Former VA Secretary: Pandemic response ‘got off to a very bad start’

Former VA secretary David Shulkin told ABC News that pandemics are predictable and that the Trump administration lacked an effective national strategy.
5:28 | 07/29/20

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Transcript for Former VA Secretary: Pandemic response ‘got off to a very bad start’
For more now on the trump administration's pandemic response and the question of how we got here we bring in former veterans affairs secretary David schalken who served under president trump and President Obama. Thanks so much for joining us. Glad to be here. You can trump administration in 2018. Well before this pandemic but having let America's largest health care system under this president what do you tell us about. President trumps approach to public health and also his leadership style and and how it compares to president Obama's. The role of government to roll over president is to protect its citizens and traditionally people haven't thought about that in terms of a health crisis but clearly now I think the country understands the role government. And the role the executive branch in leadership. Of a pandemic like this is absolutely critical. And we plan for that in the Obama administration in fact there was a table top exercise in January 2017. Were reporting operation. Where we had a scenario just like this which was to prepare for a viral pandemic and so. Every administration needs to have a plan needs to have a backup plan at each step. Have people that are capable of implementing that. Unfortunately what we've seen is really a very uncoordinated fragmented plan being implemented in this country. And you wrote in your book ended president trump brush and what you called a quote shadow government that he often relied on the advice of the few government outsiders instead of his own officials. You suspect that he's still doing up. I think the president. Always likes to get advice from outside people he's very yacht. Eager to hear from people who may offer IKEA does and that is a challenge particularly when you're a inside person a person has been in government and used to having a formal chain of command at people. Giving advice from the outside that you don't know what that devices and you don't get a chance to necessarily your bat. So it makes it challenging to be with the administration with that type of style but you know that's up to their president where he wants to get his information. From so curious to hear your response I mean president trump has said. Many times that no one could have seen this pandemic coming is that true it why anything that he continues to say that. Well first of all. And then it's aren't anything new there tend to be about three and that makes every century and that's like government prepares for it. That's why you had a pandemic office. In the Obama administration and that's what does CDC does in terms of monitoring we actually. Had people all across the world especially in China who worked for the CDC to actually pick up. And do this typist or ballots because pandemic are predictable that we had won in 2002. We have via all look and that makes. And so this should not be a surprise that they cop now you know this pandemic is hitting the United States in a way that. Hasn't happened in a 102 years by. It is the job the government to prepare for these types of disasters an emergency it's that whiny thing it's hitting the US especially hard. Well I think that we just happened done a good job of implementing a national strategy you know art. Ron big organizations have been the CEO large hospital systems. I don't have multiple strategies when I lead an organization I have a singular strategy and you lead organizations with principles and you consistently put those principles. Into operation and what we've done year in this country is wheat. Delegated that to fifty different governor who each have decided to do their own strategy in unfortunately Americans just don't. Operate that way they don't they don't stay within state lines and people travel buyers doesn't travel but that means. That we just don't have an effective national coordinated strategy when it comes to. Testing or in terms. Restricting the spread of the virus. And as you on the other tribe White House disbanded the national Security Council's. Pandemic planning office in 2018. How much you think that that's crippled our covad nineteen response and what might have happened would you say if that office had stayed intact. Well I think that's a big uncertainty. I think that we are already know that there were people in the White House that were aware early on concerned about. The implications. Of this type of worldwide pandemic. But if people don't listen to the advice if they don't take the action. Even having a pandemic office that was a where this doesn't necessarily mean that we would about it different result than we. Have seen here but certainly I think that. You want to have. High level. People who can't get the ear of the president who can take actions. Who really could develop that type of national strategy now. We got off to a very bad start this pandemic because of our lack of preparedness. In diagnostic testing and as soon as we got behind me in that we really haven't caught up sense. We need to make sure that we do better in the future secretary schalken with thanks so much for your insight and your time. Thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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