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Ex-DHS secretary slams administration's coronavirus response

Ex-DHS secretary slams administration's coronavirus response
© Greg Nash

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the Trump administration has been “slow to the ball” in their response to the coronavirus pandemic.  

“In terms of the federal response we have been slow to the ball and the federal response is still chaotic,” Napolitano, an Obama appointee, said on a conference call Friday. 

Napolitano, who is now president of the University of California system, pointed to reports that the U.S. intelligence community and military leaders were briefed on the threat of the coronavirus in December and January but did not begin to mobilize in a significant way until months later. 

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“We were slow to appreciate the intelligence that we were getting out of China about the coronavirus to implement the pandemic plans we do have in the federal government,” she said.

Napolitano said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was “very slow” in developing a test, which could have helped identify and seclude hot spots in the country sooner, preventing the widespread shutdowns the country is facing today. 

Since the start of the pandemic, states have reported a shortage of personal protective equipment for medical staff and a lack of ventilators, among other resources. Trump has faced pressure from Democrats for weeks to use the Defense Production Act to help address those shortages.

“As far as the supply chain management, It’s really the Wild West out there,” Napolitano said. “We were very slow to implement the Defense Production Act and I still can’t tell to what extent that it has been implemented.”

Napolitano said that with the exception of Anthony FauciAnthony FauciCOVID-19 is a precursor for infectious disease outbreaks on a warming planet Sunday shows - Capital locked down ahead of Biden's inauguration Fauci: Approval of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines likely 'weeks away' MORE, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and member of the coronavirus task force, the administration’s messaging has been “all over the map.”

“Messaging from the White House has been all over the map,” she said. “It kind of depends on the day. I always listen to Tony Fauci. I listened to him when I was secretary, I listen to him now.”