“America has Joe Biden to thank for this. He left our country unprepared for a pandemic. Despite warnings from experts to replenish the supply of masks in the national stockpile, he did nothing,” the campaign said.
The tweet included a screenshot of a recent headline in The Washington Post, “Face masks in national stockpile have not been substantially replenished since 2009”.
It was followed by another tweet quoting the article directly: “In 2009, “The International Safety Equipment Association warned of ‘significant shortages’ if another pandemic caused demand for masks to surge.
“But the stockpile’s reserves were not significantly restored after the 2009 pandemic.”
Instead, it cites the views of public health experts and those in the safety equipment industry that stocks of protective equipment were never adequately refilled after the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, which saw 85 million N95 respirators distributed along with other protective equipment.
After the H1N1 pandemic subsided, trade groups and public health agencies called on the government to restock the US government’s supply of respirators and masks. However, it has transpired that heading into the current pandemic, the national stockpile held only a fraction of the number required.
There are now reports of medical workers resorting to reusing protective equipment beyond what it is designed for, to the point where researchers have started decontaminating used masks to keep up with demand.
Since the early stages of the US’s coronavirus outbreak, Mr Trump has regularly accused the Obama administration of making it harder to roll out a programme of mass testing, and of fumbling its responses to H1N1 and Ebola.
In mid-March, he laid into Mr Biden specifically in a tweet: “Sleepy Joe Biden was in charge of the H1N1 Swine Flu epidemic which killed thousands of people. The response was one of the worst on record. Our response is one of the best, with fast action of border closings & a 78% Approval Rating, the highest on record. His was lowest!”
However, his assorted statements slating his predecessors for mishandling that pandemic – and claiming that Mr Biden was in charge of the response – have mainly failed to withstand the scrutiny of variousfactchecks.
Mr Trump’s public disdain for the Obama administration’s handling of the 2014 Ebola crisis, meanwhile, goes back to the time of the epidemic itself, when he experienced what Esquiretermed a “freakout” that played out in lurid fashion on his social media channels.
While repeatedly calling for the administration to halt all flights from affected countries lest “the plague” spread in the US, he also questioned the president’s capacity to lead the country.
“I am starting to think that there is something seriously wrong with President Obama’s mental health,” he opined in a tweet that October. “Why won’t he stop the flights. Psycho!”
And as with his references to H1N1, Mr Trump is still drawing direct comparisons between Mr Obama’s response to Ebola and his own administration’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic, which thus far has claimed more than 2,000 lives in the US. (Ebola claimed just one life on US soil, a Liberian man who was visiting family in Dallas.)
Meanwhile, his administration remains mired in a fight with several states who are calling for more protective and medical equipment to handle the surge in critical Covid-19 cases, which are putting their health care systems under unprecedented strain.
Mr Trump recently dismissed those demands with scepticism, telling Fox News’s Sean Hannity: “I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be.
“I don’t believe you need 30,000 or 40,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals, sometimes they’ll have two ventilators. Now all of a sudden they’re asking ‘can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”
The president has also suggested that hospital staff may be stealing masks. Citing no particular evidence, he told a reporter: “Something is going on, and you ought to look into it as reporters. Are they going out the back door? … I don’t think it’s hoarding, I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding but check it out.”