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President Trump's decision to restrict travel from China in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus in January was not his idea, journalist Bob Woodward told NBC's "Today."

Why it matters: Trump has frequently cited the restrictions as his go-to defense of the administration's coronavirus response, claiming that it saved "potentially millions of lives." But the assertion that the policy was singularly his idea — and that "almost everybody," including public health experts, was opposed to it — is "very different" from what actually happened, Woodward said.

  • Woodward reports in his forthcoming book "Rage," that the policy was recommended to Trump at a January meeting by some of the top health experts in the administration, including Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
  • Woodward also notes that there were some holes in the so-called travel "ban," and that thousands of people still traveled from China to the U.S. after the restrictions went into effect.

The big picture: "It is one of those shocks for me, having written about nine presidents, that the president of the United States possessed the specific knowledge that could have saved lives," Woodward said, recalling the warning Trump's advisers gave him in January. "Historians are going to be writing about the lost month of February for tens of years."

What to watch: Woodward had 18 conversations with Trump for the book, which is set to be released Tuesday.

Go deeper: Trump told Woodward "nothing more could have been done" on coronavirus

Go deeper

Updated Dec 23, 2020 - Health

Trump asks Congress to increase stimulus payments

A screenshot of President Trump making the announcement. Photo: President Trump/Twitter

President Trump indicated in a video Tuesday evening that he won't sign the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill and $1.4 trillion government funding measure passed by Congress if it's not amended to increase stimulus payments.

Why it matters: The surprise announcement could delay desperately needed aid for millions of Americans if Trump decides not to sign the package as it stands. It also risks a government shutdown on Dec. 28.

Dec 22, 2020 - Health

Antarctica reports first coronavirus cases

King George Island in Antarctica. Photo: Alessandro Dahan/Getty Images

Thirty-six people stationed at a Chilean research base in Antarctica have tested positive for COVID-19, media reports.

Why it matters: Every continent on Earth has now reported coronavirus infections. Travel and research in Antarctica, which houses about 1,000 people on 40 bases, had already been significantly limited, per the New York Times. Experts expect there to be long-term restrictions on the continent, given its isolation and extreme environment.

Dec 22, 2020 - Health

Deborah Birx says she will retire

Photo: Alex Wong via Getty

Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, told Newsy on Tuesday that she plans to retire.

Driving the news: Birx did not provide a specific timeline, but said she is willing to wait and help President-elect Joe Biden’s team with its coronavirus response if needed.