Woodrow Wilson was more focused on the end of World War I than a flu virus that was making its way around the globe, ultimately sickening hundreds of thousands of Americans, including the president himself.
George W. Bush stood with a bullhorn on a pile of rubble after the 9/11 attacks on lower Manhattan and promised that the people who were responsible "will hear all of us soon."
Barack Obama was in office for just a few months when the first reports came in about the H1N1 virus, which would eventually be declared a pandemic like today's new coronavirus.
Most American presidents will confront a crisis — or crises — before they leave office, whether it is a natural disaster, war, economic downturn, public health threat or terrorism.
What matters is how they respond, historians say.
"The number one thing a president can do in a moment like this is try to calm the nation," said Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University.
It's what Franklin D. Roosevelt did during an extraordinary 12 years in office, guiding the nation through a bleak period of Depression-era unemployment, a severe Midwest drought known as the Dust Bowl and battle against the Nazis and Japanese in World War II.
During the influenza of Wilson's time, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, including about 675,000 in America, presidents were not involved in public health issues in the same way that President Donald Trump has become engrossed in the U.S. effort against the new coronavirus.
Such issues were left for public health professionals at the state and local level.
"Wilson never issued any public statement whatsoever," said John M. Barry, author of "The Great Influenza," a book about the 1918 flu. "He was entirely focused on the war. Period."
In fact, Wilson was so focused on the post-war peace talks that he was a party to in Paris that he, too, ended up stricken with the flu. He recovered.
Trump, on the other hand, seems intent on being the public face of the effort against what has become his most serious challenge in a reelection year. Trump, who has no scientific or medical training, now leads a daily White House briefing on coronavirus efforts by a task force he tapped the vice president to lead.
Trump styles himself as a "wartime president" fighting an "invisible enemy" responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of infections in the U.S. - numbers that will continue to rise as the virus spreads — and a dramatic upheaval of everyday life.
Millions of people have been ordered or urged to stay home for the foreseeable future, cut off from simple pleasures like going to restaurants, shopping malls or movies in a bid to slow the virus.
But Trump's crisis management has earned mixed reviews, with praise from many supporters and criticism from detractors, including mayors and governors who are desperate for Trump to more robustly use his authority to help them get much-needed protective gear and supplies for doctors and nurses.
The president's early attempts to minimize the severity of the situation, and to suggest that it was under control, have been panned, though he recently adopted a more urgent tone.
But the damage has been done, said Scott Morrison, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, citing lack of public trust due to Trump's early handling of the situation.
"Not having trust and confidence is a huge liability heading into something this catastrophic," said Morrison, senior vice president and director of the Global Health Policy Center at CSIS.
Obama was a few months into his first term in 2009 term when reports started coming in that April about the H1N1 flu. He addressed the situation that month, assembled a team and ultimately declared both a public health emergency and a national emergency to deal with the threat.
"This is obviously a very serious situation, and every American should know that their entire government is taking the utmost precautions and preparations," Obama said as he opened a White House news conference that month.
He said public health officials had recommended that schools with confirmed cases consider temporarily closing, and that he had asked Congress for $1.5 billion in emergency funding to help monitor and track the virus, and to build a supply of antiviral drugs and other equipment.
"Everyone should rest assured that this government is prepared to do whatever it takes to control the impact of this virus," Obama said.
Dr. Howard Markel, director of the University of Michigan's Center for the History of Medicine, said Obama was "very hands on" during H1N1 — but not as visibly as Trump. Obama's director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention conducted daily briefings from Atlanta.
"He took a step back because he allowed his experts to run the show," Markel said of Obama. "He didn't have to be in front of the podium, but you knew he was there."
Nearly 12,500 deaths due to the H1N1 flu were reported in the U.S. between April 2009 and April 2010, when the World Health Organization declared an end to the pandemic.
Obama spent nearly $1 billion and sent U.S. military personnel to West Africa to help with the response to an outbreak of Ebola in 2014.
Still feeling his way through his first year in office, Bush became a wartime president the instant hijackers recruited by the al-Qaida militant network flew commercial airliners with passengers into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001.
Days later, Bush stood atop the rubble and memorably spoke for the nation.
"I can hear you!" Bush blared through the bullhorn as emergency responders cheered. "The rest of the world hears you! And the people – and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."
Weeks after that appearance, Bush authorized military airstrikes against Taliban military installations and al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan. U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan continues to this day.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived Monday in Kabul on an urgent visit to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban, a trip that comes despite the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when world leaders and statesmen are curtailing official travel.
Since the signing of the deal, the peace process has stalled amid political turmoil in Afghanistan, with the country's leaders squabbling over who was elected president.
President Ashraf Ghani and his main rival in last September's presidential polls, Abdullah Abdullah, have both declared themselves the country's president in dueling inauguration ceremonies earlier this month.
During his visit, Pompeo is expected to try to help end the impasse, which has put on hold the start of intra-Afghan peace talks that would include the Taliban. Those talks are seen as a critical next step in the peace deal, negotiated to allow the United States to bring home its troops and give Afghans the best chance at peace.
The U.S. and NATO have already begun to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan. The final pullout of U.S. forces is not dependent on the success of intra-Afghan negotiations but rather on promises made by the Taliban to deny space in Afghanistan to other terror groups, such as the insurgents' rival Islamic State group.
But within days of the U.S.- and the Taliban signing the peace deal in Qatar on Feb. 29, Afghanistan sunk into a political crisis with Ghani and Abdullah squaring off over election results and Ghani refusing to fulfill his part of a promise made in the U.S.-Taliban deal to free up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The insurgents were for their part, to free 1,000 Afghan officials and soldiers they hold captive. The exchange was meant to be a good-will gesture by both sides to start the negotiations.
The urgency of Pompeo's surprise visit was highlighted by the fact that the State Department has warned American citizens against all international travel, citing the spread of the new coronavirus. Pompeo has cancelled at least two domestic U.S. trips because of the outbreak, including one to a now-cancelled G7 foreign ministers meeting that was to have taken place in Pittsburgh this week. That meeting will now take place by video conference.
Pompeo's last overseas trip in late February was to Doha, Qatar, for the signing of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal he is now trying to salvage.
As the virus pandemic has worsened, causing many nations to close their borders and airports and cancel international flights, Pompeo and the State Department have come under increasing criticism for not doing enough to help Americans stranded overseas get home.
On Saturday, just hours before he departed on his unannounced trip to Afghanistan, Pompeo was roundly attacked on social media for a photo he posted to his personal Twitter account of him and his wife, Susan, at home working on a jigsaw puzzle with a scene from the Tom Cruise film "Top Gun" on a TV screen. "Susan and I are staying in and doing a puzzle this afternoon. Pro tip: if you're missing the beach, just throw on Top Gun!" the caption read.
Many of the critics took Pompeo to task for apparently not working while thousands of Americans are struggling to find transportation home from various countries.
Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been trying to jumpstart talks between Afghans on both sides of the conflict — the next critical step in the U.S.-Taliban deal — tweeted early Monday that the two sides are talking about the prisoner exchange.
The intra-Afghan negotiations were never going to be easy but since Washington signed the peace deal with the Taliban, it has struggled to get the Afghan government to at least offer a unified position.
Pompeo's visit is also extraordinary for the fact that the U.S., like the United Nations, had earlier said it would not again be drawn into mediating between feuding Afghan politicians. While the Afghan election committee this time gave the win to Ghani, Abdullah and the election complaints commission charged widespread irregularities to challenge Ghani's win.
In Afghanistan's previous presidential election in 2014, also marred by widespread fraud and deeply disputed results, Ghani and Abdullah emerged as leading contenders. Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry mediated between the two and eventually cobbled together a so-called unity government, with Ghani as president and Abdullah holding the newly created but equal in statue post of the country's chief executive.
However, the Ghani-Andullah partnership was a difficult one, and for much of its five years triggered a parliamentary paralysis leading up to the September balloting.
Policemen check a motorcyclist in Rome, Italy, March 22, 2020. The coronavirus epidemic continued to spread in locked-down Italy on Sunday with total cumulative number of infected cases reaching 59,138 and deaths reaching 5,476, according to the latest data released by the Civil Protection Department. (Photo by Elisa Lingria/Xinhua)
BRUSSELS, March 22 (Xinhua) -- With surging confirmed COVID-19 cases, European nations adopted a raft of further measures on Sunday to peg back the contagion, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has put herself in quarantine after a doctor she met Friday tested positive.
Italy, which has been hit hardest by the epidemic in Europe, saw no abating sign in the spread of the novel coronavirus on Sunday. The sum of infections, deaths and recoveries now stands at 59,138, up from 53,578 of Saturday, according to the Health Ministry. The authorities also confirmed that 12 Civil Protection staff members have tested positive.
Meanwhile, France has seen its first coronavirus death of health staff. A doctor from Compiegne hospital in l'Oise, one of the worst affected regions in the country, died of infection on Saturday, said Director General of Health Jerome Salomon. France has confirmed 16,018 coronavirus infection cases, 35 percent of whom are aged under 65.
In Spain, the number of confirmed cases rose to 28,572 on Sunday, and 1,720 people have lost their lives to the disease. The Czech Republic, North Macedonia and Romania recorded their first deaths from the COVID-19 on the same day.
Also on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to immediately quarantine herself at home and take tests over the next few days after she was informed that the doctor who gave her a pneumococcal vaccination was diagnosed with COVID-19.
"The Chancellor will also conduct her official affairs from home quarantine," said government spokesman Steffen Seibert. According to Deutsche Presse Agentur, Germany reported more than 24,100 COVID-19 cases with 90 deaths by Sunday.
BEEFING UP MEASURES
Before being informed of the confirmed case, Merkel told a press conference that Germany will prohibit public gatherings of more than two, but relatives who live in their own household are exempt from the ban.
German citizens are advised to reduce contacts with other people outside their own household to the least, and a minimum distance of 1.5 meters must be kept, preferably two meters.
Celebration gatherings in public places, at home and in private institutions are unacceptable, considering the current serious situation, Merkel said, adding that violations of the contact restriction will be sanctioned.
The restriction measures will be in effect for at least two weeks, showing "care for the elderly and ill people, " "in brief, save lives, " Merkel said.
In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Sunday that his government was seeking to extend the current state of emergency, which was declared on March 14, for another 15 days after the end of the initial period.
In Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced in an address broadcast live on public broadcaster ERT a nationwide lockdown as part of measures to contain the further spread of the novel coronavirus.
The measure takes effect from Monday 6:00 a.m. local time, he said. All unnecessary movement of people is prohibited.
"It must be taken on time, so it is not taken in vain... We need bold and timely initiatives," Mitsotakis stated.
In Denmark, the authorities have acknowledged that the exact number of infections may be much higher in society since only those with clear symptoms have been tested. The Health Ministry announced an expansion of its COVID-19 testing strategy.
"We are working hard to increase test capacity with both private and public parties, and I want to work with the regions to execute this offensive testing strategy across the country," said Minister for Health and Elderly Affairs Magnus Heunicke in a press release.
CHINA LENDS A HELPING HAND
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Sunday that Chinese medical experts are "the most valuable resource in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus infection."
Brnabic made the remark while meeting with the six Chinese medical experts along with Minister of Health Zlatibor Loncar and Chinese Ambassador to Serbia Chen Bo.
Noting that the novel coronavirus is still under-explored, Brnabic said Serbia put its biggest hopes in the Chinese expertise.
"The People's Republic of China is a country that has remarkably confronted the COVID-19 virus and we are extremely happy to have you here with us. There are currently no people in the world who know more about this infectious disease and whose experiences would be more useful to us who are currently fighting the battle with the coronavirus. Thank you very much once again for being with us," said Brnabic, according to a release from the government's press office.
Meanwhile in Cyprus, Chinese Ambassador to the country Huang Xingyuan said a batch of medical supplies is en route to Cyprus from China.
"We are keeping close track of the first dispatch of med supplies already on their way from China to Cyprus. May they arrive in time to aid Cyprus' combat against COVID-19 at this critical point," the ambassador tweeted.
Singapore confirmed 23 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, of which 18 are imported and five are local cases.
This brings the national total to 455 cases, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in its daily update.
The imported cases had travel histories to Europe, North America, South America and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries. All except one case were returning residents and long-term pass holders.
Four more patients have also been discharged, the MOH said.
In all, 144 people have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged from hospital. Of the 309 confirmed cases who are still in hospital, most are stable or improving. Fourteen are in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
The first two deaths were reported Saturday morning.
On Sunday, the city state also announced tighter border controls, in a bid to reduce further imported COVID-19 cases.
Singapore will bar all entry and transit to all short-term visitors starting from 11:59 p.m. Monday, the MOH said in a statement.
Previously, except for a handful of countries, short-term visitors from elsewhere were allowed to come into Singapore, although they would be given a 14-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN) upon arrival.
In light of the heightened risk of imported COVID-19 cases into Singapore, the ministry said this move will help to "conserve resources so we can focus on Singaporeans."
The MOH also noted the "further sharp increase" in cases globally and widening spread. To date, there are more than 260,000 COVID-19 cases across 185 countries and regions, and around 11,200 deaths.
In Singapore, almost 80 percent of cases in the past three days were local residents or long-term pass holders returning from overseas. These imported cases had travel histories to 22 different countries.
In addition, only work pass holders providing essential services, such as in healthcare and transport, will be allowed by the Manpower Ministry to enter or return to Singapore. This will include their dependents
Massive medical supplies donated by China's Jack Ma Foundation to 54 African countries arrived on Sunday morning in Addis Ababa, capital of the East African nation of Ethiopia, through an Ethiopian Airlines cargo flight.
They include 5.4 million face masks, kits for 1.08 million detection tests, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 sets of protective face shields, according to the Jack Ma Foundation.
The supplies will first be distributed to countries throughout Africa which are particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. The remaining 600,000 masks are expected to reach Addis Ababa and be distributed to more African nations over the next few weeks, it said.
The relief initiative forms part of Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation's ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 and provide aid to afflicted communities across the globe.
Earlier this week, the foundations had announced their commitment to donating 100,000 medical masks, 20,000 test kits and 1,000 protective suits and face shields to each of the 54 nations on the African continent.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across Africa has climbed to 1,114 as 40 African countries reported confirmed cases as of Saturday afternoon, the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention disclosed on Saturday.
Collaboration and partnership with the Alibaba-led Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) hubs in Ethiopia and Rwanda is expected to prompt the distribution across Africa. The flight with the shipment landed at the eWTP hub in Ethiopia, which will help facilitate transport and distribution of donations throughout the continent.
"Getting these donations to all 54 African countries, with diverse geographic conditions and different levels of infrastructure, is a great logistical and transportation challenge. We are working around the clock to make the delivery as fast as possible. " according to a Jack Ma Foundation statement.
"With our technology and eWTP Hubs, we are doing our utmost to quickly deliver these donations, so the supplies can reach those who need them most," added Song Juntao, Secretary-General of eWTP.
This donation is part of global efforts that the Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations have promoted to support the areas of the world most affected by the COVID-19 crisis, sourcing and delivering various types of medical supplies to countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, United States, Italy, Belgium, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Slovenia.
Established by Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group, the Jack Ma Foundation was founded in 2014 and has been focusing on education, entrepreneurship, women's leadership, and the environment.
With a crowd of journalists and crews of different media houses, officials and representatives of national and international offices as well as Africa CDC experts attended the arrival and delivery ceremony held on the premises of the Ethiopian Airlines Cargo terminal in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia's Minister of Health Lia Tadesse said that the East African country has been receiving medical supplies and also learning experiences from China.
The Minister hailed the donation by Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation, saying it has significant impact on addressing the problem in the country.
"It is really commendable. What China has done is an amazing learning for the whole world. Not only this donation but we are also working very closely with the Chinese government to learn and also get other supplies," the minister said.
Speaking to Xinhua after the delivery ceremony, Tewolde GebreMariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, said the donation is an exemplary move, serving as a lesson to the rest of the world and showing collaboration and joint efforts in the battle against the epidemic.
South Africa is one of those countries that have got the largest number of COVID-19 cases on the continent. South African Ambassador to Ethiopia and also to the African Union (AU), Edward Makaya, hailed the donation, saying it would go a long way to support Africa in dealing with the epidemic.
This contribution was going to assist not only South Africa, but the entire continent, in building the capacity to battle COVID-19, the ambassador said.
The WFP Representative and Country Director in Ethiopia, Steven Were Omamo, told Xinhua that the donation, which incorporated important stuff like the testing kits, contributed significantly to the battle against the epidemic in Africa.
"It is amazing and generous donation, and nothing could be done more important at this time for Africa. So, this initiative by the Jack Ma Foundation and Ethiopia's Prime Minister is fundamental," he said.
At least 1,198 COVID-19 cases have been reported in 41 African countries, the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), disclosed on Sunday.
The Africa CDC, in its latest situation update, also revealed that the death toll in Africa due to COVID-19 is currently 37 across the continent.