Health experts are warning that President Donald Trump’s decision to put the onus on individual states to contain the COVID-19 pandemic will cost thousands of lives and result in “an open-ended outbreak rolling across the country.”
In interviews with NBC News, a dozen different experts said that America needed a national strategy for fighting the virus and that the federal government’s efforts so far were not close to cutting it.
“This is a national problem — it needs a national response,” William Haseltine, a biologist famed for his work on HIV and AIDS, tells NBC News.
Kenneth Bernard, a retired Navy rear admiral and biosecurity expert, similarly said that leaving things up to the states would create a fragmented approach that would leave the country collectively worse off.
“There needs to be a person who can act as a focal point for tests, personal protective equipment and countermeasures — acquisition and distribution,” he said. “Right now, it’s too fragmented and fractured, and that’s counterproductive, because the states are competing against the federal government for the same sources of materials.”
And public health expert Laurie Garrett tells NBC News that the current strategy will result in governments constantly scrambling to catch up with new developments.
“The virus is beating us,” she said. “It’s emerging and surprising us. We don’t know where it is. We don’t know where it’s going. We don’t know how it’s spreading. We don’t have interventions that follow a strategy.”