Search This Blog

Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Fumbling Coronavirus Response

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign.  The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  In 2020, a good economy could tip the election in Trump's favor.  A bad economy would drag him down. Coronavirus threatens the economy -- as well as American lives.

Sunday:
Thursday:

David E. Sanger, Maggie Haberman and Zolan Kanno-Youngs at NYT:
The White House had been preparing to reveal on Wednesday a joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems that would allow for the production of as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators to respond to an escalating pandemic when word suddenly came down that the announcement was off.
The decision to cancel the announcement, government officials say, came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive. That price tag was more than $1 billion, with several hundred million dollars to be paid upfront to General Motors to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., where the ventilators would be made with Ventec’s technology.
Government officials said that the deal might still happen but that they are examining at least a dozen other proposals. And they contend that an initial promise that the joint venture could turn out 20,000 ventilators in short order had shrunk to 7,500, with even that number in doubt. Longtime emergency managers at FEMA are working with military officials to sort through the competing offers and federal procurement rules while under pressure to give President Trump something to announce.
By early Thursday evening, at the coronavirus task force’s regular news briefing, where the president often appears, there was still nothing to disclose, and the outcome of the deliberations remained unclear.
Matthew Choi at Politico:
Speaking with Sean Hannity on Fox News on Thursday night, Trump again minimized the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic, casting doubt on the need for tens of thousands of ventilators for hospitals responding to the crisis.
“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” he said. “I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”
Jennifer Steinhauer and Zolan Kanno-Youngs at NYT:
Of the 75 senior positions at the Department of Homeland Security, 20 are either vacant or filled by acting officials, including Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary who recently was unable to tell a Senate committee how many respirators and protective face masks were available in the United States.
The National Park Service, which like many federal agencies is full of vacancies in key posts, tried this week to fill the job of a director for the national capital region after hordes of visitors flocked to see the cherry blossoms near the National Mall, creating a potential public health hazard as the coronavirus continues to spread.
At the Department of Veterans Affairs, workers are scrambling to order medical supplies on Amazon after its leaders, lacking experience in disaster responses, failed to prepare for the onslaught of patients at its medical centers.
Ever since President Trump came into office, a record high turnover and unfilled jobs have emptied offices across wide sections of the federal bureaucracy. Now, current and former administration officials and disaster experts say the coronavirus has exposed those failings as never before and left parts of the federal government unprepared and ill equipped for what may be the largest public health crisis in a century.
Some 80 percent of the senior positions in the White House below the cabinet level have turned over during Mr. Trump’s administration, with about 500 people having departed since the inauguration. Mr. Trump is on his fourth chief of staff, his fourth national security adviser and his fifth secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.