Over a dozen Americans working at the World Health Organization provided "real-time" information about the emerging coronavirus to the White House, seeming to undercut President Trump's accusations that the WHO failed to communicate the extent of the disease's threat, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
US physicians, researchers and public health experts—many connected to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—were working at WHO's Geneva headquarters as part of a years-long rotation, and they provided information about the coronavirus to the White House as it emerged late last year, Forbes reported.
CDC officials were consulting with their WHO counterparts since the outbreak began, with sensitive information being shared with US officials (including Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar) in a CDC secure facility, the Post reported.
The WHO often told CDC about its plans or announcements days in advance, the Post reported, citing an unnamed CDC official.
Trump earlier blamed WHO for delays in response to the virus as well as a lack of transparency, but an April 11 New York Times report said warnings issued to the administration by different parts of the federal government in January and February were ignored.
Three days after the Times report, Trump announced a hold on $500 million in funding from the US to the WHO, a move that Democrats say is illegal.
China on Friday revised its death toll by 50% in Wuhan, where the virus was first detected, and Trump has accused the WHO of having "pushed China's misinformation about the virus."
G-7 member nations, including France, Germany, Canada, Japan and the European Union. The nations got together Saturday for a Trump-hosted teleconference that the White House said focused on a "lack of transparency and chronic mismanagement of the pandemic by the WHO." French president Emmanuel Macron "expressed support" for the WHO and highlighted "the key role it must play," according to a statement from his office. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said WHO "cannot be weakened or in any way be called into question politically." Canada, Japan and the EU offered similar statements of support for the WHO.
"[WHO] should have been more skeptical about what the Chinese were telling them, but they're totally at the mercy of what governments provide," former Clinton administration United Nations ambassador Daniel Spiegel told the Post, adding that they have "no intelligence capabilities, and no investigatory power."
As US cases of COVID-19 soar past 730,000 and the White House is criticized for being slow to respond and ramp up testing, Trump has accused state governors, the news media and former President Barack Obama—along with the WHO—for being responsible for the growing number of infections. Despite the Times report that says the White House ignored warnings about the virus in January and February, an Associated Press investigation found last week that China waited six days before warning its citizens of a likely coronavirus outbreak, which could support claims from critics like Trump. President Trump, however, first praised China's efforts against the virus in January, but by March 21 had changed his tune, saying, "They could have been transparent much earlier than they were."