The Trump administration has been criticized for minimizing the threat of the virus and offering mixed messaging on mask-wearing and other ways to reduce the risk of infection, among other things. For medical providers on the front lines of the crisis, the administration’s most consequential move was to put the burden on states to figure things out for themselves.
It isn’t possible to know whether a more centralized federal response to the coronavirus pandemic would have worked better.
In a meeting in mid-March about the shortage of supplies, recalled one senior White House official, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser told staffers: “We’re an organization with 56 clients,” referring to U.S. states and territories. “It’s not our job to secure supplies for them. It’s our job to help them.”
Instead, the federal government’s approach turned hospital systems and state governments into rivals.
Medical providers begged and scavenged for supplies. One doctor, worried his shipment of masks and gowns would be seized by another state, divided the supplies between two trucks to make sure at least some would get through.
“It was every man for himself,” Dr. [Andrew] Artenstein said. “I had a lot of people in the throes of taking care of really sick patients, who were afraid for their safety and their families’ safety.”