In January 2020, the U.S. public was largely unaware of the threat posed by the virus spreading in China, but health officials were on high alert and girding for a crisis.
A deputy to top health official Anthony Fauci reported 10 sales of mutual funds and stocks totaling between $157,000 and $480,000 that month. Collectively, officials at another health agency, Health and Human Services, reported 60% more sales of stocks and funds in January than the average over the previous 12 months, driven by a handful of particularly active traders.
By March, agencies across the government were working on wide-reaching measures to prop the economy and markets. Then-Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao purchased more than $600,000 in two stock funds while her agency was involved in the pandemic response and her husband, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, was leading negotiations over a giant, market-boosting stimulus bill.