When it comes to spearheading the management of a massive and complex federal project to beat back the coronavirus in real time, this White House inspires little confidence.
Last week, President Donald Trump sat for another news interview in which nobody could quite be sure what he was talking about.
“You know there are those that say you can test too much,” Trump told Axios reporter Jonathan Swan. “You do know that?”
“Who says that?” Swan asked.
“Oh, just read the manuals,” the president said. “Read the books.”
“Manuals?” Swan asked. “What manuals.”
“Read the books, read the books,” Trump repeated.
Distribution of COVID-19 tests and timely return of their results continued to pose a problem both in states that are now considered hot spots and those where the spread has been suppressed.
With a vaccine hopefully approved in the next few months, discussion is underway about how the government will distribute needed supplies and galvanize the public to accept it — especially when simple masks are controversial in Trump circles.
Health officials and lawmakers are warning that without thorough planning and cooperation with states, the administration could oversee the kind of disruptions that led to shortages of coronavirus diagnostic tests, Reuters reports.
Trump aides have been talking about his coronavirus task force taking the lead on the project when it comes. But Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), who heads a panel on health funding, said “this is really the prime responsibility” of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC at times has been contradicted by the White House
“They are the only federal agency with a proven track record of vaccine distribution and long-standing agreements with health departments across the country,” Blunt said earlier this month.
Dr. Anthony Fauci testified before a House committee on Friday that he is “cautiously optimistic” for a safe and effective vaccine by the “’end of this year and as we go into 2021.” Distribution may have to be phased in, he said.
Topping the priority list could be critical workers, such as medical personnel, or vulnerable patients such as older adults with other underlying health problems. “But ultimately, within a reasonable period of time, the plans now allow for any American who needs a vaccine to get it within the year 2021,” Fauci said.
Earlier this year, a team working under presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner outlined a national virus response that was abandoned for some reason in favor of a piecemeal and chaotic state-by-state response, as Vanity Fair describes.
Kushner’s team carried out what the magazine describes as a secretive procurement of Chinese-made test kits through a United Arab Emirates company. The multimillion-dollar purchase reportedly ended up a fiasco.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, protests over policing, and relations with Russia, according to the latest ABC News/Ipsos poll released last week.
Looking ahead, educating some people about the necessity of getting vaccinated could prove challenging — if the president chooses as he has before to undermine or cloud the messages of scientific professionals. But we’re not there yet.