US eliminated key China-based public health position ahead of coronavirus outbreak: report

The Trump administration moved to eliminate a position at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) based in China that some experts now say could have led to earlier knowledge of the coronavirus outbreak.

Reuters reported Sunday that a CDC training position partnering with China's top disease control agency was slated for elimination last year, which led to the July resignation of the position's last occupant, Dr. Linda Quick, months before an outbreak of the coronavirus began in China.

Experts including one former official who held that position told the news service that Quick, were she still in her position, would have had the opportunity to receive warning and information about the coronavirus outbreak possibly sooner than U.S. and other global health experts did.

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“It was heartbreaking to watch,” Bao-Ping Zhu, the former CDC official who held the role between 2007-2011, told the news agency. “If someone had been there, public health officials and governments across the world could have moved much faster.”

Other experts concurred with Zhu's assessment in interviews with Reuters, while one contended that Chinese efforts to suppress information surrounding the epidemic in its early stages would likely have limited Quick's effectiveness in that role.

CDC officials, in a statement to Reuters, also contended that the elimination of Quick's role “had absolutely nothing to do with CDC not learning of cases in China earlier.”

The decision to eliminate Quick's role, the CDC added, "was due to China’s excellent technical capability and maturity of the program.” Quick currently remains at the CDC in a different position.

Trump during a Sunday press conference addressed the move after being asked about it by a reporter. "This is just like all the other stuff that you ... that the press was asking," he said. "Every one of those things that were said were 100 percent wrong and this sounds like another one of them.”

The Trump administration has faced criticism from Democrats over its response to the coronavirus outbreak amid reports of insufficient tests for the virus and the high costs of diagnosis and treatment for uninsured Americans.