President Trump has finally changed course, agreeing with his own advisors that COVID-19 is not a “hoax.” It’s a pandemic that might kill up to 200,000 Americans in a few weeks.
According to David Sanger, national security correspondent for the New York Times, Trump uses “the rhetoric of a wartime presidency,” but “it’s not clear he has actually been willing to take the responsibility of a wartime leader.”
So far, leadership has come from governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo and California’s Gavin Newsom. “For the first few months, they were more or less on their own,” says Jonathan Cohn at the Huffington Post. “The president was out there saying ‘this is no big deal, we have this under control.’”
The lack of centralized federal planning and action has left governors in bidding wars for test kits, ventilators and other equipment. They’re focused not only on healing the sick, but also protecting doctors, nurses and other staff in danger of coronavirus exposure at increasingly overcrowded hospitals.
Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer who’s covered some 30 epidemics — including Ebloa and SARS — now finds herself in Brooklyn, which she calls “the epicenter of the epicenter of the epicenter” of the coronavirus pandemic. New epicenters are inevitable in other parts of the US.
Epicenters could also emerge in other places abroad. “We’ll see some really serious impacts in Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia,” Garrett says. “We have India, and I think India is the wildcard in the entire pandemic.”