Trump admin ended pandemic early-warning program to detect coronaviruses months before outbreak

Nation/World
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice president Mike Pence arrive for the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the Rose Garden of the White House on March 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice president Mike Pence arrive for the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the Rose Garden of the White House on March 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Two months before the novel coronavirus is thought to have begun its deadly advance in Wuhan, China, the Trump administration ended a $200-million pandemic early-warning program aimed at training scientists in China and other countries to detect and respond to such a threat.

The project, launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development in 2009, identified 1,200 different viruses that had the potential to erupt into pandemics, including more than 160 novel coronaviruses. The initiative, called PREDICT, also trained and supported staff in 60 foreign laboratories — including the Wuhan lab that identified SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Field work ceased when the funding ran out in September, and organizations that worked on the PREDICT program laid off dozens of scientists and analysts, said Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a key player in the program.

On Wednesday, USAID granted an emergency extension to the program, issuing $2.26 million over the next six months to send experts who will help foreign labs squelch the pandemic. But program leaders say the funding will do little to further the initiative’s original mission.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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