Pandemic Reveals Chronic Structural Weaknesses Throughout Federal Government
During this outbreak, the nation is reaping the effects of decades of denigration of government and also from a steady squeeze on the resources needed to shore up the domestic parts of the executive branch. Meanwhile, top health officials revealed tensions brewing within the Trump administration over different agencies' responses, as HHS Secretary Alex Azar defends the president's handling of the pandemic.
The Washington Post:
Crisis Exposes How America Has Hollowed Out Its Government
The government’s halting response to the coronavirus pandemic represents the culmination of chronic structural weaknesses, years of underinvestment and political rhetoric that has undermined the public trust — conditions compounded by President Trump’s open hostility to a federal bureaucracy that has been called upon to manage the crisis. Federal government leaders, beginning with the president, appeared caught unaware by the swiftness with which the coronavirus was spreading through the country — though this was not the first time that an administration seemed ill-prepared for an unexpected shock. But even after the machinery of government clanked into motion, missteps, endemic obstacles and lack of clear communication have plagued the efforts to meet the needs of the nation. (Balz, 5/16)
The Washington Post:
White House Tensions With CDC Spill Into Public View As Top Trump Adviser Criticizes Agency Response
Tensions between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spilled out into public view on Sunday as a top adviser to President Trump criticized the public health agency’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The comments by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro are the latest signal of how the Trump administration has sought to sideline the CDC. The agency typically plays the lead role in public health crises, but in recent weeks it’s had its draft guidance for reopening held up by the White House, leaving states and localities to largely fend for themselves. (Sonmez and Fears, 5/17)
Navarro: CDC 'Really Let The Country Down With The Testing'
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Sunday faulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on its handling of coronavirus testing, saying the CDC “really let the country down.” NBC’s Chuck Todd asked Navarro on “Meet the Press” about the lack of a CDC briefings over the past month and whether President Trump has “confidence” in the CDC during the pandemic. (Budryk, 5/17)
Azar Champions Trump Coronavirus Response
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar championed the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in a pair of Sunday news show appearances — his first major ones since March 1 amid reports the health official has been sidelined in the White House’s public-facing Covid-19 response. Azar on Sunday defended the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite the agency’s delays in rolling out a coronavirus test earlier this year. He also confirmed, but downplayed, the laboratory contamination problem that had reportedly delayed the testing rollout. (Beavers, 5/17)
Trump Officials Deflect Blame For US Coronavirus Death Toll, Escalate Reopening Push
Two of President Donald Trump's top officials are now pointing the finger at the administration's own scientists and Americans' pre-existing health conditions to explain the country's world-leading Covid-19 death toll. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar suggested Sunday that underlying health conditions, including among minorities, were one reason for the high American death toll -- nearly 90,000 as of Sunday evening. And Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro added the government's own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to its list of scapegoats alongside China and the Obama administration. (Collinson, 5/18)
HHS Secretary On People Not Following Social Distancing: 'That's Part Of The Freedom That We Have'
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Sunday that reports of people crowding in bars across the country as some states lift restrictions is “part of the freedom” Americans have. “I think in any individual instance you're going to see people doing things that are irresponsible. That’s part of the freedom that we have here in America,” Azar said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked about images of crowds at a bar in Columbus, Ohio, as well as similar situations across the country. (Klar, 5/17)
Gottlieb Calls For CDC To Have 'Elevated' Role In Coronavirus Fight
Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called on the Trump administration to avoid sidelining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal published Sunday evening. Gottlieb wrote in his column that the CDC has released less information than is customary during public health emergencies, and argued that information about the coronavirus is not being shared with the public in an adequate fashion. (Bowden, 5/17)