Over 4,300 detected cases (see second paragraph below in italics) and over 79 deaths.

Today the President showed some signs of catching up with governors and local officials. He didn’t say COVID-19 is a hoax and he didn’t say he has control over it. He recommended  gatherings of no more than 10 people and acknowledged that this is going to take a lot longer than 2 weeks to fix, suggesting we could still be dealing with this in the summer months.  And he admitted that the country may be headed for recession.

He did rate his performance as a 10 and must have used the words TREMENDOUS, INCREDIBLE, and HUGE about fifty times in the news conference (when speaking of his actions and those of “his people”) but that is just his usual self-aggrandizing blather. He is still not accepting responsibility for the testing fiasco which has caused a very serious impediment to all responses—we really don’t know how many people have the virus and where they are because the roll-out of the testing was so late and so flawed. There are likely 5 to 10 undetected cases for every one confirmed by testing. Today the President told governors to try to acquire needed ventilators and other equipment on their own.  This is disastrous, of course, as it pits one buyer against another and some states may end up with nothing.

What the past week has demonstrated is that our complicated system of local, state and, federal agencies doesn’t work swiftly or efficiently in a crisis like this. It would have worked better if the federal government had assumed strong leadership two months ago and brought the governors onboard. The lack of federal leadership has resulted in a chaotic mosaic of rules and decrees—for example, in Philly, day care centers are open, but in the surrounding four counties, day care centers are closed.  Same for state liquor stores. Some governors have already banned dining in restaurants, but in a few other states governors have been encouraging it to boost the economy.  Public health policy doesn’t change across a state line. What might change is the appropriate site for a testing venue.

In addition to the lack of federal leadership, there is clearly a gaping hole in terms of preparation.  We know that the pandemic group that originally operated in the Department of Homeland Security was dismantled by the Trump Administration, which certainly accounts for some of the chaos.  But even had that been in pace, it is doubtful we would be prepared for a pandemic of this magnitude.  Once this is over, we must reflect and make changes that will prepare us to be more equipped in the future.

I’ve been thinking about the many ways our federal/state/local government and rules systems are inefficient and nonsensical.  Could it really be true that kids in Kentucky don’t need to learn the same math as kids in North Dakota, so that they are prepared for further study in advanced manufacturing if that is what they choose to do? Does it make sense that some American citizens can access expanded Medicaid while others cannot?  I don’t think so.  Our system was put in place hundreds of years ago for understandable historical reasons, but…things change.