In public, President Trump emits meaningless happy talk and misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic. In conversation with the nation’s governors, however, he essentially admitted he has nothing to offer them. They — and by extension the rest of us — are on our own.

“Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” Mr. Trump told the governors during the conference call, a recording of which was shared with The New York Times. “We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself.” . . .
Governors Jay Inslee of Washington, whose state is at the epicenter of the domestic outbreak, and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico both reacted angrily to the administration’s slow response to the crisis.

Good for them. (Take note, former vice president Joe Biden: Lujan Grisham should be on any short list for your pick for your No. 2.) The notion that the federal government is so ill-prepared and still incapable of helping locate and distribute life-saving equipment is an admission of Trump’s utter incompetence and negligence. It is also counterproductive, as Lujan Grisham pointed out: “If one state doesn’t get the resources and materials they need, the entire nation continues to be at risk.” It is stunning that the president does not grasp this.

As detailed in the Times report, Trump can only falsely direct blame to his predecessor (even though Trump has been in office for more than three years) or repeat meaningless buzzwords. As he assures us everything is going swimmingly, the governors are struggling to stay afloat.

Indeed, the bans on sit-down service at restaurants and closures of bars, stores other than groceries and pharmacies, as well as entertainment venues and schools have all been implemented by a number of governors. Some local authorities have taken matters even further. The San Francisco Chronicle reports, “Six Bay Area counties are expected to announce a ‘shelter in place’ order for all residents on Monday, directing everyone to stay inside their homes and away from others as much as possible for the next three weeks as public health officials desperately try to curb the rapid spread of coronavirus across the region.” That includes some 6.7 million people.

This stops just short of the Italian model. (“All non-essential gatherings of any size are now banned, along with non-essential travel ‘on foot, bicycle, scooter, automobile or public transit.’ People may travel for shopping for necessary supplies, accessing health care, and providing aid to family and friends who need assistance, and for non-residents, returning to their home outside the Bay Area. Airports, taxis, and public transit — including [Bay Area Rapid Transit] — will remain operational, but only for essential travel and people are expected to keep six feet apart when possible.”) Seniors and others with an underlying health condition are told to stay inside their homes except for medical care.

The problem, of course, is that people who are infected outside the Bay Area may come into the lockdown zone. If California as a whole moves to this arrangement, out-of-staters can still come in to spread the virus. This is the quintessential example of why nationwide standards are needed. Viruses do not respect county or state borders.

Not every mayor, county official or governor is taking this action. As of Monday morning, for example, 33 states had closed schools. The residents of the 17 other states are now at higher risk than the others, and the 33 are less safe since individuals from the 17 can enter to infect their population. The president will not initiate action on quarantines (he made some “suggestions” at an afternoon press conference) nor offer help on obtaining life-saving equipment. Vice President Pence was the one to call back irate governors. If Trump is so inert and unhelpful, why is he even there?

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