Way Behind the Curve
By Stephen Tuttle | March 28, 2020
Wars require a coordinated national strategy and a leader who's providing accurate information, encouragement and empathy. We have no such strategy, and no such leader.
The first case of COVID-19 we know of was diagnosed on Nov. 17, 2019, in China. They got around to telling the rest of the world on Dec. 31. It was already too late, especially with a world mostly unprepared to deal with what was coming. In the U.S., we weren't even willing to acknowledge it was coming.
Our first case was diagnosed on Jan. 21 in Washington state. We had no approved tests available here though there were already plenty elsewhere. A small German company with only 55 employees churned out more than a million accurate test kits in less than a week, but they didn't meet the protocols established by our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We finally started distributing CDC-approved test kits Feb. 5, though the criteria for receiving a test was unusually restrictive.
We were already way behind the curve.
From the beginning, we were being fed nonstop sugar-coated nonsense by Trump and his allies. Even as it became clear there was a problem, they simply blathered on. Here's a chronological sampling:
“No, we're not at all.” Trump, Jan. 22, when asked if he was worried about a pandemic.
“Well, we pretty much shut it down.” Trump, Jan. 31; 8 confirmed cases
“A lot of people think it will go away in April.” Trump, Feb. 10; 11 cases
“We have contained this ... pretty close to airtight.” Larry Kudlow, Feb. 25; 51 cases
“It's going to be down to close to zero.” Trump, Feb. 26; 57 cases
“It will disappear. Like a miracle, it will disappear.” Trump, Feb. 27; 59 cases
“We're going to have vaccines, I think relatively soon.” Trump, March 2, 92 cases
“Go to a rally. There's really no reason you shouldn't go.” Dr. Ben Carson, March 8, 518 cases
“It's really working out.” Trump, March 10; 959 cases
“No, I don't take responsibility at all.” Trump, March 12; 2,057 cases
“The markets are going to be just fine.” Trump, March 12; 2,057 cases
“It's something we have tremendous control over.” Trump, March 15; 3,499 cases
“I'd rate it a 10.” Trump, when asked to rate the government's response, March 16; 4,661 cases
“This is a pandemic. I've felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” Trump, March 17; 6,421 cases
“Nobody in their wildest dreams would have ever thought we'd need tens of thousands of ventilators,” Trump, March 19; 14,250 cases
(Full credit to www.RuleofLawRepublicans.com for their video, from which the above quotes were pulled.)
Of all the misinformation and fabrication the president has spouted since this started, that last bit might be the saddest because it is wildly untrue. Plenty of people in his own administration saw this coming.
Our government conducted pandemic exercises in both 2015 and 2017, only to find our response capabilities severely lacking.
In the summer of 2019, the CDC organized a drill called the Crimson Contagion Exercise, involving several government agencies and 15 states. The imaginary model used was an influenza virus starting in China and spreading into a pandemic. It wasn't precisely COVID-19, but it was freakishly similar. They concluded there was confusion among federal agencies, lack of a cohesive plan, and, as the mock influenza spread, they determined our real healthcare system would be overwhelmed with shortages of protective gear and equipment like ventilators.
Does any of that sound familiar?
That's three separate drills with the same results. Then came warnings, in January and early February, from the American intelligence community that a pandemic was coming. Either nobody wanted to hear bad news, or they just didn't believe it. Either way, we didn't react.
Even now there doesn't seem to be a coherent national strategy. The president's rosy declarations often contrast sharply with those of the actual experts. Reports of turf-protecting and in-fighting on the president's response team haven't helped boost our confidence.
The hard work has mostly been left to governors, local governments, and healthcare workers unprotected and under siege. Trump, true to form, was unwilling to accept any responsibility. With governors quite literally begging for supplies and help from the Feds, he could only conjure up an insult, saying governors “ ... shouldn't be blaming the federal government for their own shortcomings.” Wartime presidents don't typically denigrate field commanders doing the dirty work.
Now, the same administration that ignored the results of multiple pandemic exercises, ignored its own intelligence community, and misled and misinformed us for weeks wants to ignore the infectious disease experts and ease social distancing directives and business closures.
As this is going to print on March 26, there are more than 70,000 cases. There will be many more by the time you read it.