News & Politics

FLASHBACK: Barack Obama Abruptly Halted H1N1 Testing, Undermining Biden's Attacks on Trump

Joe Biden has been attacking Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic from every angle. In the past, he’s literally presented his own plan for what Trump should have done, only to discover Trump was way ahead of him and had already done what Biden suggested.

Biden’s recent attacks have focused on testing, accusing Trump of slowing testing down and not having a national strategy. “The crisis in Arizona is the direct result of Donald Trump’s failure to lead and his desire to ‘slow the testing down,’ and Americans are suffering the consequences,” Biden claimed Wednesday.

Biden has argued that he’d have responded better to the coronavirus pandemic than Trump, but back in 2009, the Obama-Biden administration “abruptly advised states to stop testing for H1N1 flu, and stopped counting individual cases.”

Sharyl Attkisson reported at the time that rationale “to forego testing and tracking individual cases was: why waste resources testing for H1N1 flu when the government has already confirmed there’s an epidemic?”

The directive was questioned by health officials.

Some public health officials privately disagreed with the decision to stop testing and counting, telling CBS News that continued tracking of this new and possibly changing virus was important because H1N1 has a different epidemiology, affects younger people more than seasonal flu and has been shown to have a higher case fatality rate than other flu virus strains.

The directive was issued on July 24, 2009, three months after Obama declared H1N1 a national health emergency, and three months before Obama declared it a full national emergency. The decision to stop testing and counting cases was apparently made so abruptly that states had no opportunity to provide any input on the decision.

Here’s what the CDC says about how testing was handled:

As 2009 H1N1 cases continued to occur through the spring and summer, the task of counting cases became increasingly difficult. On May 12, 2009, CDC transitioned from reporting individual confirmed and probable cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza to reporting aggregate counts of 2009 H1N1 lab confirmed and probable cases, hospitalizations and deaths with the launch of an aggregate reporting web site. Once the numbers of cases increased beyond the point where counting of individual cases was practical, on July 23, 2009, CDC reported the number of 2009 cases for the last time.

Why the sudden halting of testing and counting cases? Was the Obama-Biden administration trying to cover up how they botched the response to H1N1? I think that’s a very distinct possibility. The Obama-Biden administration failed to take any measures to slow the spread of the virus. Members of Congress called on the Obama-Biden administration to restrict travel with Mexico, where the H1N1 outbreak started, but they refused. “Closing our nation’s borders is not merited here,” said Obama’s DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano when a national health emergency was declared. She argued that closing the border or U.S. ports would have “no impact or very little” in stopping or slowing the spread of the virus.

The theory that travel bans don’t work was proved wrong by President Trump after he took the bold step of banning travel from China in January. Despite overwhelming criticism, eventually WHO experts conceded that it worked and it saved lives. While countries like Italy and Iran were experiencing catastrophic outbreaks, the United States was not. If Trump’s decision to close travel with China saved lives, Obama’s decision not to close travel with Mexico cost lives.

The Obama-Biden administration also failed to achieve its vaccine production goals. The New York Times reported in January 2010 that the Obama administration “predicted in early summer [2009] that it would have 160 million vaccine doses by late October,” but that “it ended up with less than 30 million,” leading to a public outcry and congressional investigations.

This failure undoubtedly cost lives. A study by Purdue University scholars published on October 15, 2009 (before Obama declared the national emergency) determined that the H1N1 vaccine would arrive “too late to help most Americans who will be infected during this flu season.” The study determined that the CDC’s planned vaccination campaign would “likely not have a large effect on the total number of people ultimately infected by the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus.”

The Obama-Biden administration’s response to the H1N1 pandemic was so bad that his former Ebola czar, Ron Klain, who is also an advisor to Biden’s campaign, admitted that the response was botched.

“We did every possible thing wrong. Sixty million Americans got H1N1 in that period of time. And it is purely a fortuity that this isn’t one of the great mass casualty events in American history. It had nothing to do with us doing anything right. It just had to do with luck. If anyone thinks that this can’t happen again, they don’t have to go back to 1918, they just have to go back to 2009, 2010, and imagine a virus with a different lethality, and you can just do the math on that.”

H1N1 had a mortality rate of .02 percent. According to the CDC’s latest estimate, the coronavirus has an overall mortality rate of .4 percent for symptomatic cases (or .26 percent if you include asymptomatic cases) meaning that the coronavirus is 13-20 times more deadly than H1N1.

The coronavirus is not only many times more deadly than H1N1, but also more infectious. According to a study from Emerging Infectious Diseases, COVID-19 has a median R0 value (a mathematical term for how contagious a disease is) of 5.7, while H1N1 had an R0 value between 1.4 and 1.6. COVID-19 is nearly four times more infectious and 13-20 times more deadly than H1N1. So, yes, Obama and Biden were, as Ron Klain put it, lucky.

The CDC estimates that in the United States alone there were nearly 61 million cases of H1N1, 274,304 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths between April 12, 2009, and April 10, 2010.

Trump has argued that our testing is so much better than other countries that the United States appears to have disproportionately more cases than other countries, and has made tongue-in-cheek comments about slowing down testing, which the mainstream media pounced on. But the Obama-Biden administration literally stopped testing during the H1N1 pandemic, perhaps to cover up their botched response, and the media still praised their efforts.

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Matt Margolis is the author of the new book Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trumpand the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis

 

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