This is absolutely infuriating. There was actually an honest attempt being made by Kushner and a group of assembled people to develop and implement a national, federal strategy and response to COVID. Securing enough tests, materials, equipment. Engaging in a robust contact tracing and testing program that would roll up through a national database so as to prioritize equipment, services, and assistance as hot-spots and outbreaks occurred.
And it was all shot down because of politics and out of concern for Trump’s re-election. These are sick, sick people. They have blood on their hands because of their failures and decision to place partisanship ahead of the lives of America and its people.
This spring, a team working under the president’s son-in-law produced a plan for an aggressive, coordinated national COVID-19 response that could have brought the pandemic under control. So why did the White House spike it in favor of a shambolic 50-state response?
Inside the White House, over much of March and early April, Kushner’s handpicked group of young business associates, which included a former college roommate, teamed up with several top experts from the diagnostic-testing industry. Together, they hammered out the outline of a national testing strategy. The group—working night and day, using the encrypted platform WhatsApp—emerged with a detailed plan obtained by Vanity Fair.
Rather than have states fight each other for scarce diagnostic tests and limited lab capacity, the plan would have set up a system of national oversight and coordination to surge supplies, allocate test kits, lift regulatory and contractual roadblocks, and establish a widespread virus surveillance system by the fall, to help pinpoint subsequent outbreaks.
As it evolved, Kushner’s group called on the help of several top diagnostic-testing experts. Together, they worked around the clock, and through a forest of WhatsApp messages. The effort of the White House team was “apolitical,” said the participant, and undertaken “with the nation’s best interests in mind.”
Kushner’s team hammered out a detailed plan, which Vanity Fair obtained. It stated, “Current challenges that need to be resolved include uneven testing capacity and supplies throughout the US, both between and within regions, significant delays in reporting results (4-11 days), and national supply chain constraints, such as PPE, swabs, and certain testing reagents.”
The plan called for the federal government to coordinate distribution of test kits, so they could be surged to heavily affected areas, and oversee a national contact-tracing infrastructure. It also proposed lifting contract restrictions on where doctors and hospitals send tests, allowing any laboratory with capacity to test any sample. It proposed a massive scale-up of antibody testing to facilitate a return to work. It called for mandating that all COVID-19 test results from any kind of testing, taken anywhere, be reported to a national repository as well as to state and local health departments.
And it proposed establishing “a national Sentinel Surveillance System” with “real-time intelligence capabilities to understand leading indicators where hot spots are arising and where the risks are high vs. where people can get back to work.”
This next part should piss every last one of us off. This is maddness.
Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.
On April 27, Trump stepped to a podium in the Rose Garden, flanked by members of his coronavirus task force and leaders of America’s big commercial testing laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, and finally announced a testing plan: It bore almost no resemblance to the one that had been forged in late March, and shifted the problem of diagnostic testing almost entirely to individual states.
Under the plan released that day, the federal government would act as a facilitator to help increase needed supplies and rapidly approve new versions of diagnostic-testing kits. But the bulk of the effort to operate testing sites and find available labs fell to the states.
“I had this naive optimism: This is too important to be caught in a partisan filter of how we view truth and the world,” said Rick Klausner, a Rockefeller Foundation adviser and former director of the National Cancer Institute. “But the federal government has decided to abrogate responsibility, and basically throw 50 states onto their own.”
This is a long read. But for anyone here who cares about this country, cares about its people, and believes our elected officials need to be held accountable for their actions, and inactions, then it is necessary.
What are your thoughts?