COVID19

“Long delays in getting test results hobble coronavirus response”

“Long delays in getting test results hobble coronavirus response” reads the Washington Post headline not from March, or May, but from this morning, July 13.  

The story goes on to say: “More efficient testing — such as in South Korea, where results are often given the next day — might have prevented the Bottomses from getting the virus. But such turnarounds seem out of reach in the United States because of a lack of federal coordination, supply shortages and surging demand as outbreaks in some states spiral out of control.”

When briefings with senior Administration officials about COVID and our possible responses began in January, they were told a nation like ours only had a few tools to use until anti-virals and a vaccine were developed – shut down international travel, rapid testing and tracing, internal lockdowns, easy access to PPE. social distancing and masking.  At a strategy level the whole game is to catch a pandemic early, before it spreads widely, and snuff it out.  This is what Europe has done, New Zealand, China.  It’s all we know how to do. 

But here in the United States, our President, and his government, choose to do none of those things, and is still doing none of those things except limiting international travel– and thus is the virus rages here today like no other country in the world.  The damage to our economy, to the physical and mental health of our people, is becoming incalculable; something so immense that we can no longer really easily describe it, understand it, particularly as we may have another year or so of what we are experiencing now.  

For a man who claims to be a nationalist, it remains hard to understand why the President never came to conclude that whatever we did as a nation it had to be done together.  Whatever our strategy was it had to be a national one; we had to work together to snuff out, tame the virus, for if it raged anywhere in America it could re-ignite and spread again across the whole country. To fight this pandemic, as we would any other threat to the nation (invading army, terrorism, cyber attacks, extreme weather, etc) the nation had to act together.  The states weren’t on their own to counter the economic fallout of the pandemic; haven’t been on their own to counter protestors or pursue “rioters and looters;” haven’t been on their own to repel people trying to cross the border……why we still do not have a single national response, fully funded, well run, aggressive to counter this national threat? It remains incomprehensible.  

The simple reality is we can’t stand the economy back up, return our kids safely to school, have sports again until we have a sustained national effort to snuff out the virus.  We have to consider “a test” to be something that comes back in less than 12 hours, and requires mandatory quarantine until the results are back.  We should put unemployed people back to work through a national, unified tracing regime, one that easily crosses states lines and shares information.  The Administration should lead a national conversation about the sacrifices we have to make to get us to the other side – we will have to mask, socially distance, give up our privacy for a time, listen to our local elected officials rather than rage at them – to get there together, as a single nation, as Americans.  And above all else the Administration stop yelling at people to go back to work, to go back to school when the President and his team haven’t done the work other nations have done to make it safe to do so.  For the President to lecture people to be strong and tough it out when he himself is living in a world of rapid testing and tracing – something no one else in the country has – feels feudal, medieval, let them eat cakish.  Trump has become an evil character out of a Charles Dickens novel sending the children and the lows to the mines despite the risks…..it’s just mind-bogglingly horrible.  

If you haven’t yet, spend time at this site to explore the magnitude of the failure we are witnessing now.  It’s breathtaking, and dispiriting.  

What is clear now is that our politics here in the United States is going to be dominated for many years now by our response to the virus.  Can we really as one nation together to defeat it in the days ahead? How do we rebuild, work to prevent anything like this from ever happening again? 

And we end on a bitter note.  Last week, on July 3rd and 4th, the President did attempt to rally the nation against a perceived threat to our great country.  In his July 4th from the White House the President said: "American heroes defeated the Nazis, dethroned the fascists, toppled the communists, saved American values, upheld American principles and chased down the terrorists to the very ends of the earth. We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who in many instances have absolutely no clue what they are doing."

So the President has begun rallying the American people not against the virus, not against Russia or champions of totalitarianism, or the very real threats of climate change, or systemic racism; he has chosen it appears to rally one part of America against another.  And as long as he continues to see the big fight as that, as American versus American, rather than all of us together against the virus, the virus will continue to rage, and America will continue to be irreparably harmed and weakened.    

This great country deserves so much better.  

On COVID, WTF Is the President Doing?

The data doesn’t lie. COVID here in the US, never tamedis spreading again at too fast a rate in too many states for the US govt to pretend it isn’t happening or for it not to act. Because the federal government has done so little to combat COVID (allowing us to have infection rates up there with exemplars Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Sweden), there is much the President could do now to help the country re-open safely – support a national testing and tracing regime, start a big conversation about the need to mask and physically distance, challenge America’s young people to do their part and avoid risky behavior all would be a good place to start.  Our strategy for combatting COVID has failed; the cost to the US in lives, jobs, and our well-being has been immense; it is time now for the President to recognize the magnitude of his failure and course correct.

For all the early mistakes the President made, the most significant mistake he may have made has come in recent days – urging the country to re-open without having the proper tools and protocols in place to lessen the chance of a new surge. The President has time now to correct that mistake and stop asking the entire country to, in essence, sign a waiver absolving him for responsibility for what is happening. The easiest way to do this is for the President and his team to lead a conversation with the American people about the need to maintain physical distancing and mask. These are inexpensive solutions which if widely deployed, could do a great deal to contain the virus and allow us to live “new normal” lives without returning to lockdowns. The President’s attacks on masking and prudent measures by the states have been dangerous, profoundly stupid, and reckless. 

What remains so hard to understand is that with the President and his party seeing truly ruinous 2020 polling numbers, why isn’t the President changing course on COVID? He has clear evidence that the GOP governors who’ve been tough on COVID saw their job approval numbers skyrocket. He has a smart, clear, and well-trodden path to follow. Why, for the good of the nation and for his party, won’t he follow it?

At this point, given the very carnage we’ve seen, and the collapse of the GOP’s brand this spring, we are running out of charitable explanations for the President’s refusal to mount a national campaign to tame COVID. One should note the contrast of the President’s recent intense mobilization of the US military and other federal resources to combat a “terror threat" which didn’t exist to his dogged refusal to mount such an effort to combat the virus. The President didn’t leave our economic response to COVID to the states, or the response to his invented terror threat. Why he thinks it isn’t the responsibility of the federal government to lead a response to a pandemic which affects every American will be the stuff of discussions, books and seminars for a very long time – for it may be the single most destructive set of governing decisions in all of American history.   

C'mon Mr. President, Wear A Mask

Notes On 2020 - The President’s defiance on masking is worth us discussing this morning.  The case for masks is a powerful one - they reduce the spread of the virus, are low cost, and are simple.  In poll after poll, support for wearing masks and other prudent physical distancing measures is overwhelming.  In a new Huffington Post poll released last week just on masking, 63% of Americans said the President and other elected officials should wear masks.  Only 7% said no.  So why is the President undermining the use of this powerful and simple tool to help us return to work?

The US government only ever had a few options on what to do about COVID, and what remains extraordinary is that the President to this day has essentially chosen to do none of them.  He could have initiated an early travel ban on China and Europe and, while he eventually adopted partial bans, they came far too late to stop the spread of the virus.  He refused to adopt a national stay at home strategy, leaving it to the states.  He’s refused to set up a national testing and tracing regime, something every other developed country in the world has in place and something that at some point America must do too if we hope to restart domestic and international travel (see this WaPo look at Germany’s tracing regime).  And now he’s undermining the wearing of masks in public.  From a public health standpoint it isn't all that different from recommending folks drink Clorox, or take hydroxychloroquine - it is dangerous quackery. 

It turns out that this lack of really doing anything to fight COVID has left America in rough shape.  We still have among the highest infection rates in the world, per capita, on par with countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil.  We are 35th in the world in per capita testing, and while that number is improving, it is possible the virus has spread here more than any other nation in the world, which means we still lag far behind in testing against the local spread of the virus. The hit our economy and workers have taken is far worse than other developed countries.  Former CDC Chief Scott Gottlieb said this weekend that COVID hospitalization rates are *increasing* in many states, including FL and GA, two of the fastest to re-open.  Fundamentally, the President has failed at job one - taming the virus - at an extraordinary cost to the nation. 

So despite very few states hitting the CDC’s recommended guidelines for re-opening, we are re-opening.  And re-opening means more interactions, more density, and probably for a time, more infections and spread.  Which is why if we are sending people back out into a world where the virus is still active, where our testing and tracing regimes still lag way behind, we should be asking people to wear masks, to protect themselves and others.  It’s simple.  And yet the President is refusing to do it; rather, he is mocking leaders like Joe Biden who are doing the right thing now. 

We are at the point in Trump’s Presidency where we really have to start asking hard questions about whether the President is still capable of understanding what he is doing.  His response to COVID has been among the greatest policy failures in our history.  He isn’t learning from what has gone wrong and making course corrections. He is doing things which seem designed to harm people, spread the virus, and slow our recovery.  And everything he is doing is unpopular.  49 of the 50 governors have higher approval ratings on COVID than the President, with many of the GOP Governors who have been the most aggressive at tackling COVID with the very highest ratings of all.   Only 7% believe he shouldn’t be wearing a mask.  His numbers have dropped in the past few weeks, and he is now well below where he was on Election Day 2018 when he lost that election by 8.6 points.  The Senate also seems to be slipping away from his grasp.  I was quoted in a smart NYTimes Senate analysis on Friday, saying  “The Republican brand seems depressed across the board.  A lot of time senators can insulate themselves from the vagaries of the national electorate, but that doesn’t seem to be happening this time. “

Also on Friday, referring to a new piece I'd written, the Washington Post wrote: “Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg urges his party to see Trump not as someone who possesses fearsome magical political powers, but as someone who’s losing, desperate and panicking.” 

If I were Mitch McConnell and House Leader McCarthy, I would do one thing now for the good of their party and the country - get the President to put on a damn mask, and ask everyone else in the country to join him in the days ahead.  The Republicans just have to stop being cowards, and step in here and help our great country tame this virus in the days ahead.   This war against masks, given all of Trump’s other failures, is dangerous anti-science lunacy, and the cries for it to end should be coming from all quarters now, with the loudest of all coming from the office of Mitch McConnell.  

May 27th Update - New polling from the Navigating Coronavirus project show how little support there is for Trump's hostility to masking - 78% want elected official to wear masks, 74% say they are "pro-mask" and 65% disapprove of the President for not wearing a mask.

White House Struggles With COVID Are An Ominous Sign For The Country

White House Struggles With COVID Are An Ominous Sign For The Country - Despite warnings from experts that the virus was still too active in the US to re-open the country, two weeks ago the White House itself returned to work.  The Vice President traveled.  Governors came to visit.  Meetings with outside leaders including the House GOP leadership, which could have been held over video conference, were held inside the White House.  Based on photos from then and subsequent days, the President, his team, and his visitors didn’t wear masks and didn't keep six feet apart. 

Last week, as predicted, COVID came into the White House.  At least two senior staffers and some number of Secret Service agents tested positive for the virus. Dr. Fauci and the heads of the FDA and CDC have all self-quarantined, as have some number of White House staffers.  The Vice President announced that he was self-quarantining last night, but then reversed his decision soon after. White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett, in a TV interview yesterday morning, said that it was "scary to go to work" at the White House but that the urgency of our national challenges required staff there to risk it all, go in, and not work from home.  Re-opening has become a chaotic and dangerous mess, even for the White House.

For every American trying to figure out how to navigate phase II, that the White House is on the verge of shutting down within days of re-opening  is a clear sign of how hard these next few months are going to be.  Perhaps emboldened by their access to rapid daily testing, the President, his staff, and their visitors haven’t followed the protocols - they haven’t worn masks and haven't stayed six feet apart.  We don’t know whether they’ve eaten together and shared meals across from one another, but we have to assume that they have. And the virus came, quickly.  Unlike the rest of us, however, their access to rapid testing may have caught the virus early, and prevented a huge outbreak which could have threatened the President himself.  Most American workers will not be so lucky if the virus hits their workplace, as very few will have access to this level of testing each day.  The virus will come, people will start to get sick, and lock downs will return. It is no wonder, then, that the public isn't happy with the President's COVID response.

As of Saturday, DC has the highest per capita rate of new infections of any state in the country - the virus is spreading faster here than anywhere else.  A Senate hearing tomorrow on the virus will be conducted by a Committee Chairman in quarantine, working from home, and experts will also be quarantined and speaking from home.  It will be another powerful reminder of our struggle to manage this extraordinary time and return to normal - re-opening here, in DC, carries incredible risks at this time for anyone.

At NDN, we hope that the President uses his own struggles with re-opening to help educate the country about the challenges ahead.  The virus isn’t gone or receding - the US still has among the highest new infection rates of any nation on earth, and they aren’t dropping.   Our "lockdowns" were not as aggressive as other nations, and thus didn’t get the virus under control in the way that we all would have wanted.  We don’t have rapid ubiquitous testing in place, like the President does, which is needed to allow workplaces and communities to catch new infections early, isolate the sick, and allow people to keep working.   Re-opening will require an incredible commitment to social distancing and masking (um, Mr. President); and if nothing else the President should admit his errors, and commit now to crashing a national testing/tracing/isolation regime for the country, a regime which has allowed his workplace to stay open.  The President's repeated refusals to adhere to any of the things that experts have recommended to combat the virus - immediate national shelter-in-place, social distancing/masking, testing/tracing/isolation - remain inexplicable and terribly terribly reckless.  He has the opportunity now to course correct, and to help us all learn from this experience.  Re-opening now is fraught with risks, ones that he should be honest about; and risks which, if he is unwilling to admit and address, require Congress to step in and address for him.   

What Are Kids Going To Do This Summer? — A Few Ideas

This essay originally appeared on Medium.

Over the next few weeks school will end for most American students of whatever age, from college to pre-Kindergarten. With camps, recreational centers, community pools and sports teams unlikely to be at full strength this summer or operating at all, summer jobs non-existent, parties and social gatherings scaled way back, what exactly are all these kids going to do this summer?

This is more than just about the opportunity costs of young people not having enriching experiences, socialization, education, jobs and physical activity. If kids are home it is harder for parents to go back to work. If kids have nothing to do, some are assuredly not going to use all this free time wisely. Given how many young people we are talking about — at least 75 million or so — this is no small matter, and it is coming upon us very quickly. We need to start having a big conversation about the summer and our kids, as citizens, parents, educators and elected officials as we all struggle together to adapt to our “new normal.”

We’ve begun that conversation in our own family as our college freshman finished his classes on Wednesday and my two other teenagers finish school in early June. My older children had summer employment lined up — one at a garage, the other at a restaurant. Is it safe for them to do this work? Can they take public transportation? Should they do it for free it the employer can’t pay? And what happens if schools and college don’t reopen this fall? We are facing the prospect of many many months of many millions of kids with very little to do and an educational system facing financial hardship and fatigue.

I don’t know how the US should handle this, but I do have some thoughts what schools of older kids — middle and high school, community and four year college — can be doing this summer. They should stay open, virtually, and be there for their students in some manner. In talking to the schools of my own children, we’ve come up with a few ideas that may be worth trying out, while allowing educators the time off they deserve this summer:

Offer a course called “Navigating COVID19” — Use the academic resources of the school to lead a summer long online course which gives young people a far better understanding of the virus and our collective societal response. The course could include a comprehensive curriculum which teaches them about the biology, economics and geopolitics of COVID. They could study how their own community is responding and discuss the tough decisions we have to make about social distancing, masking, testing and tracing. It can attempt to give them skills to deal with the natural anxiety, loss, struggle which comes with COVID and how and why they need to make good decisions about their own behavior. We should try to make our young people experts in infectious disease — it will be knowledge that they can use their throughout their lives, and could make a real difference in our efforts to defeat this virus in the coming months.

As a parent one thing I’ve learned through this crisis is kids are struggling to understand who to believe, and what is true. They don’t always trust their parents, and let’s be honest, the information coming from the federal government has been a bit wobbly. They need help in navigating COVID — and schools are perhaps the best tool we have now as a society to help them do so.

Questions of whether the course is live or recorded how much homework and reading there is, can be left up to each school. Schools should allow students to keep computers or iPads or other equipment over the summer, and work as hard as they can with local governments to help those students without access to broadband or hardware to participate.

Keep School Clubs Open — Create summer jobs for some students by paying to keep school clubs open — debate, chess, martial arts, e-sports, art etc. Will allow students across the country to stay engaged in hobbies and communities they love, and provide leadership opportunities for tens of thousands of students who may otherwise be idle this summer. Anticipating that parties and gatherings of young people will remain infrequent, we need ways to help break the debilitating isolation so many kids are feeling these days.

Make Sure The School Newspaper Stays Open — Like the club strategy, pay students to keep the school newspaper open and reporting. Will give students an informed student led set of voices to help them stay current as they navigate these challenging times. Encourage experimentation with Zoom or other video platforms for interviews or performances. Keep students talking to one another, learning, engaged. Ask alums or local journalists to “chair” this experimental effort, offering their expertise along the way.

Keep “Advisories” Open — Every school handles small grouping of students in different ways, but for those who have “home room” or “advisories” they should keep meeting weekly over the summer, doing a check in, let folks share their stories of how they are getting by, staying happy. Bigger colleges should break up into smaller “colleges,” and keep video conversations going with 150–200 students weekly. Students need to see one another, stay in touch — this will be a great way.

Like many parents, our family is all of a sudden waking up to the challenge of what exactly will our kids be doing this summer. I think this is a far bigger challenge than many realize, and the country should begin a big conversation about it, spitballing ideas, working to keep our young people informed, safe and happy. Schools have a key role to play, and it is my hope they will step up and let their students know that even though school is ending they will be with them at every step pf the way in this challenging time.

 

On COVID, What's Next for the US, Trump and the 2020 Election

Phase I of America’s response to COVID is coming to an end, and there is little question that it has been a disaster for the country and increasingly for the Republican Party.  The numbers are staggering - 50,000 lives lost, depression level unemployment numbers, and historic levels of debt.  As we wrote in our new Thursday poll roundup, recent polling has begun to once again show broad dissatisfaction with the President and his Party - if the election were held today, Democrats would almost certainly win both the White House and the Senate. A new New York Times story confirms that the GOP establishment is increasingly worried about this very thing this fall. 

All of this takes us to the question that is likely more than any other going to define the 2020 election - why has America’s response to COVID been so ineffective, and will Trump learn from his extraordinary missteps and course correct?

There are two principle ways that a nation can fight a pandemic like COVID-19: mandatory stay at home policies to slow the spread of the virus and a national testing/tracing/isolation program that allows things to stand backup.  Remarkably, five months after the US first learned of COVID, the President has chosen to do neither of these things.  He has refused to stand up a national testing/tracing regime and, through his recent embrace of the very unpopular “Liberate!” movement, has actually worked to undermine the stay at home orders which have done so much to slow the spread of the virus after it was allowed to run wildly across the country due to his early inaction. That the President chose to essentially call an end to the national stay at home efforts, ones he didn’t call for and wasn’t enforcing, prior to establishing a plan for Phase II - standing up the country - remains one of the most reckless things that our very reckless President has ever done. 

America now has no plan for what happens next; we have no Phase II.  In fact, the President has repeatedly said that it isn’t his job to manage this and instead that it is up to the states.  But do we leave it to the states to repel foreign armies, defeat terrorism, counter cyber threats from abroad, hunt down serial killers, respond to extreme weather events, or even, let’s say, fashion an economic response to COVID-19? No, of course we don’t leave it to the states to fight such extraordinary battles on their own; and nor did we fund or design our public health system to do so in a case of a pandemic.  There is no way forward here without the President and his team leading us.  Or perhaps Congress forcing him to do so if he continues to refuse to do what’s necessary now.

Let’s talk for a bit about what a national Phase II plan could look like.  It can and should include:

1) A national testing/tracing/isolation plan

2) A permanent fix to the medical supply chain

3) A national approach to social distancing and masking at work and in public spaces

4) Clear rules regarding international and domestic travel and foreign entrants into the US

5) Immunity certification, if immunity in fact exists

6) Creative solutions to giving our young people and students something to do this summer and potentially this fall

7/ A plan to ensure the 2020 elections take place without challenge

8) Safe harbor liability protections for entities which adhere to agreed-upon national guidelines

What we have to do before standing up the country in the next few weeks and months is incredible - hundreds of thousands of tracers have to be hired, hundreds of millions of tests produced, an entire type of testing not even approved yet by the FDA - antibody testing - has to be launched, rules regarding travel have to be established, decisions about coming testing and isolation regimes being mandatory or voluntary have to be debated and settled on...

It is hard to see how all of this will be established across the US as quickly as we need without Congress starting to get involved and helping to lead and fund Phase II.  The urgency of a true national response is perhaps best understood using an example.  Let's say that in a few weeks I travel from DC to Boston for a meeting.  While there I test positive for COVID.  What happens next? Am I quarantined in Boston? If so, where? If a hotel, who pays? We know that the MA-based tracers would work to establish my contacts locally, but how will my tracing down here in DC/MD/VA happen? Who is responsible for that, and how are these efforts coordinated? Let’s assume I took a plane to Boston.  Everyone who was on that plane will have to be traced and tested.  But they have now scattered to 10 other states - who does this work and coordinates it all?

The point of this example is that there is no possibility that the US can stand itself back up as we all envision without the federal government playing a leading role.  If it doesn’t, then we may not be able to travel inside the US (let alone outside) until we have a vaccine.  For why would Massachusetts, now without community transmission, accept any traveler from parts of the US where the virus is still live and spreading? Or is the idea that MA would essentially set up a border, and test everyone who comes into the state? To enable travel, even potentially across state lines for a daily commute, the public must have confidence that we have a way of effectively and rapidly isolating new infections, and removing those people from society - a confusing, erratic, and inefficient state by state regime isn’t going to cut it, and nor should the American people accept it - we are one nation, and should act like one. 

What is worrisome about where the President’s head is at right now is that in a recent press briefing he weighed in on all this, and endorsed the idea of internal borders.  It was a bit shocking at the time, but it is pragmatic recognition that if he does not set up a single national system then we will break into parts, separate regions or states, for what could be two years. 

Okay, you get it.  Phase II is going to be hard, really hard, and we are way behind where we should be.  Important pieces of the plan are months away from being ready and critical debates haven’t even begun.  And we have to get it right to stand our society and economy back up.  The President’s current approach, like his approach to Phase I, is profoundly stupid and unserious.  Congress needs to step in now, and work to forge a cogent and effective plan for Phase II.  It should consult with the nation’s governors, particularly from the most impacted states, and lead where the President refuses to. 

This has been a terrible few months for this great nation.  But in order to make sure this tragedy doesn’t become something which damages the nation beyond repair, our leaders must come together in the coming days around a single national approach to Phase II of our response to COVID - living with it and returning to work in the months before we have a vaccine.   

US Not Ready to Open, Trump's Poll Numbers Continue to Slide

Monday 4/20 Notes On 2020 - While polling remains bouncy right now, Trump’s bump is largely gone and things have reverted back to about where they were prior to the COVID crisis - Democrats with a 6-9 point structural advantage, similar to where things stood in 2018.  Consider how similar these spreads/margins are:

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Yes, we have a long way to go in this challenging year. But in the coming months, one can easily imagine Biden gaining 1-3 more points from consolidating the party behind him and winning the nomination, and Trump losing a few as the costs and pain of his mismanagement of COVID become more evident.  That movement would put us closer to the 2018 vote numbers than we are today, and would put the White House and Senate in Democratic hands.

America Still Needs A COVID Plan - Given the structure of this race right now, it is very hard to understand what President Trump is choosing to do on COVID. The data is pretty clear that the American people believe he blew the early response to COVID, and do not support a fast re-opening.  Stay at home efforts are very popular, as are the front line governors who’ve made the tough calls for their residents.  So, from a political and public health standpoint, his attacks on both seem stupid and misguided. Trump’s only shot to win in 2020 at this point is to successfully manage this next phase of our response to COVID - the re-opening.  He had a second chance, a chance to rise to the moment and lead us through this terrible scourge.  But instead he seems to be retreating to a place of ideological extremism, Hannityville let’s call it, which will almost guarantee that we fail at this next critical phase of battling the virus.   

Consider all that should be in place prior to the US re-opening - a federally run testing/tracing/isolation regime with wide deployment of far more tests and tests which yield results in minutes, not days; a stronger, better equipped, and better prepared US health care system; a national approach to social distancing/masking at work and in communities; some strategy for what parents and communities are supposed to do with young people this summer and perhaps this fall; the establishment of a clear national process for certifying immunity if immunity does in fact exist; clarity on how international and domestic travel is going to work; and a plan to ensure our election takes place thiis November as is Constitutionally required, free from foreign interference and virus proofed. At this point, the President doesn’t seem to be committed to doing any of these things; in fact, his central strategy now seems to be focused on undermining the popular state and local stay at home regimes which have successfully slowed the spread of the virus. 

Throughout this COVID crisis, the President has repeatedly expressed what can generously be described as magical thinking - the virus would just go away, it wouldn’t come here, we have millions of tests, etc.  In what may be a looming tragedy for the country, this past week he seems to have once again chosen magical thinking - Liberate!/Open - over sound science and experience from what has worked in other nations.  What remains remarkable about it all is that he is not just acting outside science and reason, he is acting outside of polling too - which is why 2020 is shaping up to be a very bad year both for the United States and for what’s left of the Republican Party. 

Where Are the Tests?

The early troubles that the CDC had in standing up a national COVID-19 testing regime have been well documented.  But in early March, the Administration told us that these problems had been fixed.  The Vice President promised 5 million tests in place by March 13th.  Other Administration officials promised tens of millions by late March.  Daily testing rates climbed, and on March 25th we hit 100,000 tests a day for the first time.  Even though many of these tests had ridiculously long turnarounds, 3-7 days, the much needed national testing system seemed to be in the process of being stood up.

But something has happened.  Daily testing growth stopped, and we are now stuck at around 100,000 tests a day (see data below).  Despite the promise of millions of tests, the US has only conducted 1.1m over the past ten weeks, and at current rates will not complete 5m tests until May 11th or so, a full two months after the Vice President said 5m tests were in place, ready to go.  

Given that to stand America up from the crisis the nation will need hundreds of millions of inexpensive and rapid tests, we simply have to understand what is happening here.  The answers provided by the White House are inadequate, and hundreds of thousands of American lives are in the balance here.  We simply have to get testing right or the crisis will get far worse and our recovery will be far more difficult.  There is no margin of error here. 

If the White House cannot explain what is happening with the US testing regime today, the House should conduct a virtual hearing Friday, and request that Dr. Birx testify under oath.  Something has gone wrong, again, with our national testing regime, and the American people deserve both answers and a clear plan for how to make it right."

You can find more from NDN on the need for a national plan to tame the virus here, and more on the need for better testing here

US Daily Testing Numbers - data from the COVID Tracking Project:

Mar 20 - 35k (this is one week after Pence said 5m tests would be in place)

Mar 21 - 44k

Mar 22 - 45k

Mar 23 - 66k

Mar 24 - 65k

Mar 25 - 113k

Mar 26 - 107k

Mar 27 - 108k

Mar 28 - 114k

Mar 29 - 95k

Mar 30 - 113k

Mar 31 - 98k

April 1 - 101k (1.2m total over 10 weeks!)

May 11 - 5m (at current rates of testing)

With Stimulus Done, Congress Must Now Focus on Defeating COVID

America will not be able to stand its economy and society back up until the COVID virus is contained.  With exploding infection rates now across the country, it is clear that the President and his team have failed in their fight to tame the virus.  With the hard work of providing for the US economy behind it, Congress must now focus on crafting a successful national approach that will allow us to fight the virus in the coming days but also in the many months that remain in this difficult struggle.

There is broad agreement about what needs to be done, right now:  

1) Surge equipment/beds/workers to the frontlines

2) Implement a national 21 day stay at home order

3) Crash a universal rapid testing/isolation regime like in South Korea

To put pressure on the Administration to finally craft a comprehensive response to the virus, Speaker Pelosi should form a political alliance with the governors in the most afflicted states.  By working together, they can create both a more effective national strategy to defeat COVID, but also begin to show a sense of common purpose which we will need to develop if we are to prevail against this dangerous threat.

There have been many Trumpian missteps over the past ten weeks which have allowed the virus to get out of control, but the greatest of all may be his pitting state against state and community against community; to prevail against a pandemic all of us must do our part and work together.  There is no us and them – only us.  The Speaker can exhibit the kind of leadership required to prevail against COVID by forging a new “war time” alliance of the House and top governors, and force the Administration to finally use the awesome power of the United States government to do what should have been done months ago.  We know what needs to be done – let’s get it done in the days ahead.

With New Data, The Costs of the President's Failed COVID19 Response Becoming Clearer

As more economic and public health data becomes available, the more the nation is becoming aware of the extraordinary costs of the President’s ongoing failure to craft a successful national response to the COVID19 virus.

While Congress is the midst of addressing our daunting short term economic challenges, far more must be done in the coming days to stop the spread of the virus. 

Nine weeks into this crisis and the nation still has no plan to stop COVID.  Our elected leaders from across the country should come together around a plan as ambitious as the economic plan close to passing today.  While there are many good ideas on the table, NDN believes there are four key things we must do right now to prevent COVID from doing unimaginable harm to the nation in the days ahead:  

1) Surge supplies/beds/staff to the medical front lines

2) Implement a national 3 week stay at home program

3) Crash/stand up a national testing/isolation regime like South Korea’s

4) Fund a “Manhattan Project” for a vaccine/therapeutics/testing/equipment both for COVID and to prepare for future pandemics

Our nation’s leaders shouldn’t accept the President’s ongoing failure to respond to the COVID threat; all of us should demand he step up here and do what the American people and all of the experts expect him to do – tame COVID, and then stand our society and economy back up later this spring and summer.

Can the governors of the big, afflicted states band togethter to create a pressure campaign against our flailing President? Work with Senate and House leaders, leaders of other nations? If the President won't lead America now, others must. 

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