U.S. Moves To Formally Withdraw From World Health Organization As COVID-19 Cases Soar

The Trump administration gave formal notice to the WHO that the U.S. would withdraw from the agency as COVID-19 cases exceeded 3 million.

President Trump attends a roundtable discussion about reopening schools | Getty Images
President Trump attends a roundtable discussion about reopening schools | Getty Images

The Trump administration has given formal notice of the United States’ withdrawal from the World Health Organization as the country tops 3 million COVID-19 cases, according to multiple reports.

A spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said the U.S. gave formal notice of withdrawal from the agency via letter on July 6, and will go into effect July 6, 2021, according to multiple reports.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D) confirmed Tuesday on Twitter that Congress had been notified of Trump’s decision to formally withdraw from the WHO. 

President Trump threatened to cut U.S. funding to the WHO as early as April. At the end of May, he announced the U.S. would be ending its relationship with the UN agency, saying it needed to reform. He also accused China of pressuring the WHO to mislead the world about coronavirus when it first emerged, though theories on the origins of the virus have varied.

Instead of allocating the roughly $450 million contribution to the WHO, Trump said the money would be redirected to other health organizations.

The U.S. must give a one-year notice of leaving the organization, according to a treaty agreement it signed in 1948. The U.S. will also have to pay any outstanding dues.

The American Medical Association reacted to the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the WHO, writing in a statement that the UN agency “plays a leading role in protecting, supporting, and promoting public health in the United States and around the world.”

“The Trump administration's official withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO) puts the health of our country at grave risk,” the AMA’s statement read. “As leading medical organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of physicians, we join in strong opposition to this decision, which is a major setback to science, public health, and global coordination efforts needed to defeat COVID-19.”

The news comes as the WHO responded to an open letter published on Monday from 239 scientists urging the agency to acknowledge the airborne transmission of COVID-19. The letter notes that while social distancing and handwashing are appropriate measures for containing the virus, they are also “insufficient.”

“Most public health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), do not recognize airborne transmission except for aerosol-generating procedures performed in healthcare settings,” the letter read. “This problem is especially acute in indoor or enclosed environments, particularly those that are crowded and have inadequate ventilation.”

Prof. Benedetta Allegranzi, WHO Technical Lead for Infection Prevention and Control, said during a Tuesday press conference that there is “emerging evidence” of different “modes of transmission” of COVID-19.

American infectious disease epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove also added that the organization has been researching different types of transmissions including droplets, mother-to-child, animal-to-human, and others. She also said the WHO will be issuing a brief in the coming days that outlines their current findings on transmission.

While the U.S. is moving to withdraw from the WHO, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and cases have continued to climb in recent weeks. As of Wednesday, more than 3 million cases have been reported in the U.S., including more than 131,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

Several states — including the most populous ones: Texas, Florida, and California. — have recently reported record-high single-day cases over the last few weeks.

Trump said during a White House briefing on Tuesday that he wants schools to start reopening in the fall. He also said the administration is going to “put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.” First Lady Melania Trump echoed the president’s statement, adding that childrens’ mental health and social development need to be a priority.

Trump also noted that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) plans to reopen schools in the fall, despite the state’s alarming rise in COVID-19 cases. The plan in Florida announced Monday quickly drew criticism from education leaders across the state.

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