What happened: The Trump administration manipulated disease models to justify lifting COVID-19 restrictions even though the science was clear that restrictions should remain in-place.
Why it matters: By manipulating data and lifting COVID-19 restrictions, the Trump administration failed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, contributing to rising infection and deaths. Instead of following the best available science at the time, the Trump administration prioritized political goals over the health and safety of the US population.
An investigation by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronovirus Crisis revealed that the Trump administration purposefully manipulated public health disease models to justify lifting restrictions across the country, even though the best available science was clear that restriction should remain in-place. According to the subcommittee’s final report, these efforts culminated in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post in which the Secretary of Health and Human Services called for restrictions to be lifted.
Scientific models used by epidemiologists were – and continue to be – one of the most important tools we have when making decisions about the precautions we must take to prevent COVID-19 from causing illness, disability, and death. When used effectively alongside other tools, these mathematical and scientific models can help us understand the potential effects of various preventative interventions – such as mask mandates or closing of schools – while also helping us to predict the effects of a lifting of restrictions. Although they are not perfect, these models are the best tools we have for previewing the repercussions of our actions.
Since the initial investigation, the Subcommittee has identified 88 incidents of political interference in the pandemic response efforts by the previous administration. These incidents included lying to the public about availability of testing; pressuring experts to adopt the administrations talking points; authorizing questionable treatments; altering, delaying, and suppressing scientific guidance; and retaliation towards scientific experts who shared accurate information that conflicted with the administrations talking points.
By purposefully manipulating models of COVID-19 disease transmission, the Trump administration sidelined the work and knowledge of scientific experts and guided states to act in a way that contradicted the best available science and was not in the best interest of the health and safety of their residents.