e’re entering into a scary new phase of the novel coronavirus pandemic. As many states are lifting lockdown orders, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that the death rate is likely to increase to nearly 3,000 people per day by June 1. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation on May 12 raised its estimate of the total U.S. deaths to 147,040 by August.
Given how badly the U.S. has bungled its response to the outbreak so far, it’s an open question whether anyone can rise to the challenge of leading us through the likely second and subsequent waves of the pandemic.
It’s clearly not President Trump. Even as he acknowledged on May 3 that as many as 100,000 Americans might die from the disease—an already outdated number as the death tally rose past 80,000 last week—Trump is also encouraging states to end the social distancing and quarantine measures that in some places are in their 10th week. Some states, such as Georgia, which started reopening the week of May 4 despite not having met the federal government’s already weak guidelines, are likely not prepared for a second wave of infections.
The pandemic has revealed a near total collapse of federal leadership.
It’s not even clear we can look to any single national figure for guidance, except perhaps Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. As of this writing, Fauci himself is in isolation after an outbreak of coronavirus infections emerged within the White House.
Instead, the pandemic has revealed a near total collapse of federal leadership. In many ways, that was the plan all along. This is what former presidential adviser Steve Bannon meant when he said the goal of this administration was the “destruction of the administrative state,” even if he couldn’t have predicted that a virus would provide the assist.