When the novel coronavirus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the Beijing offices of a key U.S. health agency that had operated in China for 30 years was already down to a skeleton staff.
Documents obtained by Reuters show that he Trump administration cut personnel working for U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in China from 47 down to about 14.
Four people familiar with the drawdown told Reuters the losses included epidemiologists and other health professionals.
Under U.S. President Donald Trump's watch, the National Science Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development which had a role in helping China respond to outbreaks - also shut their Beijing offices.
The people who spoke to Reuters say the cuts at the agencies sidelined health experts, scientists and others who might have been able to help China mount an earlier response to the novel coronavirus and provide the U.S. with more information about what was coming.
The White House declined to comment.
And while the CDC did not respond to questions submitted by Reuters, it has insisted its staffing levels did not hinder the U.S. response to the coronavirus.