Experts: Trump’s Failure To Use National Strategy Will Cost “Thousands” Of Lives
The Trump administration’s failure to mount a well-coordinated national response to the coronavirus pandemic, choosing instead to have states chart their own courses, will likely doom the U.S. to an open-ended outbreak and cause thousands of unnecessary deaths, public health experts told NBC News this week.
“This is not a partisan issue,” said Kenneth Bernard, a biosecurity expert who served in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. “There needs to be a central command presence on this. There needs to be a person who can act as a focal point for tests, personal protective equipment and countermeasures — acquisition and distribution.
“Right now, it's too fragmented and fractured, and that's counterproductive, because the states are competing against the federal government for the same sources of materials.”
Despite the experts’ opinion, President Donald Trump has opted to play an assisting role, rather than taking charge with a national strategy.
"Massive amounts of medical supplies, even hospitals and medical centers, are being delivered directly to states and hospitals by the Federal Government," he tweeted on Thursday. "Some have insatiable appetites & are never satisfied (politics?). Remember, we are a backup for them."
NBC News pointed out that the federal government did not issue a national order of social distancing, and opted for states to issue their own stay-at-home orders.
Unacast, a program that tracks movements of people through cell phone location data, created a social distancing scoreboard, in which fourteen states got C’s, 14 got D’s and Wyoming got an F.
In addition, Trump is criticized for not providing states with enough medical equipment, including protection masks and ventilators. The states had to bid against each other, and NBC News reported that governors complained that “they have been out bid on occasions by federal agencies.”
“A competition has ensued between states, and in the absence of a unified plan, the states that are affected the worst first have had to go it themselves,” said Beth Cameron, senior director for global health security and biodefense on the National Security Council in the Obama administration.
Moreover, the Trump administration is scrutinized for its lack of testing strategy. Testing remains subpar in the U.S., which did not learn from South Korea’s model response to the coronavirus. Unlike in South Korea, the U.S. did not adopt the method of contract tracing -- identifying a confirmed case and figuring out who was in close contact with the patient, then putting them under quarantine to isolate new cases.
"For South Korea, [contact tracing] is a huge part of the way that they're keeping the case numbers down. We're not talking about that. There's been no discussion of it," said Jeremy Konyndyk, a former senior official with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
As of Friday, there are 266,671 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with 58,243 total deaths.