New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that President Donald Trump was “right” to question the World Health Organization’s early response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Whose job is it to warn us of these global pandemics? The president says it’s the World Health Organization, and that’s why he’s taken action against them,” Cuomo said at his daily press conference in Albany.
He added: “But he’s right to ask the question because this was too little, too late, and let’s find out what happened so it doesn’t happen again.”
“And it will happen again. Bank on it.”
Trump suspended U.S. government funding to the WHO earlier in April, citing the organization’s “China-centric” stance and its failure to warn the rest of the world of an outbreak of the virus.
“The WHO’s reliance on China’s disclosures likely caused a 20-fold increase in cases worldwide, and it may be much more than that,” Trump said on April 14. “The WHO has not addressed a single one of these concerns nor provided a serious explanation that acknowledges its own mistakes, of which there are many.”
The United States contributes roughly $400 million a year to the WHO, or 15% of the organization’s annual budget.
The WHO relied heavily on assurances from the Chinese government about the threat posed by the novel coronavirus strain, which began to spread in Wuhan in November 2019.
Chinese officials were tracking outbreaks of the virus by early December 2019, but did not notify the WHO of its spread until later that month.
On Jan. 14, the WHO cited the Chinese government’s claims that coronavirus was not transmitted from person to person. And in late February, Bruce Aylward, a WHO official who led a fact-finding mission to China, said there was little evidence of asymptomatic carriers of the virus.
Both of those claims appear inaccurate.
The CDC has estimated that at least 25% of people with coronavirus are asymptomatic. High rates of asymptomatic transmission of the virus make it more difficult to identify potential outbreaks of infection.
Politicians are not the WHO’s only critics. Health experts have also blasted the group for accepting the Chinese government’s assessments at a crucial point in the coronavirus outbreak.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist who raised early concerns about coronavirus, has said that he and other health experts were “incredibly disappointed” in the WHO’s response in the early days of the pandemic.
“When you look at what WHO did, I think they set us back a great deal because they made countries believe if just a few countries that were going to get this would just do the containment work, we could stop it,” he said in a podcast interview on March 31.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, criticized the WHO in an interview on April 12, saying that the organization was guilty of “enabling the obfuscation of China.”