Coronavirus: Trump administration 'orders 100,000 new body bags' despite saying 60,000 could die from virus

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US government officials ordered one hundred thousand body bags despite Donald Trump's claim last month that 60,000 would die from Covid-19

World | The Independent

Donald Trump’s administration ordered more than 100,000 body bags in April to hold the country’s Covid-19 dead, despite the president saying publicly that 60,000 could die from the virus.

The revelation comes as the American death toll from Covid-19 passed 60,000 on Wednesday. The toll that president Trump had said would be the upper limit.

Still, official documents obtained by NBC News show that in contradiction to Trump’s positive messaging on his management of the crisis, senior officials within his administration have been working on the basis of a worst case scenario.

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The biggest order was earmarked for purchase almost 24 hours after president Trump  projected that the US death toll from coronavirus might not exceed 50,000 or 60,000.

“We’re going toward 50,000 or 60,000 people,” said Trump last month. “That’s at the lower — as you know, the low number was supposed to be 100,000 people. We — we could end up at 50 to 60.  Okay?”

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Publicly available spending records show that the Department for Homeland Security (DHS) placed the $5.1m (£4m) order “to acquire 100,000 human remains pouches” on April 21.

Mike Pryor, the marketing manager of the Californian construction materials company E.M. Oil Transport Inc. of Montebello, who received the DHS order, told NBC News that the body bags had not yet been paid for or shipped to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“I hope to God that they don’t need my order and that they cancel it,” Pryor said in a text message to NBC News.

Additional records show that at the same time, FEMA opened-up the bidding process to provide 200 rented refrigerated trailers that can act as temporary morgues at locations across the US.

But with Trump’s attention turning towards testing and an end to current lockdown measures, internal White House documents seen by NBC news suggest that members of the coronavirus task force are less than certain about the country’s outlook.

An April 25 “pre-decisional draft” of the coronavirus task force’s “incident outlook” cited concerns about the absence of a vaccine or proven treatments for the coronavirus, the possibility of a “catastrophic resurgence”, and insufficient available coronavirus testing.

That comes despite Trump’s claim earlier this week that testing was “not going to be a problem at all”.

“We are continuing to rapidly expand our capacity,” said Trump on Monday. “We want to get our country open and the testing is not going to be a problem at all”.

Inside the White House, however, internal documents show that FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services disagree.

In a testing plan circulated to the coronavirus task force, the agencies warned that there exists a number of testing problems that include a “Limited number of diagnostic supplies. Limited capacity of test facilities. [and a] Limited trained response personnel to administer the tests.”

The president, whose testing plans outlined this week place pressure on states and the private sector to act, appeared to be unconcerned about internal warnings as he tries to shift the blame for the US death toll onto others.

The DHS or FEMA have not commented on the body bag order, which comes in addition to several thousand more body bags shipped to the General Services Administration and the Defense Logistics Agency.

  • Coronavirus: Trump administration 'orders 100,000 new body bags' despite saying 60,000 could die from virus photo

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