It was arguably not until March 11 that Americans started to take the coronavirus illness seriously. It first appeared in Wuhan, China in late December of 2019 (hence the 19 in the COVID-19 name), but most Americans (and their politicians; the public health and intelligence people were raising alarms but not getting any traction with elected officials) likely thought of it as something “over there.”
When Rudy Gobert of the NBA’s Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus on that date, everything changed. The NBA immediately suspended all its games. It was followed in short order by Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer. That got Americans’ attention.
Unfortunately, it did not get the President of the United States’ attention, except as a hindrance to his re-election campaign. President Trump tried to suppress mass testing of the population for the virus because he didn’t want “the numbers” of sick people to reflect badly on him. That, coupled with a misstep by the CDC which caused its first batch of tests to fail, put the US behind and it has yet to catch up. Even at this late date, due to the shortage of tests, with over 42,000 known cases of COVID-19 and over 600 dead, the US has probably not scratched the surface of the number of Americans who’ve been infected.
In addition, the delay in taking the pandemic seriously meant that hospital and clinic stockpiles of masks, gowns and other gear (PPE — Personal Protective Equipment) are woefully inadequate. President Trump has been dilatory in demanding that factories begin switching their output from widgets to PPE gear and ventilators. He has “invoked” the Defense Production Act which gives him wide latitude to do so, but his Republican ideology requires that he not “tell business” what it should do.
He is now making noises about lifting Presidential guidelines which suggest that Americans “hunker down” and stay home because he’s fearful that a poor economy will hurt his re-election chances. He doesn’t seem to understand that if he proved to be a competent leader through a national disaster that would reflect very well on him.
Here’s a timeline updated through today.