In Trove Of Emails To State Officials, Feds Downplayed Coronavirus Risks

More than 115 emails sent between January and mid-March, and reviewed by WBUR, reveal how the federal government portrayed the virus to those making decisions in Massachusetts.

Well into March, federal officials stated in emails that “the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is low” for most Americans, even as the outbreak was exploding overseas and the death toll was slowly rising at home.

As the numbers soared, President Trump and his staff compounded the problem with conflicting tweets and comments. The public and even experienced doctors were in the dark about the gravity of the situation.

“It was not clear to me how rapidly it was spreading,” said Dr. Brita Lundberg, an infectious disease specialist in Brookline who’s part of the Massachusetts COVID-19 Action Coalition, a group of doctors advocating for medical staff and patients during the pandemic.

Lundberg reviewed some of the emails obtained by WBUR. She learned for the first time that by Jan. 27, there were five infections in four different states — “a tremendous risk,” she said, already on a dangerous path to a wide spread. Read more…