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White House adviser to 60 Minutes: Show me your pandemic story

Peter Navarro challenges 60 Minutes
White House adviser to 60 Minutes: Show me your pandemic story 03:46

The term "personal protective equipment," known as PPE, has quickly become a fixture in the American lexicon. It is the armor doctors and nurses rely on to keep themselves safe while treating the contagious. 

This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Bill Whitaker reported on the national shortage of protective medical equipment including gloves, masks and face shields.

For the story, Whitaker interviewed Peter Navarro, President Donald Trump's trade adviser and newly designated policy coordinator of the Defense Production Act.

The Defense Production Act allows the President to force companies to produce goods needed to defend the country. President Trump signed an executive order to utilize the law on March 18. 

Throughout our interview with Navarro, we were surprised to find that he was, at times, more interested in attacking 60 Minutes than discussing preparations the Trump administration made for a global pandemic.

"I challenge you, show me the  60 Minutes  episode a year ago, two years ago, or during the Obama administration, during the Bush administration that said, 'Hey, global pandemic's coming,'" Navarro said to Bill Whitaker.

In a 2005 story "Chasing the Flu," 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft reported on H5N1 or avian flu. The report featured an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. Fauci was the point person for the Bush administration's response to the virus. 

"Right now, and we all admit that, right now if we had an explosion of an H5N1, we would not be prepared for that," Fauci told 60 Minutes in 2005.

In November 2005, President Bush proposed a $7.1 billion program and unveiled a national pandemic strategy.

"By making critical investments today, we'll strengthen our ability to safeguard the American people in the awful event of a devastating global pandemic, and at the same time will bring our nation's public health and medical infrastructure more squarely in the 21st century," said President Bush at the time. 

You can watch Steve Kroft's 2005 report on the avian flu below. 

In 2009, 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley reported on the H1N1 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control gave 60 Minutes rare access to see how it was responding to the nationwide crisis. 


Rear Admiral Anne Schuchat was the CDC's chief health officer during the H1N1 pandemic. 

"We think the virus is virtually everywhere in the country," Schuchat told 60 Minutes in 2009. "Quite a lot of illness, hospitalizations, and deaths."

Dr. Schuchat currently serves as principal deputy director of the CDC. She has twice served as acting director during the Trump administration. 

"This is one of the really tragic parts of this epidemic, that people who are in the prime of their life, totally healthy, can suddenly become so sick," Schuchat said of H1N1 in 2009. "The virus is serious, it can cause overwhelming bacterial pneumonia in some people--the influenza followed by a bacterial pneumonia."

The present day shortage of personal protective equipment has led some countries to block exports of essential medical equipment.

The World Health Organization warned there was likely to be a worldwide shortage of personal protective equipment on March 3. The WHO suggested countries and private companies increase production by 40%. The organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11. 

President Trump used the Defense Production Act for the first time on March 27 to compel General Motors to produce ventilators.

60 Minutes' 2005 report on pandemic preparedness 14:05

"Chasing the Flu" was produced by L. Franklin Devine and Associate Producer Kay Lim.

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