Before we point accusing fingers at the international response to the coronavirus pandemic, we should take a moment to consider our own here in the US.
If you call the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) coronavirus hotline today, prepare to spend at least 45 minutes on hold.
When you do eventually get through they will probably tell you to see an urgent care doctor. But when you get to an urgent care doctor they will not have a virus testing kit. They will tell you to go to the hospital.
Then when you get to the hospital they will tell you that they don't have testing kits either. They will tell you to go back to square one and call the CDC's coronavirus hotline.
If you do eventually get through to the CDC hotline, they will probably tell you that you do not qualify for testing. They are very unlikely to give you a timeline that will tell you when you do.
So who does qualify for testing now? Those who have been out of the country in the last 14 days and those who have had contact with one of the few people who have been tested and come up positive. That's it. That's the current process.
Speaking on CNBC on March 4, Emergency Room doctor Matt McCarthy sounded the alarm saying: “In New York state, the person who tested positive here was only the 32nd test that we've done in this state. That is a national scandal. They're testing 10,000 a day in some countries.”
"In New York state, the person who tested positive was only the 32nd test we've done in this state. That is a national scandal. They're testing 10,000 a day in some countries." - ER Dr. Matt McCarthy pic.twitter.com/Yvwnp96E7d— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) March 2, 2020
McCarthy continued: “We're hearing from this administration that the risk is low and that things are probably going to be okay, that you don't need to change your lifestyle. That's simply not true. You are going to see widespread disruption to your daily life. Do not believe the false reassurance.”
So why is all this chaos happening? Well, fearing a national health panic, and the danger it represents to the economy and his reelection chances, President Trump is already blaming the Democrats, who he says are using the coronavirus as a "new hoax:"
He attempted to clarify the "hoax" comments the following day:
Trump went on to suggest this week that a flu shot should cure it (it will not) and his son Don Jr. has grotesquely claimed that his father's political rivals are actually hoping millions of Americans will die because it will damage the economy and his father's reelection chances.
Medical experts at the White House have to patiently explain to Trump that his idea of using the flu vaccine to address the coronavirus will not work. pic.twitter.com/acghVStSvK— Oliver Willis (@owillis) March 2, 2020
These are not helpful responses, these are not even worthy of the name of responses. Passing the buck like this in the hope of not spooking the markets is not a strategic response to a gathering threat. Nor has it worked. The Dow dropped 200 points last week, a record-breaking plunge and its worst decline since the great recession of 2008. The market jitters mean the truth has become clear to most already, the United States government is woefully unprepared for this health crisis.
Recall that the Trump administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response team, including the White House management infrastructure, in 2018 because it was an Obama-era initiative. That's why there is no national coordination and no help now.
As of Monday, the CDC actually stopped reporting the number of people who have been tested for coronavirus in the U.S. Some critics immediately claimed that it's a veil that Vice President Pence has ordered to conceal the low numbers of testing kits that are currently available. Other's claim it's a blatant attempt at statistics concealment: if you can't be tested, you can't be counted.
A pandemic is a terrible time to have a president who views every event through the prism of self-interest; who is anti-science and discounts genuine expertise over his hunches; and who has authoritarian impulses where he tries to exploit new developments to consolidate power.— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) March 2, 2020
Tump's greatest talent has always been for defending himself, not the United States. Shouting “fake news” at coronavirus has not worked for him. This is a narrative he can not tweet his way out of, which is why he fears it, which explains his unconscionable floundering and foot-dragging.
So I don't know how to make this plainer to you, dear reader. Our families are not this administration's main concern. What they care about, clearly, is the stock market and Trump's reelection chances and you can see the proof of that with your own eyes in the scandalous lack of preparation, testing, statistics, information or national preparedness.
So buckle up. Widespread disruption is coming soon. And we're completely on our own.