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It didn’t have to be this bad

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There is a lot of damning material, needless to say, in a new book about the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response. For example:

“Nightmare Scenario” alsocaptures the tensions as then-Vice President Mike Pence was installed as the new head of the coronavirus task force at the end of February 2020, replacing Azar.In subsequent days,Pence and his chief of staff, Marc Short, focused on the political and economicimplications of the coronavirus response and approached many public health decisions by consideringhow they would be perceived.

For instance, Short complained that Trump was overreacting by listening to public health experts and opting to extend an economic pause through Easter 2020, characterizing the move as a gift to Democratic governors, the authors write. Short also pushed back against an HHS effort to send free masks to every American household in the response’s early days, a step that some public health experts think would have depoliticized mask-wearing but which Short believed would unnecessarily alarmpeople. Several senior officials also compared masks to “underwear on your face,” with one remarking that they looked like a “training bra.”

This the fundamental source of the paradox that while wearing masks indoors is a very effective tool to limit the spread of COVID, mask mandates were not very effectual means of increasing mask-wearing. It wasn’t inevitable that mask-wearing would be completely politicized — it happened because the federal response was being run by nihilistic morons with serious gender issues.

And in his own authoritarian way, Trump made clear that he knew how serious this was:

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, as White House officials debated whether to bring infected Americans home for care, President Donald Trump suggested his own plan for where to send them, eager to suppress the numbers on U.S. soil.

“Don’t we have an island that we own?” the president reportedly asked those assembled in the Situation Room in February 2020, before the U.S. outbreak would explode. “What about Guantánamo?”

“We import goods,” Trump specified, lecturing his staff. “We are not going to import a virus.”

Aides were stunned, and when Trump brought it up a second time, they quickly scuttled the idea,worried about a backlash over quarantining American tourists on the same Caribbean base where the United States holds terrorism suspects.

Bland competence is underrated, to be honest.

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