In yesterday’s post about the elusive Covid-19 tests, I described Trump as a guy who has never held a real job and who has no experience working with complex organizations. His knowledge of work flow is limited to two steps: He gives orders, and then somebody carries out the orders. Such things as planning, procedures, protocols, and coordination are not part of his world.
So, brilliantly, he ordered travel restrictions from Europe on short notice, apparently without notifying allies or airlines and without consulting with federal agencies that would need to manage the restrictions. A stampede of Americans flew back before the deadline. They were then jammed together in huge bottlenecks in U.S. airline terminals waiting to get screened for coronavirus to get through customs. So if they weren’t already infected when they left Europe, they probably got infected at the airport waiting to get screened. Here was the scene at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport yesterday.
This is customs at DFW. Current wait time over 3 hours.
Coughing and sneezing… pic.twitter.com/TyFeYthKUG
— Jeffrey Barnett (@holajefe) March 14, 2020
And here is O’Hare:
This is the scene at O’Hare airport. The traveler who took the photo said it’s a 6-hour wait for bags then on to customs for 2-4 more of waiting in shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. Police are handing out water and disinfectant wipes. @fly2ohare #ord #coronavirus #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/UTx9E0nj1s
— Brooke Geiger McDonald (@BrookeGMcDonald) March 15, 2020
The pictures you may have seen only begin to capture the chaos. There was no attempt to enable social distancing; we were packed closely together. Two giant queues of people — one for U.S. citizens and green-card holders and one for foreign nationals — wound their way through the cavernous hall. I counted and came up with approximately 450 people in each section, for a total of just under a thousand. Many were coughing, sneezing and looking unwell.
When I inched closer to the front, I could see that a scant six immigration desks were in service. Two additional desks to the left had less traffic. These are ordinarily for people in wheelchairs; now, the wheelchairs were mixed in with the rest. When I asked a security guard about the other lines, he told me they were for people with a confirmed corona diagnosis. There was no separation for this group — no plastic sheets, not even a bit of distance. When your line snaked to the left, you were inches away from the infected. …
… Some of the agents were asking people to use the fingerprint screen — all fingers, then the thumbs. Mine didn’t, but I watched the adjoining one and was astounded to see that the screen was not wiped, sprayed or in any way sanitized between individuals, or indeed at all during the hour I had it in my line of sight. My agent asked me how I felt (the true answer would have been upset by your colossal ineptitude) and if I had been to China or Italy. (I had not.)
The writer, Cheryl Benard, goes on to describe much more organized and sensible procedures in other countries.
In Other News: Is Trump Trying to Corner the Coronavirus Vaccine Market?
Welt am Sonntag, which is the Sunday edition of the German newspaper Die Welt, reported that Trump has been trying to persuade a German company working on a Covid-19 vaccine to move operations to the U.S. Reuters:
Welt am Sonntag quoted an unidentified German government source as saying Trump was trying to secure the scientists’ work exclusively, and would do anything to get a vaccine for the United States, “but only for the United States.”
The Guardian elaborates a bit, saying that Trump allegedly offered large sums of money to get exclusive access to the firm’s vaccine work. The company, CureVac, has denied “rumors of acquisition.” However,
When approached about the report by the Guardian, the German health ministry would only confirm the accuracy of the quotes attributed to one of its spokespersons in the article.
“The federal government is very interested in vaccines and antiviral agents against the novel coronavirus being developed in Germany and Europe,” the spokesperson quoted in the original article had said. “In this regard the government is in an intensive exchange with the company CureVac.”
The German health ministry spokesperson declined the opportunity to correct any inaccuracies in Die Welt’s account.
So maybe this report is true, and maybe it isn’t, but it sounds like something Trump would try to pull.
Infighting, missteps and a son-in-law hungry for results: Inside the Trump administration’s troubled coronavirus response in WaPo. Mr. Ivanka tried to take charge and bring some semblance of order to the administration’s response to the pandemic, but Trump blew it anyway because he appears to not understand anything that’s happening around him. Or, perhaps he just fell back on his long habit of overhyping and overpromising to make a deal.
Anne Applebaum, The Coronavirus Called America’s Bluff in The Atlantic. Applebaum argues that the coronavirus might finally explode our myth of American exceptionalism.
Update: Tonight is the last Democratic debate. I may or may not watch. At this point I’m resigned to Biden being the nominee, and I’m kind of exhausted with it all. But feel free to comment on it here, if you’re watching.