Only a RINO malcontent would fail to see the glory in the U.S. being ranked 40th worldwide in tests per capita.
Or the CDC completely botching the initial testing rollout in February, replete with crude errors like lab contamination. Chisel these paragraphs in granite on the walls of the eventual coronavirus memorial in Washington:
Early on, the F.D.A., which oversees laboratory tests, sent Dr. Timothy Stenzel, chief of in vitro diagnostics and radiological health, to the C.D.C. labs to assess the problem, several officials said. He found an astonishing lack of expertise in commercial manufacturing and learned that nobody was in charge of the entire process, they said.
Problems ranged from researchers entering and exiting the coronavirus laboratories without changing their coats, to test ingredients being assembled in the same room where researchers were working on positive coronavirus samples, officials said. Those practices made the tests sent to public health labs unusable because they were contaminated with the coronavirus, and produced some inconclusive results.
One amazing thing about the catastrophic early failure in testing by the U.S. is how completely the CDC has escaped blame for it. A new poll out today from Pew finds that 72 percent of Americans rate the agency’s response to the epidemic as excellent or good even though it’s been sidelined since its giant testing screw-up in favor of other experts like Fauci and Birx. Republicans are more in tune with the truth about the CDC’s performance than Democrats are, with just 68 percent rating it excellent or good versus 75 percent of Democrats.
I wonder how much either of those numbers has to do with the testing fiasco versus misconceptions about the agency. That is, how many Americans think Birx and Fauci work for the CDC and are rating the agency based on their performance? How many Democrats are giving the agency good marks simply because they want to heap blame for all failures on Trump by comparison? How many Republican critics of the CDC are rating it badly as an expression of disapproval of all public health experts who oppose reopening the economy as opposed to rating it based on testing?
The other amazing thing about the testing debacle is how inevitable it seems in hindsight. Even though the current garish death toll from the epidemic and all its attendant economic misery are a direct result of failing to test aggressively early and contain the outbreak, no one seems particularly outraged or even surprised that we’ve arrived at the pitiful position we’re in. We don’t expect America, especially the federal government, to be equal to great challenges anymore. We’ll muddle through, writes Ross Douthat, but Romney’s wishes in the clip below for South-Korean-style efficiency in managing the contagion seem hallucinatory. We’re Americans. We don’t do efficiency, or victory. We do quagmires and culture war.
We are capable enough to avoid socioeconomic collapse, resilient enough to muddle through an era of mass death — but we have no nimbleness and little grand ambition, and so our capacities are limited when it comes to achieving more than just stability, more than what Matthew Continetti calls a “cruel new normal” of thousands of deaths every week or month…
But we can still look at the places that have achieved suppression and see a range of plausible measures for a would-be General Patton of the coronavirus war. Masking. Testing. Tracing. And yes, mandatory quarantines…
But an assumption of futility hangs over these efforts — a mentality of “no, we can’t” that emphasizes all the ways that we aren’t like South Korea or Taiwan or Eastern Europe, all the impositions that Americans supposedly won’t stand for, all the ways that our exceptionalism and polarization and mutual suspicion will inevitably make our death toll rise.
Why would we do basic things like wear masks or institute centralized quarantine, which Americans have done successfully in the past to contain dangerous epidemics, when we can scream denialist platitudes instead?
Of course our early testing sucked. How could it have been otherwise?
It is getting better, though, bit by bit. The number of positive cases as a percentage of testing nationwide has been especially encouraging over the past few days, although with the caveat that the numbers always look better on the weekend than they do during the week. Today’s numbers will give us a clue as to whether that apparent trend is real or whether it was just another weekend fluke.
Here’s Romney, who also makes a point of contradicting Trump on whether Obama is to blame for the lack of vaccine, even enlisting Fauci in his efforts. He’s all-in on his role as anti-Trumper-in-chief, I guess.
.@SenatorRomney: “Are either President Trump or President Obama responsible for the fact that we don’t have a vaccine now…?”
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “No, Senator. Not at all. Certainly President Obama nor President Trump are responsible for our not having a vaccine.” pic.twitter.com/TE8VdjnzTC
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 12, 2020