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The Trump Administration’s Epic COVID-19 Failure

Whereas many other countries afflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic have pursued mass testing, quarantines, and other measures to reduce community transmission, the Trump administration has simply dithered. Although America could still shut down for a month to overcome the crisis, the sad truth is that it won't.

BERKELEY – Even to US President Donald Trump’s most ardent critics, his administration’s disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic has come as a surprise. Who would have guessed that Trump and his cronies would be so incompetent that merely testing for the disease would become a major bottleneck?

When the Chinese government shut down Wuhan on January 23, quarantined another 15 cities the next day, and then extended a nationwide social-distancing mandate until the end of the Lunar New Year, it was clear that the world was in trouble. By as early as January 31, Western health officials – including Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – had acknowledged that the coronavirus could be transmitted by people without symptoms.

As officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and other public-health bodies surely must have recognized, asymptomatic transmission means that the standard method of quarantining symptomatic travelers when they cross national (or provincial) borders is insufficient. It also means that we have known for almost two months that we were playing a long game against the virus. With its spread more or less inevitable, the primary task was always to reduce the pace of community transmission as much as possible, so that health-care systems would not be overwhelmed before a vaccine could be developed, tested, and deployed.

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