“there’s not one person who’s in charge”

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Just how uncoordinated is the Trump regime's response to the coronavirus and the medical equipment shortages we're now seeing?

I think this gives us some idea.

Trump's coronavirus "task force" led by Vice President Mike Pence -- a force that includes renowned prophet Larry Kudlow -- is reaching out to other nations in the search for more personal protective equipment (PPE) and, in at least one case, a task force official asked for help from a nation that we shipped equipment to.

The official asked the Thais for help—only to be informed by the puzzled voices on the other side of the line that a U.S. shipment of the same supplies, the second of two so far, was already on its way to Bangkok.

Trump aides were alarmed when they learned of the exchange, and immediately put the shipment on hold while they ordered a review of U.S. aid procedures. Crossed wires would only confuse our allies, they worried, or worse—offend them. And Americans confronting a surging death toll and shortages of medical equipment back home would likely be outraged.

The White House has now ordered a review of our processes and placed a moratorium on shipments of equipment we're running out of here at home.

That's a good thing, I suppose, but shouldn't they have done that a month ago if not two months ago? An administration with any foresight would have reviewed our aid processes and stockpiles when the novel coronavirus first emerged in China in December. It's abundantly clear that the threat was never taken seriously until it was too late. And to some extent, they still don't take it seriously enough.

Now, I'm not going to say we shouldn't ask other nations for help because a global pandemic demands a global response, but it feels low-key embarrassing that we have to ask Thailand among others for help. I imagine Republicans would loudly say the same thing if a Democrat were in the White House right now.

On the other hand, if a Democrat were in the White House, the outbreak may not be bad enough to require asking for help. At the very least, I think we can say with a great deal of confidence that the situation would have been managed better.

“The problem is, there’s not one person who’s in charge of this, which is why we’re instituting a review process that is led by the White House coronavirus task force,” a person directly involved with the review said. [...]

“The idea is to figure out what is in short supply and how it compares to what USAID has overseas,” explained the official. “Given what’s happening in the United States and the shortage of critical supplies, it would be really difficult to be sending things abroad when we need them here at home.”

“One of the big questions the task force is discussing is how foreign aid could help us when a second wave hits, whether that’s in the fall or later this summer,” said another person close to USAID. “Pence realizes you have to wait for the right time to provide assistance, but also that foreign assistance can help us as well.”

That last quote really jumped out at me.

The White House is privately expecting a second outbreak later this year, but they have not expressed that publicly to my knowledge.

  • Aynwrong

    The Republican party is a conspiracy to turn the United States into a third world nation. It’s succeeding.

  • muselet

    A second-wave outbreak was always going to happen.

    Since self-quarantine is imperfect—we all need to get groceries once in a while, and some people are just plain dumb—when shelter-in-place rules are relaxed, there will still be a reservoir of Sars-Co-V2 ready and waiting. The second peak should be significantly lower and flatter than the first, barring a worst-case mutation, but it’ll be there.

    What’s concerning to me is that the Coronavirus Task Force is still discussing the second wave. A task force worthy of the name—maybe one run by actual public-health professionals instead of a life-long politician with a less-than-stellar track record on issues of public health—would have discussed this long ago and developed flexible plans to deal with the reality. Such a task force might also have troubled itself back in December to read the pandemic response plan helpfully provided by the previous administration.

    With luck, we will somehow bumble our way to a semblance of competence in our response to the pandemic. Stories like this one, however, do nothing for my confidence.


    • Christopher Foxx

      Such a task force might also have troubled itself back in December to read the pandemic response plan helpfully provided by the previous administration.

      And that’s why they didn’t.

  • gescove

    Clusterfuck is wholly and woefully inadequate to describe this Administration’s pandemic response. I. Have. No. Words.