The Trump administration has shelved a document created by the nation’s top disease investigators with step-by-step advice to local authorities on how and when to reopen restaurants and other public places during the still-raging coronavirus outbreak.
The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen.
It was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told the guidance “would never see the light of day,” according to a CDC official. The official was not authorized to talk to reporters and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
The AP obtained a copy from a second federal official who was not authorized to release it. The guidance was described in AP stories last week, prior to the White House decision to shelve it.
The Trump administration has been closely controlling the release of guidance and information during the pandemic spurred by a new coronavirus that scientists are still trying to understand, with the president himself leading freewheeling daily briefings until last week.
Traditionally, it’s been the CDC’s role to give the public and local officials guidance and science-based information during public health crises. During this one, however, the CDC has not had a regular, pandemic-related news briefing in nearly two months. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield has been a member of the White House coronavirus task force, but largely absent from public appearances.
The dearth of real-time, public information from the nation’s experts has struck many current and former government health officials as dangerous.
“CDC has always been the public health agency Americans turn to in a time of crisis,” said Dr. Howard Koh, a Harvard professor and former health official in the Obama administration during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009. “The standard in a crisis is to turn to them for the latest data and latest guidance and the latest press briefing. That has not occurred, and everyone sees that.”
The Trump administration has instead sought to put the onus on states to handle COVID-19 response. This approach to managing the pandemic has been reflected in President Donald Trump’s public statements, from the assertion that he isn’t responsible for the country’s lackluster early testing efforts, to his description last week of the federal government’s role as a “supplier of last resort” for states in need of testing aid.
Again, the official position of the Trump regime is that the pandemic is over and that tens of millions of Americans can safely go back to work, how they actually do that is up to the states. Giving federal guidelines would of course only put the responsibility on the regime, and they refuse to take responsibility for any of it while taking full credit for the "success" of "reopening the economy".
If that sounds not only bizarre but absolutely delusional, that's because it's both. The "experts" are no longer needed, you see. The choices have been made, the economy is back on track, and everything is fine.
Also another 3.2 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total to 33 million and the unemployment rate to about 20%, but everything's fine.
Mission accomplished, right?
On Tuesday, as the number of reported deaths from Covid-19 in the United States topped 70,000, the Trump administration declared “mission accomplished” for Phase 1 of its fight against the coronavirus.
Specifically, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence announced that the coronavirus task force, which Mr. Pence oversees, had been so successful in getting the pandemic under control that the group would most likely disband within the month, to be replaced by a new panel focused on getting America back to work.
“We will have something in a different form,” Mr. Trump explained during his tour of a mask manufacturing plant in Phoenix, at which he did not wear a mask despite signs requesting that one be worn “at all times.” He said that America had moved on to “the next stage of the battle” and that “now we are reopening our country.”
“It really is all a reflection of the tremendous progress we’ve made as a country,” Mr. Pence told reporters at the White House.
By Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump had changed the contours, though not the essence, of his plan. In a tweet thread, he said the coronavirus task force would, in fact, “continue on indefinitely” but shift its efforts — and most likely some of its members — to “focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN.” He closed with, “The Task Force will also be very focused on Vaccines & Therapeutics. Thank you!”
Whether dissolved or repurposed, the White House Task Force focused on coordinating the administration’s public-health response to the pandemic is soon to be no more. To which we can only say: No big loss.
In theory, bringing together a collection of experts to oversee a coordinated federal response to a national emergency makes perfect sense. In practice, the first phase of Mr. Trump’s coronavirus task force was its own form of disaster.
So yeah, we're still very, very screwed and it's only going to get much, much worse.
We're going to be fondly looking back on early May when only 75,000 Americans were dead.