The White House knows what it takes to limit the spread of covid-19. That became obvious when the virus that has swept the globe began infecting staffers close to the president and vice president.
Quickly, the White House adopted the very measures that the administration, especially President Donald Trump, has not consistently endorsed. Masks are now worn by staffers operating in the West Wing. Those in proximity to leaders are tested daily, as are President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Those infected, who now include Trump’s personal valet and Pence’s chief spokeswoman, are quarantined.
Those are all entirely sensible steps recommended by infectious disease experts—and the White House itself in its April “Open Up America Again” plan.
The accepted, rational strategy of test, trace and isolate is one that should be the foundation of the nation’s defense system against a virus that as yet still has no known treatment, cure or vaccine. It would be vastly more productive than the president frantically tweeting that states struggling to contain the spread be “liberated,” or his questioning the value of widespread testing.
Health officials in Minnesota have said they remain unable to fully track disease spread because of the lack of widespread testing, although testing is increasing. It is an unnecessary burden they and other states have carried for months, due in large measure to a federal government that for too long failed to make widespread testing and tracing part of a national strategy.
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, along with Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all voluntarily self-quarantined after contact with those who tested positive.
Dispelling fear in a pandemic is no small task. It is not accomplished by rhetorical commands to simply stop being afraid. Nor is it accomplished by repeated boasts that the U.S. “leads the world in testing,” when the reality is we lag in per capita testing behind far smaller countries.
We need a national strategy built around the same measures the White House knew to adopt when the safety of the nation’s leaders mattered.
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