COVID-19 is spreading fast in multiple states in America, and has already resulted in 7,500 deaths and the U.S. government's response has fallen far short of the efforts even in much smaller countries like the U.K. or South Korea.

It would have been quite difficult to stop this from happening but not impossible. President Trump is responsible for the agencies in charge of disease control in the U.S., and he has utterly botched it.

To contain a viral outbreak, speed and precision are very important. When any new disease appears, there are of course only a few cases. Identifying, isolating, and treating infected people can halt the disease before it gets out into the wild and starts spreading on its own  but on the other hand, even a single infected person out in public can cause dozens of new cases, so authorities must also be ready to identify anyone who gets through the quarantine net and track anyone they contacted, as fast as possible.

By December 2019 at the latest it was clear that there was a major danger that novel coronavirus was going to get out of China. Sensible countries by this point started mass-producing testing kits, instructing border officials to take hygiene precautions and prepare to test travelers coming from affected countries, educating the public about ways to avoid infecting themselves and others, securing stockpiles of key medical supplies, readying the medical system to quarantine infected people, and setting up contact-tracking systems.

In the United States, the president is the only person who could have set this process in motion. But Trump did nothing. He had spent the previous several years hacking away at the government's pandemic response capacity, including firing the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure, but he did not reverse those cuts. Nor did he provide any pre-emptive funding to cash-strapped public health departments across the country who would be the first line of defense. Nor did he instruct the Centers for Disease Control or border officials to start gearing up in a serious way. Nor did he try to arrange health coverage for anyone caught in quarantine, which he could do via executive order.

Instead, he mostly did the only things Trump knows how to do: angrily blame Democrats and the media, lie about what was happening and live-tweet Fox News. The fragments of the CDC that still exist were caught flat-footed and did not have even close to enough testing capacity which explains why there have been so  but so many deaths. About the only thing the administration did do was belatedly close off travel from China and other countries but by then it was far too late, with the virus already spreading in the state of Washington and elsewhere.

Overall, the U.S. response has fallen to states and city governments to carry out responses of their own in piecemeal fashion.

To be sure, the United States has severe defects that make it unusually vulnerable to a pandemic. It has a lousy health-care system that leaves tens of millions uninsured meaning a trip to the doctor risks bankruptcy for them. There is no national sick leave, and many go to work sick and infect others because they simply cannot afford to take time off.

In summary:

  1. Trump labelled the impending crisis caused by the virus as a hoax. The administration initially denied the existence of the pandemic.
  2. Lack of preparation in anticipating such a crisis, even though experts predicted its inevitability, and therefore not having adequate resources for those who are on the front lines. Whether it is the lack of protective wear for medical personnel or police or fire departments, putting those whose job it is protect the citizens of the country at risk.
  3. Delay in providing the appropriate equipment for citizens sickened by the virus. Delaying the manufacture of respirators and the resistance to redistributing existing equipment to high-need areas.
  4. Pitting of one state against another in securing limited resources to fight the pandemic war. Fracturing rather than uniting the country.
  5. Spreading of propaganda and inaccurate information. Telling citizens that an untried drug will protect them or delaying the recommendation for social distancing.
  6. Demand that government officials pay fealty to the president in order to secure the resources needed to save lives.
  7. Willingness to sacrifice the lives of civilians in order to preserve industrial wealth.

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