COVID-19 testing failure falls primarily on Trump administration

The Trump administration came into office pledging to “deconstruct the administrative state.” This manifested itself in attempting to hollow out the capacity of government. It is this mentality that led to the dismissal of a pandemic response team. It is this mentality that leads to a reliance on people such as the president’s son-in-law with no government experience to manage government response during a crisis (think back to “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”). It is this mentality that makes responding to a crisis so much harder.

The second pernicious impact of the administration on the bureaucratic response was the rhetoric on the virus throughout February. As leaders (including the president) made claims that warm weather would kill the virus, and that the number of cases was “going down,” the message was unmistakable. The president and his top appointees did not want information spread or actions taken that would make clear that the virus was a historically deadly problem. It is not surprising that the career officials who work for the administration reacted slowly and with trepidation throughout February — doing otherwise risked repudiation from their boss.

Our public health agencies were plagued by misfortune and made mistakes as the COVID-19 virus spread. But those problems could have been overcome by effective leadership. They weren’t. And instead of overcoming them, the Trump administration, by pushing to reduce the capacity of government and pressuring agencies to minimize the impacts of the virus, made disastrous outcomes more likely.
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