Trump's economic advisor warned of 'millions of lives lost and trillions in economic loss' from the coronavirus in two memos in January and February

By Sarah Al-Arshani

Economic advisor Peter Navarro sent a memo to the National Security Council in January that predicted hundreds of thousands would die from the coronavirus and the economy would see a loss of trillions of dollars, The New York Times reported on Monday.

Overall, Navarro sent at least two memos, both warning of the grave impact if the coronavirus outbreak was not contained in the US.

In the first sent out on January 29, he wrote that half a million Americans could die, and the country could lose $6 trillion. 

"The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on US soil," the memo read, according to The Times. "This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans."

However, one senior administration official told Axios that they were wary of Navarro's intentions, given his stance on China.

"The January travel memo struck me as an alarmist attempt to bring attention to Peter's anti-China agenda while presenting an artificially limited range of policy options," the unnamed official told Axios. 

Almost a month later, Navarro sent another memo, this time addressed to Trump directly, warning that as many as two million people in the US could die from the virus. 

Axios obtained the memos, which were both circulated around the White House and multiple agencies by the NSC, the report said.

In his first memo, Navarro urges for an immediate travel ban from China. He added that the estimate by Council of Economic Advisers' said banning travel from China would cost $2.9 billion a month. That means if the ban were to be set in place for a year, which he recommended, the US would lose $34.6 billion. 

"Regardless of whether the coronavirus proves to be a pandemic-level outbreak, there are certain costs associated with engaging in policies to contain and mitigate the spread of the disease. The most readily available option to contain the spread of the outbreak is to issue a travel ban to and from the source of the outbreak, namely, mainland China," Navarro wrote in one of the memos according to the Times. 

In his memos, Navarro spoke on the history of pandemic flu's and stated in the memos that he did not think this coronavirus would be similar to the seasonal flu, according to the Times. 

"This historical precedent alone should be sufficient to prove the need to take aggressive action to contain the outbreak," Navarro wrote. 

According to the Times, White House aides thought Navarro's year-long travel ban was "unsustainable" and the economic advisor was also at odds with Anthony Fauci, a medical expert and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, who said a travel ban would only delay the spread the virus. 

He also pointed out that without a containment approach, the economic cost could be anywhere from nothing to a loss of $5.7 trillion depending on how deadly the virus was, and wrote in the memo that it could kill as many as 543,000 Americans.

According to The Times Navarro and Matthew Pottinger, the chief deputy at the National Security Council was a part of a small number of officials who were arguing for a more stringent approach to containing the coronavirus. 

Navarro is very knowledgeable on China and has also been mistrustful of the Chinese government. Other officials ignored Navarro and Pottinger's warnings because they saw them as merely reflecting their stances about China, the Times reported. 

In his second memo, which Axios said was not explicitly signed by him, he requested $3 billion for immediate aid to "support efforts at prevention, treatment, inoculation, and diagnostics."

This time he warned that as much as a third of the country could be infected with somewhere between a million to two million deaths.