The US government’s botched COVID-19 response


Photo courtesy of D. Myles Cullen via Wikimedia under Creative Commons License

President Trump answering questions at a Coronavirus Task Force press conference on February 29th, 2020. (People Left to Right: VP Mike Pence (R-IN), President Donald Trump (R-FL), CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield)


The US has been facing a national emergency in confronting the coronavirus pandemic since March 13. While there have been some positive actions from the federal government such as travel restrictions, the sheer number of missteps and inactions far outweigh the positives.

Millions of people have contracted COVID-19 and tens of millions have been without work for months on end. On Saturday, September 19th, the U.S. crossed another grim threshold—at least 200,000 Americans have died at the hands of the coronavirus pandemic. To put that in perspective, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs, 291,557 American soldiers died in World War 2, which was one of the deadliest wars and fought over four years. Meanwhile, in just eight months, the US is within 90,000 deaths from becoming the second deadliest event in US history, second only to the Spanish Flu. The data alone is sufficient enough to prove the gross incompetence from the federal government in their COVID response.

The constant bombardment of failures is abhorrent. Even with all the warnings in late January, there was little done in order to prepare for the increasing probability of an outbreak of COVID in February. In fact, the executive branch chose to remove the Pandemic Response Team in 2018. On top of that, they scrapped a pandemic response plan made by the Bush administration and another by the Obama administration. President Trump waited until March 13th to declare a national emergency. By that point, the U.S. already had 1,701 cases and 40 deaths. To make matters worse, throughout the month of February, the president held rallies with packed crowds and downplayed the threat publicly, even going as far as calling the virus the “[Democrats] new hoax.” The federal government also overlooked the spread of COVID-19 by only focusing on China, allowing the virus to spread from Italy to New York, which contributed to the first significant outbreak in the US.

Instead of correcting their past failures, both the executive and legislative branches continued their failed COVID response by downplaying the necessity of lockdowns and mask mandates. Senator Ted Cruz went to a hair cuttery as a form of protest after the owner was arrested for breaking Texas law. Representative Louie Gohmert was seen roaming the halls of the House without a mask the day before he tested positive for COVID-19. He later blamed wearing a mask on why he became infected with COVID.  The president has continually refused to wear a mask in public, even going as far as to hold indoor rallies where masks were discouraged, some of  which have resulted in areas having an uptick in cases as a result of the rallies. One notable example was his rally in Tulsa, OK. According to a KCBD11, Tulsa’s local NBC station, report, “Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases on Monday, a one-day record high, and another 206 cases on Tuesday. By comparison, during the week before the June 20 Trump rally, there were 76 cases on Monday and 96 on Tuesday.” At a press briefing, Tulsa Health Department director Dr. Bruce Dart said that, “In the past few days, we’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots.” He has also vocally supported the Liberate! protests involving people fighting against lockdowns across the nation. 

Another major misstep was the economic recovery plans in response to COVID-19. After Congress released the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP), the executive branch gave large sums to large corporations and some to allies of the president. According to a CBS News report, “The owner of Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses, for example, got $20 million from the small business loan program, despite having more than 5,000 employees and $468 million in revenue last year.” Bloomberg reported that “[a] combined total of $59 million from the small business lending package went to three lodging companies chaired by Monty Bennett” who is a “Dallas hotel executive and major donor to President Donald Trump.”  The Trump administration also reallocated funds away from the COVID response, instead choosing to buy military paraphernalia in response to the racial justice protests.

The stunning lack of preparation and how the federal government ignored all the warnings that were issued and recommendations made by scientists and health care specialists about coronavirus have led to one of the costliest failures in U.S. history and could have been largely avoided if someone were to just listen to the experts.