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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

New snags arise as Trump & Co. play catch-up in huge coronavirus crisis

Spring break revelers in Pompano Beach, Fla., on

Spring break revelers in Pompano Beach, Fla., on March 17, weeks before the state's stay-at-home order for coronavirus. Credit: AP / Julio Cortez


Newsday is opening this story to all readers so Long Islanders have access to important information about the coronavirus outbreak. All readers can learn the latest news at newsday.com/LiveUpdates.


By now everone can see that coronavirus got a big head start on the Trump administration and, in turn, on communities across America. While deaths mount, the notorious White House passivity of recent months generates new problems.

State officials say the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been competing with them on equipment purchases. Not only does a nationwide need for ventilators for COVID-19 patients go unresolved, but related drugs are growing scarce.

Dan Kistner, a vice president for the Vizient health care company, told the Financial Times that backlogged orders suggest the U.S. is “spiraling toward a major shortage of the medications necessary for patients who require a ventilator."

The national picture regarding face masks remains foggy, too.

On Monday, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told National Public Radio that his agency was reviewing guidelines on whether regular citizens who must be out and about should be wearing face masks. Trump's own answers have been vague on the matter.

This week, Politico quoted an administration official describing an odd episode. Seeking protective gear for American doctors and nurses, the official appealed to Thailand for help — only to be told that a U.S. shipment of the very same supplies was on its way to Bangkok. That led aides to scramble for more coordination.

In a conference call Monday, governors and Trump remained on different pages on test kits for coronavirus. “Literally we are one day away, if we don’t get test kits from the CDC, that we wouldn’t be able to do testing in Montana,” that state's Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, was heard to say in an audio recording of the call.

Some of what Trump already touted on this front never happened.

The president in mid-March announced a partnership with private companies to set up drive-thru testing sites. He lavished praise on chief executives from Target, Walgreens, Walmart and CVS for their efforts. But the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed to CNN that of these retailers' 30,000 total locations, only five are offering drive-thru testing — and none is open to the general public.

The administration, meanwhile, has declined to reopen Obamacare enrollment for the duration of the crisis. Nor has it proposed an alternative, creating extra suspense for the uninsured.

Trump also has remained openly passive on the matter of stay-at-home orders issued by states. This led to an odd exercise involving Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis. He said he would not issue a stay-at-home order as have other states with thousands of reported coronavirus cases until the White House said to do so.

DeSantis reversed himself Wednesday, taking the onus off Trump.

In the interim, spring break crowds partied on Sunshine State beaches, no doubt helping the virus spread.

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