'Yes, it is the president's fault': New York Times reporter rips into the Trump administration's response to the pandemic and says he thinks CDC head should resign

By Rosie Perper

New York Times science and health reporter Donald McNeil Jr. spoke to CNN's Christiane Amanpour earlier this week about the US' coronavirus response, blaming the country's high number of cases on President Donald Trump and calling on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield to resign.

As of Tuesday evening, the country has reported over 1.3 million infections and more than 83,000 deaths — more than any other country in the world. 

McNeil told Amanpour in an interview that the difference between the US' coronavirus response and other countries is how the virus was treated by American leadership.

"We completely blew it for the first two months of our response," he said. "We were in a 'headless chicken' phase." 

On who's to blame for the coronavirus outbreak in the US, McNeil said: "Yes, it is the president's fault. It is not China's fault."

McNeil said that compared to other countries, the US did not enforce strict-enough lockdown measures or implement widespread testing before it was too late.

"China had an explosive epidemic going on in their midst [in January and February] and they brought down the hammer. What we call a lockdown in this country, to China, is an absolute joke." 

McNeil said that Redfield discussed the pandemic with the head of the Chinese CDC at multiple points in January, but failed to alert the public to the severity of the virus before it had already embedded itself within US borders. He also said that the US was unsuccessful at implementing effective testing until March, nearly two months after the US declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency.

"We fiddled around for two months," McNeil said. "We had a test on March 5, and it didn't work. We didn't have 10,000 people tested until March 15, so we lost two months there and that was because of incompetent leadership at the CDC." 

"It's a great agency, but it's incompetently led and I think Redfield should resign," he added.

McNeil said that US agencies faced "suppression from the top," which stunted their coronavirus response. He also slammed Trump for inaccurately comparing the new coronavirus to the flu and for falsely stating that the virus would simply "disappear."

"That encouraged everyone around him to say 'it's nothing,'" McNeil said. "It took a while to get anybody to believe this."

Trump has come under scrutiny for his administration's slow response to the coronavirus crisis, with reports indicating US intelligence warned Trump in January and February about the likelihood of a pandemic.

Trump has also been pushing for states to reopen their economies, despite advice from health experts stating that the country does not have widespread testing and contact tracing in place to allow lockdowns to be lifted safely. 

Experts have also warned that without maintaining proper social distancing measures, the US could see waves of coronavirus infections between now and 2022.