Experts sounded coronavirus alarm in January in 'Red Dawn' email chain

How disease and medical experts across the US were sounding alarm about coronavirus since January and ridiculing Trump’s slow response in ‘Red Dawn’ email chain

  • Dozens of experts from government agencies, health organizations and universities began an email chain called Red Dawn about the coronavirus 
  • As early as January, experts were concerned about its devastating impact 
  • Dr. James Lawler, who worked under President Obama and George W. Bush, quipped ‘great understatements in history: Wuhan… “Just a bad flu season”  
  • The NYT report used the emails to show how experts were aware of Covid-19’s threat and their frustration with the White House and CDC’s slow response
  • This week it was revealed the National Security Council office responsible for tracking pandemics received reports in early January about coronavirus 
  • The report predicted the devastation the virus would cause to the US once it hit
  • Within weeks of receiving the report, NSC officials raised options Trump that would prevent the spread of the virus, including shutting down cities 
  • Donald Trump ignored the warnings, and instead waited until March to implement such measures, the report reveals 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

An elite group of medical and disease experts had been sounding alarm bells about coronavirus since January, as they discussed the virus’ threat to America in an email chain called Red Dawn, a bombshell report revealed. 

Dozens of experts from government agencies, health organizations and top universities began the chain – named for the 1984 movie starring Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen who tried to protect their country from a foreign invasion – to discuss the rapidly spreading coronavirus, which hadn’t yet overtaken the United States. 

By late January, Dr Carter E. Mecher, a top medical adviser at the Veterans Affairs Department, wrote: ‘I’m certainly no public health expert…but no matter how I look at this, it looks [to] be bad,’ reported the New York Times after obtaining 80 pages of the email chain. 

A few hours later, infectious disease expert Dr. James Lawler, who worked under President Obama and George W. Bush, quipped ‘great understatements in history: Wuhan… “Just a bad flu season,’ lumping it in with Napoleon’s retreat from Russia as ‘a little stroll gone bad’ and Hiroshima being ‘a bad summer heat wave.’ 

The NYT included the two emails as part of eight key messages in the chain that showed how the experts were aware of Covid-19’s ever growing threat and their frustration with slow responses from both the White House and CDC.

An elite group of medical and disease experts had been sounding alarm bells about coronavirus since January, as they discussed the virus’ threat to America in an email chain called Red Dawn, a bombshell report revealed

Infectious disease expert Dr. James Lawler, who worked under President Obama and the younger Bush, quipped ‘great understatements in history: Wuhan… “Just a bad flu season,’ lumping it with Napoleon’s retreat from Russia as ‘a little stroll gone bad’ and Hiroshima being ‘a bad summer heat wave’

The chain was started by Dr. Duane C. Caneva, the chief medical officer at the Department of Homeland Security.

He told the NYT the email chain was meant to ‘provide thoughts, concerns, raise issues, share information across various colleagues responding to Covid-19.’

The chain’s members included people from ‘the Health and Human Services Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Homeland Security Department, the Veterans Affairs Department, the Pentagon and other federal agencies tracking the historic health emergency.’

On January 28, Dr. Mecher summed up the situation as ‘bad’. 

He noted the CDC and WHO appeared to ‘behind the curve’ and questioned why both institutions seemed to be downplaying the threat. 

He wrote: ‘Any way you cut it, this is going to be bad. The projected size of the outbreak already seems hard to believe.’  

Dr. Mecher was already pushing for schools to close, adding: ‘Now I’m screaming, close the colleges and universities.’ 

On February 17, Dr. Mecher was again pushing for businesses and schools to close in order to stop the spread of the virus, citing it as being ‘central’ in the response to curb the outbreak. 

He predicted there would be push back against the drastic move, but argued for the government to take the lead and issue the mandate. 

On January 28, Dr. Mecher (pictured) summed up the situation as bad

Dr. Mecher noted the CDC and WHO appeared to ‘behind the curve’ and questioned why both institutions seemed to be downplaying the threat

On February 17, Dr. Mecher was again pushing for businesses and schools to close in order to stop the spread of the virus, citing it as being ‘central’ in the response to curb the outbreak. He predicted there would be push back against the drastic move, but argued for the government to take the lead and issue the mandate (pictured)

The chain’s members included people from ‘the Health and Human Services Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Homeland Security Department, the Veterans Affairs Department, the Pentagon and other federal agencies tracking the historic health emergency’

That same day, Dr. Eva Lee, a researcher at Georgia Institute of Technology who helped the group create disease projection models, cited concern about the rapid spread of the virus on the Princess Diamond cruise ship.

She compared the infection rate from the ship to schools, malls and work places where people are confined in a restricted area for hours at a time, citing it as the worst form of social gathering. 

By the third week of February, the experts collectively agreed the virus was already in the United States, and social distancing needed to be implemented quickly to prevent it from spreading further.

Dr. Robert Kadlec, the head of the virus response at the Department of Health and Human Services and a top White House adviser, shared a report that showed an asymptotic person could spread the virus to others, without testing positive for the virus. 

Although the officials decided to have a meeting to recommend to President Trump that social distancing, and the closure of schools and some businesses needed to be enacted to help stop the spread, the meeting was cancelled after an expert sent the stock market into a free fall with a doomsday warning.

When Trump finally addressed coronavirus concerns three weeks later with his Europe travel restrictions, the group wondered what good would it do because the virus was already in the US – also citing fears for medical workers. 

Dr Lawler wrote: ‘This is the absolute wrong move.’

Another said: ‘No justification that I can see, unless we want to put up similar geographic cordons in the US- there is plenty of disease already in the US to cause spread domestically.’


When Trump finally addressed coronavirus concerns three weeks later by announcing travel restrictions on Europe, the group wondered what good would it do because the virus was already in the US – also citing fears for medical workers. Dr Lawler (left) wrote: ‘This is the absolute wrong move.’ Dr. Eva Lee (right), a researcher at Georgia Institute of Technology and helped the group create disease projection models, cited concern about the rapid spread of the virus on the Princess Diamond cruise ship

Dr Lawler added: ‘We are making every misstep leaders initially made in table -tops at the outset of pandemic planning in 2006. We had systematically addressed all of these and had a plan that would work – and has worked in Hong Kong/Singapore’

Dr Lee wrote: ‘I was hoping he would mention about schools, government and private sector tele-work, community gatherings, things that really need everyone to actively engage in And also extra resources for healthcare providers. 

‘We really need to protect providers who care for covid- 19 patients. We must protect them because they are invaluable resources and we don’t have enough.

‘They are not like equipment that the President could ask a manufacturer to produce more.’ 

Dr Lawler added: ‘We are making every misstep leaders initially made in table -tops at the outset of pandemic planning in 2006. We had systematically addressed all of these and had a plan that would work – and has worked in Hong Kong/Singapore.

‘We have thrown 15 years of institutional learning out the window and are making decisions based on intuition. Pilots can tell you what happens when a crew makes decisions based on intuition rather than what their instruments are telling them. 

‘And we continue to push the stick forward…’ 

The last straw came when the CDC questioned in mid March the necessity of closing down schools, with Dr. Lawler writing: ‘CDC is really missing the mark here. By the time you have substantial community transmission it is too late. 

‘It’s like ignoring the smoke detector and waiting until your entire house is on fire to call the fire dept.’

Donald Trump ignored the warnings from the NSC, and instead waited until March to implement such measures, the report reveals

The Red Dawn emails were included in a New York Times report about how Trump ignored advice by the National Security Council back in January to consider shutting down cities and keep Americans home from work.

The NSC office responsible for tracking pandemics received intelligence reports in early January predicting the devastation coronavirus could cause to the US once it hit.

Within weeks of receiving the report, NSC officials raised options Trump that would prevent the spread of the virus, including shutting down entire cities the size of Chicago. 

But Donald Trump ignored the warnings, and instead waited until March to implement such measures, the report reveals.  

This is just one of a dozen reports that reveal the US had ample warning ahead of the devastation the coronavirus could cause, but ignored intelligence reports.  

President Trump tweeted his outrage at the New York Times’ findings Saturday afternoon, ‘When the Failing @nytimes or Amazon @washingtonpost writes a story saying “unnamed sources said”, or any such phrase where a person’s name is not used, don’t believe them. Most of these unnamed sources don’t exist. They are made up to defame & disparage. They have no “source”, the president wrote. 

‘Does anyone ever notice how few quotes from an actual person are given nowadays by the Lamestream Media. Very seldom. The unnamed or anonymous sources are almost always FAKE NEWS,’ he continued. 

President Trump tweeted his outrage at the New York Times’ findings Saturday afternoon

Just this week it was revealed Donald Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro issued his first grim warning in a memo dated January 29 – just days after the first COVID-19 cases were reported in the US.

At the time, Trump was publicly downplaying the risk that the novel coronavirus posed to Americans – though weeks later he would assert that no one could have predicted the devastation seen today. 

Navarro penned a second memo about a month later on February 23, in which he warned that as many as two million Americans could die from the virus as it tightened its grip on the nation.  

The January memo marks the earliest known high-alert to circulate within the West Wing as officials planned their first substantive steps to confront the disease that had already spiraled out of control in China. 

It serves as evidence that top officials in the administration had considered the possibility of the outbreak turning into something far more serious than Trump was acknowledging publicly at the time. 

‘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 U.S. soil,’ Navarro wrote. 

‘This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.’ 

President Donald Trump dismissed Health Secretary Alex Azar’s initial warnings about the deadly coronavirus back in January as ‘alarmist’

Trade adviser Peter Navarro warned top Trump officials in late January and again in February that failing to contain coronavirus could cost the US trillions of dollars and millions of American lives. Trump is seen with Navarro (center) at a March 9 press briefing on coronavirus

Another report shows that Trump dismissed Health Secretary Alex Azar’s initial warnings about the deadly coronavirus as ‘alarmist’ back in January.

Trump’s administration continues to be heavily criticized for its delayed reaction to COVID-19 by failing to mobilize upon early warnings, form a chain of command, and organize efficient nation-wide testing – as the US suffers heavy casualties from the virus with over 9,600 deaths. 

But the president had time to respond as he was first notified about the coronavirus outbreak in China on January 3.

Azar called Trump on January 18 while the president was at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to brief him about the severity of the novel coronavirus.

During that call the president reportedly cut him off before Azar could explain and instead criticized the health secretary over his handling of the axed federal vaping ban.  

At that time the president was reportedly more concerned about his then-ongoing impeachment trial.

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