it
confiscated by
the federal government.
We're competing against
every other state,
every other country.
Now we're even competing
against the federal government.
It's like being on eBay
with 50 other states,
bidding on a ventilator.
You see the bid go up
'cause California bid.
Illinois bid, Florida bid,
New York bids,
California rebids.
And then FEMA starts bidding.
So FEMA is driving up
the price.
I stand here as someone
who has had confirmed orders
for millions of pieces of gear
evaporate in front of us,
and I can't tell you
how frustrating it is.
I get a feeling if there's
somebody had the chance to
sell to you or had the chance
to sell to me,
I'm gonna lose
every one of those.
All right, Charlie.
Thank you very much.
Well, we do like you going out
seeing what you can get,
if you can get it faster,
and the price is always
a component to that also,
and maybe that's why
you lost to the feds.
I'll tell you,
that's probably why, but...
narrator: If the goal was
to get PPE to the states,
why would
the federal government
be driving up the price
to outbid them?
Or was driving up the price
the whole point?
This morning,
our first project
that we called Airbridge...
that's Airbridge,
that's the name.
And it was a flight
that landed in JFK
and contained
nearly 2 million masks.
This is the first
of 50 flights,
and that will probably
increase substantially.
narrator: Project Airbridge
was a plan to subsidize
the efforts of private
companies to buy and sell PPE.
Max Kennedy's team
would find the PPE
and negotiate
the lowest possible price.
Private companies
would then pay the bill.
Then the federal government
would pay
to fly the PPE stateside
from overseas.
And we had partnered
with the five largest
medical distributors.
Once we shipped it
to the United States,
they would take over
and sell directly
to whoever they would like,
at whatever price they wanted.
Just to clarify,
that explains why states say
they're bidding like
they're on eBay,
because the supplies are
going to the private sector,
and then they have to go there
to get the supplies.
That's normally
how things work, right?
So I'm not here to disrupt,
uh, a supply chain.
The U.S. government
was handing a huge amount
of business to these
five companies
that were chosen
fairly arbitrarily.
[light tense music]
There were increasing concerns,
I think, from competitors,
that these five companies
were getting
a hugely unfair advantage,
and so I was asked on several
different occasions explicitly
to find a justification to have
selected these companies way...
you know, months after
they had been selected.
narrator: At least one of
these companies, Cardinal,
saw its PPE orders surge
to 12 times the normal volume.
Profit-making was also part of
the pandemic pricing plan
at Gilead,
which manufactured
the one drug, Remdesivir,
that was effective
at treating COVID.
The federal government owned
patents on the drug,
and it paid
for essential research.
But the Trump administration
permitted Gilead
to charge more than
$3,000 a patient
for a treatment that cost
less than $10 to manufacture.
I left in mid-April,
and my takeaway
was really that
I still feel like
I haven't worked
for the government.
We were so far outside of it.
I mean, we were...
every single person
we reported to
up the chain of command
was a political appointee.
The number of FEMA employees
I met, you know,
I could count on one hand,
and they were fleeting
It taught me about how
this administration works,
and I think it largely works,
or it seemed to work,
in this case,
outside of the government.
[solemn music]
In the course
of three years,
there was
a systematic dismantling
of what expertise
had been built
and what framework
had been built
to respond to the very
kind of global pandemic
that we're dealing with.
It's preventing the people
who were there
from doing the jobs
that they'd been hired to do.
Tell me a little bit
about how chloroquine
and hydroxychloroquine first
came into your point of view.
You know...
How did this come up?
I wish I'd never
heard of chloroquine
or hydroxychloroquine,
narrator: Elon Musk started
the ball rolling with a tweet.
Momentum for the drugs
picked up steam
over the next few days
on FOX News,
where their names
were dropped 176 times.
Early evidence suggests that
- Chloroquine.
- Hydroxychloroquine.
Those look very promising.
Then Trump started reading
from the FOX script.
It is known
as a malaria drug,
and it's been around
for a long time.
And it's shown
very encouraging...
very, very encouraging...
early results.
I believe it was March 23rd.
I got a call from Secretary
Azar's chief counsel.
The White House wanted us
to move quickly
on making this drug available.
At my direction, the federal
government is working to help
obtain large quantities
of chloroquine.
I called my scientific team
and they said, "No way."
There was no data to support
that they had any benefit
against the coronavirus.
They pushed back,
but Dr. Kadlec reiterated
that directive to us and said,
"Get on it, get it done."
We came up with option of an
emergency use authorization.
We could put boundaries in it,
restrict the drug
to only be used
in people who are
And I was proud of our team
for coming up
with that compromise
that we thought would
protect the Americans.
Have you ever heard of
a Dr. Zelenko?
He is a very mysterious
presence that seemed to be
involved in the context
of this chloroquine story.
- Hi.
- Hi.
[inquisitive music]
narrator: Dr. Vladimir Zelenko
became a right-wing folk hero
and the Trump team promoted
him as an essential expert
on the use of
as a magical remedy for COVID.
For the last
almost 16 years,
I've been a primary care doctor
for a community
of around 35,000 people.
It's a village
in the town of Monroe.
It's similar
to an urban environment
in terms of how close
people live with each other.
So it's not surprising that
the virus came
and started spreading.
And I realized that, my God,
I have an inferno.
I have a real outbreak.
I know all these people,
they're like family to me.
So it was personal.
The whole world
was focusing on
building more respirators,
more hospitals,
and there was nothing
being offered
to primary care doctors.
You know,
we're front-line soldiers
with no bullets, no weapons.
So then you have to improvise.
Dr. Zelenko improvised
what he thought
was a magic bullet
that contained his own
unproven mash-up
of zinc, azithromycin,
and hydroxychloroquine.
But there was no
reputable clinical trial
that confirmed
Zelenko's claims
that early use of his cocktail
could cure COVID.
I wasn't doing research.
I was just treating patients.
But I'm not stupid.
I saw exactly
what was happening.
Patients stopped dying.
I just found potentially
one of the most important
pieces of information
in the history of information.
I'm not a politician.
I don't have any connections.
So how else does a person
who's unconnected
reach the highest levels
of government?
It's called social media.
Um, hello, President Trump.
My name is
Dr. Vladimir Zelenko.
So I made a YouTube video
addressed to the president
of the United States,
and the next day, his chief of
staff, Mark Meadows, calls me.
[tense music]
We had a conversation,
and that started a process
that eventually led me to
the FDA commissioner,
Stephen Hahn.
It's not every day you get
the commissioner of the FDA
calling you on your cell phone.
According to the FDA...
There was not
a scientific reason
to push either one
of those drugs.
The reason they were pushing
them so hard was because
the president was claiming
that they were a miracle drug.
Someone had given him
this advice.
I happen to be taking it.
I happen to be taking it.
I'm taking it.
Right now, yeah.
Did you hear
what he said afterwards?
"Yeah, I received a letter..."
From a doctor the other day,
from Westchester, New York,
around the area.
He didn't want anything.
He just said,
"Sir, I have
hundreds of patients,
and I give them
So that was a letter
I sent to the president.
But I thought it was
a very well-crafted letter
by a man
who's a respected doctor.
He said it was
a well-crafted letter.
I was proud of that.
It was really frustrating,
because here we are
on the front lines,
we're trying to do
everything we can,
and if, you know, there's
a chance that this could work,
let's go ahead and try it.
But then, consistently,
the trials that had been
high quality looking at this
have shown that
there's no benefit to it.
And we have moved on
to other therapies.
But unfortunately, you know,
it can come back and be revived
by a tweet from a leader
who still believes in it.
The next day, if you admit
a patient with COVID-19,
some of them are gonna ask,
"Are you gonna give me
the Trump drug?"
And if you go through a long
explanation of, you know,
there's no benefit,"
it's really hard
to explain this.
And it would be
so much more helpful
if the leader of the country,
who sets the example, said,
"We should follow
the science on this."
I've seen things
that I sort of like,
so what do I know?
I'm not a doctor.
It was about six days
after that EUA.
I woke up to an email string
that had our Assistant
Secretary for Health,
our Director of FEMA,
our ASPR, Dr. Kadlec,
and the FDA all saying
we need to flood the streets
of New York and New Jersey
with that drug
as quickly as possible.
And in that email discussion,
someone was brave enough...
they said, "But wait a minute.
The EUA says 'for hospitalized
patients only.'"
They said, "No, it needs
to go into the pharmacies.
"It needs to
go out everywhere.
"The EUA doesn't matter.
Push the drug out now."
[unsettling music]
narrator: The same FDA that
dragged its feet for weeks
at approving vital COVID tests
suddenly worked at lightning
speed to greenlight use
of a drug with no proven
effect on the disease,
just because the White House
wanted it done.
If this drug works,
it will be wonderful,
it'll be so beautiful.
It'll be a gift from heaven.
I lost it.
I lost all respect
for that chain of command,
for that security
that we as Americans
have put in those people.
And that is the moment that
I decided to break protocol
and alert Americans
in a different way.
narrator: In the doctrine
of politics,
Rick Bright committed
a mortal sin.
He went to the press.
It was two weeks exactly
after that
that I learned that I had been
removed from my position.
It's not easy to come forward
in this administration, okay?
I'm not trying to be soft
in here, but it is not easy.
It was a very hard process
to lay our careers on the line
to push back.
Time is running out because
the virus is still
spreading everywhere.
The window is closing
to address this pandemic.
So, you know, Dr. Bright
is up there testifying today.
And on hydroxychloroquine,
Dr. Bright literally signed
in the application
for FDA authorization of it.
We will either be remembered
for what we did
or for what we failed to do
to address this crisis.
I watched this guy for
a little while this morning,
and he looks like an angry,
disgruntled employee
who, frankly,
according to some people,
didn't do a very good job.
Would you describe
the government's response
as a success or a failure?
I believe we could have
done better.
Watching the
administration's response
to Bright was frightening.
We all wanted to help,
but we didn't wanna be
on the front page
of a newspaper.
I spoke to a couple
of attorneys
who said it's so unusual
for the government
to require an NDA at all,
let alone for volunteers
who don't have any access
to government systems.
We had no access to any
confidential information.
The only thing we were
basically being prevented
from talking about was the fact
that the response was...
seemed to be largely bungled.
To date, we've facilitated
the supply
of more than 38 million
N95 masks nationwide.
And I would watch the news,
and I'd hear
the Trump administration
talk about the work
that was happening,
and what was happening did not
match what the administration
was speaking about.
[melancholic music]
So I did send in
a whistleblower report
to Congress,
as well as calling
several journalists
who I basically
just found online.
It was nerve-racking.
I was worried about the NDA,
I was worried about
potential retribution.
But I just wanted people
to know what was happening,
and know not enough
was being done.
narrator: Beyond attacking
Trump dismissed
five inspectors general
in the space of six weeks.
One had raised concerns
about PPE shortages.
Another was
supposed to investigate
how the Trump administration
would spend
$2.3 trillion
in coronavirus relief.
While money did flow
to unemployed Americans,
a small group
of hedge fund investors
and real estate tycoons,
like Jared Kushner
and Donald Trump,
got millions of dollars
in tax breaks.
Trump protected
the richest Americans,
even as he continued to ignore
the most basic recommendations
of scientists trying
to protect everyday people.
The CDC is recommending that
Americans wear a basic cloth
or fabric mask.
They can be either purchased
online or simply made at home,
probably material
that you'd have at home.
Really a voluntary thing.
You can do it.
You don't have to do it.
I'm choosing not to do it.
But some people may wanna
do it, and that's okay.
I made a lot of predictions
that came true
about this pandemic,
but masks being politicized...
it's just amazing to me.
Live and let die
The deadly implications
of the president's disdain
for science
weren't lost on
whoever picked the soundtrack
for Trump's tour
of a mask factory in Arizona.
Live and let die
narrator: It was confusing
campaign photo op:
federal officials refusing
to wear safety masks
in a sanitized factory
that manufactured them.
The mask seems to represent
which side of the political
aisle that you're on,
and somehow, showing up
without a mask on
in close proximity with others
says that I support
the president.
You're fucking
democratic pigs!
I'll take that fucking mask
off your face!
all: No more masks!
No more masks!
That is dangerous.
People have died
because of the misinformation.
I have absolutely
no doubt about that.
narrator: In April, after
weeks of economic shutdown
and with contagion and death
still running high
in much of America,
Trump announced the plan
for reopening the country.
Our team of experts
now agrees
that we can begin
the next front in our war,
which we're calling
Opening Up America Again,
and that's what we're doing.
We're opening up our country.
narrator: The next day,
he began to tweet
in encouragement of protests
against lockdowns
meant to contain
spread of the virus.
[indistinct shouting]
Frustration's understandable.
People wanted
to get out of their homes
to get back to work.
all: USA!
narrator: But without
a national program
to safeguard public health,
how is the economy going
to get back on its feet?
So I said to my people,
"Slow the testing down,
Texas, hitting a record
number of hospitalizations.
Florida recording an
astonishing 11,400 cases,
smashing its single day high.
narrator: Opening up
the country without
a national program for masks,
testing, and tracing
did have consequences.
Throughout the summer,
the death toll
hovered around 1,000 a day,
or two 9/11s every week.
[solemn music]
In South Korea,
a nation of 51 million,
there was no
national shutdown,
and less than 500 people
died from the disease.
For a lot of people around
me in South Korea,
perceptions of the U.S.
have really been shaken.
South Koreans, like a lot of
other people around the world,
had a certain
perception of the U.S.
as a barometer and a benchmark
for how a country works,
how a country should run.
There is a real sense
of disbelief.
Thousands descended
on beaches
in Greece over the weekend,
while in Italy,
more shops and restaurants
are again welcoming customers.
The crowds are returning
to the stadiums
here in New Zealand.
narrator: As many countries
opened up,
others faced new outbreaks.
Some, like Brazil and India,
saw cases continue to soar.
But even in countries
like South Korea,
where the virus
was initially contained,
cases spiked when people
ignored scientific guidance.
[cheers and applause]
Nowhere was that problem
more severe
than in the United States.
America, America
narrator: Ignoring expert
advice became an act
of patriotism in
the Trump administration,
Where even the push
for a safe vaccine
was pursued with reckless
disregard for science.
We're moving aggressively
to accelerate
developing a vaccine.
To actually get a vaccine
that you know works
is gonna be a year
to a year and a half.
Do me a favor.
Speed it up.
Speed it up.
Stakes are so high
around vaccines.
Because we need a vaccine
if we want to begin
to end this pandemic.
But the question is,
who distributes it?
Who prioritizes it?
A lot of people say
this should be the CDC.
"They should be
front and center in this."
narrator: But the CDC has been
largely silenced.
After a few CDC scientists
voiced concerns
about the federal response,
Trump installed an official
to censor or rewrite
any CDC findings
that contradicted
the rosy predictions
of the White House.
[tense music]
Can we trust scientists who
allow data to be compromised
by demands
for political loyalty?
My last question to you is,
what is your personal takeaway
from this pandemic?
[laughs softly]
53,000 deaths from
Sometimes late at night
when I'm driving home
and I'm tired of listening
to talk radio on NPR,
I'll turn on the other NPR
station and listen to jazz.
[melancholy jazz music]
I've never listened to jazz
in my life.
I've always been very thankful
for the people around me,
and I think that's
come with age, partly.
And now that we're all
wearing masks all the time,
there is an astounding amount
of information
that you can get out of
looking at people's eyes.
Which, when the rest of your
face is completely obscured,
become extremely telling
of what's going on,
whether your eyes are happy
or sad or smiling.
This is going to be the 1918
influenza epidemic story,
and it will be written about
for the next 100 years.
And I think that realization
should really drive
a lot of our behavior
and our choices.
There's so much
that the virus has exposed,
the lessons are just gonna be
ongoing over time.
And the degree of suffering
is just so immense
that it's hard to
really conceptualize it.
And it's gonna
take a long time for us
to really figure out
the consequences of this,
because there are consequences
for the people
who survive this.
[solemn music]
We spend billions of dollars
every year
on missiles that, hopefully,
will never fly,
on weapons that, hopefully,
we will never use.
We have to take health
as seriously as we do
defense security.
I think the career staff
and scientists were in place.
They were battle-tested.
They knew their role,
they knew the plan,
and they were prepared to act.
They put on their uniform
to respond to this pandemic,
and then there was
nowhere to go.
There is a misconception
that public health failed.
The truth is that
political leaders
failed to follow
public health guidance,
and that's what caused
avoidable disease, death,
and economic destruction.
Politicians are the problem.
We've gotta believe
in the scientists.
And we've got politicians
who don't believe in science.
America is lagging behind
every other country, almost,
in their response, and I...
hey, you gotta blame
the manager.
narrator: If we're to blame
the manager,
we must be able to answer
an essential
political question:
What did the president know,
and when did he know it?
Eight months
after the pandemic began,
we got the answer.
[indistinct garbled voices]
On February 7th,
two weeks before
anyone in America
had died from the disease,
journalist Bob Woodward
asked Donald Trump
if he knew how contagious
and dangerous COVID might be.
It goes through air, Bob.
That's always tougher
than the touch, you know?
The touch, you don't
have to touch things, right?
But the air,
you just breathe the air,
and that's how it's passed.
It's also more deadly
than your...
even your strenuous flus,
you know?
So this is deadly stuff.
[uneasy music]
narrator: Our manager
failed us.
But the disease also revealed
more fundamental problems
with our government.
We will see more pandemics
and other existential threats.
All on account
of manmade problems,
we must prepare
to solve together.
Our ability to reckon
with the future
will depend on how much
we learn from our recent past.
When the day comes when we can
finally take off our masks,
will we be ready to fix
what's really broken?
Time has come today
Young hearts
can go their way
Can't put it off
another day
I don't care
what others say
They think
we don't listen anyway
Time has come today
The rules have
changed today
I have no place to stay
I'm thinking
about the subway
My love has flown away
My tears have
come and gone
Oh my Lord,
I have to roam
I have no home
I have no home
Now the time has come
There's no place to run
I might get burned up
by the sun
But I had my fun
I've been loved
and put aside
I've been crushed
by the tumbling tide
And my soul