“The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” an expert told Vanity Fair.
July 31, 2020

Remember how the White House early response to the virus was so weak, so disturbingly inept that we actually started to suspect the White House was indifferent to the human toll -- because they were Democrats?

Look like we were right. Via Vanity Fair:

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.

That logic may have swayed Kushner. “It was very clear that Jared was ultimately the decision maker as to what [plan] was going to come out,” the expert said.

It started with Jared's pals, a group of well-meaning businessmen with no actual experience in government who tried to reinvent the wheel and develop a national pandemic strategy. As you can imagine, it was a mess. (Because running government like a business always works out so well!)

Kushner’s team hammered out a detailed plan, which Vanity Fair obtained. It stated, “Current challenges that need to be resolved include uneven testing capacity and supplies throughout the US, both between and within regions, significant delays in reporting results (4-11 days), and national supply chain constraints, such as PPE, swabs, and certain testing reagents.”

The plan called for the federal government to coordinate distribution of test kits, so they could be surged to heavily affected areas, and oversee a national contact-tracing infrastructure. It also proposed lifting contract restrictions on where doctors and hospitals send tests, allowing any laboratory with capacity to test any sample. It proposed a massive scale-up of antibody testing to facilitate a return to work. It called for mandating that all COVID-19 test results from any kind of testing, taken anywhere, be reported to a national repository as well as to state and local health departments.

But for a variety of reasons -- Trump's worries about reelection and the stock market, Dr. Deborah Birx's apparent belief that the virus would soon fade away, advisors' resistance to the idea of a large federal response -- the White House blew it.

On April 27, Trump stepped to a podium in the Rose Garden, flanked by members of his coronavirus task force and leaders of America’s big commercial testing laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, and finally announced a testing plan: It bore almost no resemblance to the one that had been forged in late March, and shifted the problem of diagnostic testing almost entirely to individual states.

You know who stepped up and tried to work around the White House to coordinate a national strategy? The Rockefeller Foundation.

“I had this naive optimism: This is too important to be caught in a partisan filter of how we view truth and the world,” said Rick Klausner, a Rockefeller Foundation adviser and former director of the National Cancer Institute. “But the federal government has decided to abrogate responsibility, and basically throw 50 states onto their own.”

The result has been the raging pandemic.

Experts are now warning that the U.S. testing system is on the brink of collapse. “We are at a very bad moment here,” said Margaret Bourdeaux. “We are about to lose visibility on this monster and it’s going to rampage through our whole country. This is a massive emergency.”

It's all too painful to read, but it's also hard to look away.

Reaching out to state and local governments, the foundation and its advisers soon became flooded with calls for help from school districts, hospital systems, and workplaces, all desperate for guidance. In regular video calls, a core advisory team that includes Shah, former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan, former National Cancer Institute director Rick Klausner, and Section 32’s Mike Pellini worked through how best to support members of its growing coalition.

Schools “keep hitting refresh on the CDC website and nothing’s changed in the last two months,” Shah told his colleagues in a video meeting in June. In the absence of trustworthy federal guidance, the Rockefeller team hashed out an array of issues: How should schools handle symptomatic and asymptomatic students? What about legal liability? What about public schools that were too poor to even afford a nurse?

The heart of the story, though, is Jared's purchase of 52.5 million testing kits through improper channels -- sidestepping the civil service professionals who could have avoided this outcome:

But perhaps most relevant for Americans counting on the federal government to mount an effective response to the pandemic and safeguard their health, the test kits didn’t work. As the Health and Human Services cable to the UAE embassy noted: “When the kits were delivered they were tested in accordance with standard procedures and were found to be contaminated and unusable.”

An FDA spokesperson told Vanity Fair the tests may have been rendered ineffective because of how they were stored when they were shipped from the Middle East. “The reagents should be kept cold,” the spokesperson said.

I blame the movie "Dave" for the insidious message that governing is something any reasonably intelligent, well-meaning individual could handle, because this administration is a textbook example of the foolishness of trying to run government like a business.

UPDATE: Wonkette brings the fire

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