While President Trump downplayed the threat posed by the coronavirus, behind closed doors, Senator Richard Burr warned well-heeled donors of the looming public health threat three weeks ago, telling them to prepare for the worst.

As reported by NPR, a secret recording revealed Burr told donors of the possibility of travel bans, school shutdowns, and military hospitals at a February 27 luncheon with business leaders.

That same day, Trump held a press conference at which he lauded his team (and, of course, himself) for its handling of the situation. At this point, only a handful of people on U.S. soil were infected, and none had died. 

Everything was under control, Trump promised, and it would all be over soon: “And again, when you have 15 and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

But at private luncheon with the Tar Heel Circle, an elite business club that charges up to $10,000 per member, Burr took on a much graver tone. 

Those in the room had donated more than $100,000 to Burr’s previous campaigns (he’s not running for reelection). 

He warned them to start preparing. 

“There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,” Burr said. 

Travel bans, school closures, and the launch of domestic military hospitals were strong possibilities, Burr continued. This was two weeks before the start of restrictions on international travel and North Carolina school closures. 

Makes you wonder if any of those donors used that information to short the stock market. 

Publicly, Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, never said a word about how serious the crisis would get as Trump insisted that, “like a miracle,” the virus may just “disappear.” 

Contact Raleigh news editor Leigh Tauss at ltauss@indyweek.com. 

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