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America's two-sided COVID-19 response

America's bungled political and social response to the coronavirus exists side-by-side with a record-breaking push to create a vaccine with U.S. companies and scientists at the center.

Why it matters: America's two-sided response serves as an X-ray of the country itself — still capable of world-beating feats at the high end, but increasingly struggling with what should be the simple business of governing itself.


What's happening: An index published last week by FP Analytics, an independent research division of Foreign Policy, ranked the U.S. 31st out of 36 countries in its assessment of government responses to COVID-19.

  • That puts it below developed countries like New Zealand and Denmark, and also lower than nations with fewer resources like Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.
  • The index cited America's limited emergency health care spending, insufficient testing and hospital beds and limited debt relief.

By the numbers: As my Axios colleague Jonathan Swan pointed out in an interview with President Trump, the U.S. has one of the worst per-capita death rates from COVID-19, at 50.29 per 100,000 population.

Yes, but: Work on a COVID-19 vaccine is progressing astonishingly fast, with the Cambridge-based biotech company Moderna and the National Institutes of Health announcing at the end of July that they had begun Phase 3 of the clinical trial.

  • Their efforts are part of a global rush to a vaccine, and while companies in the U.K. and China are jockeying for the lead, U.S. companies and the NIH's resources and expertise have been key to the effort.
  • Anthony Fauci has said he expects "tens of millions" of doses to be available by early 2021, a little over a year after the novel coronavirus was discovered.
  • If that turns out to be the case, "the Covid-19 vaccine could take a place alongside the Apollo missions as one of history’s greatest scientific achievements," epidemiologist Michael Kinch recently wrote in STAT.

So which is the real American response to COVID-19? The bungled testing policies, the politically driven rush to reopen, the tragic racial divide seen in the sick and the dead? Or the warp-speed work to develop a vaccine in a year when most past efforts took decades?

Be smart: It's both.

The bottom line: It can often feel as if there are two Americas, and not even a virus that has spread around the world seems capable of bridging that gap.

Go deeper: Florida reports another daily record for coronavirus deaths

The childless vaccine

It'll likely be a long time before children are vaccinated against COVID-19, even though vaccinating kids could eventually play an integral role in reducing the virus' spread.

The big picture: None of the leading contenders in the U.S. are being tested for their effectiveness in children. Even once one of them gains authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, there will only be a limited number of available doses.

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Progressive Democrats want to beat President Trump so badly that they're tabling their apathy about Joe Biden — organizing hard to get him into office, only to fight him once elected.

Why it matters: That's a big difference from 2016, when progressives’ displeasure with Hillary Clinton depressed turnout and helped deliver the White House to Trump.

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2020 election influence operations target journalists

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Why it matters: The new strategy, reminiscent of spy operations during the Cold War, is much harder for big tech platforms to police and prevent.

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Democrats demand Trump release his tax returns after explosive NYT report

Democrats called President Trump to disclose his tax returns following a New York Times report that he allegedly paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, and nothing in 10 of the past 15 years.

Details: Trump said the report was "total fake news," that he's unable to release the returns as they're "under audit" by the IRS, "which does not treat me well." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement the report "provides further evidence of the clear need" for a House lawsuit to access the tax returns and "ensure the presidential audit program is functioning effectively, without improper influence."

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Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale hospitalized

Police responded to a home owned by former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale in Fort Lauderdale Sunday evening after his wife called to say he "had guns and was threatening to harm himself," officers confirmed to the Sun Sentinel.

Details: Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Karen Dietrich told the news outlet Parscale was taken to a hospital without incident. He "went willingly under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows police to detain a person who is potentially a threat to himself or others,” per the Sun Sentinel.

Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh told Axios: "Brad Parscale is a member of our family and we all love him. We are ready to support him and his family in any way possible."

  • Axios has contacted Fort Lauderdale for comment.

Wine country blaze prompts evacuation orders as California endures "critical" fire conditions

Firefighters in the western U.S. were facing "critical fire weather conditions," as a rapidly spreading new wildfire in Northern California prompted fresh evacuations Sunday.

Why it matters: Wildfires have burned a record 3.6 million acres in California this year, killing 26 people and razing over 7,600 structures, per Cal Fire. Utility provider Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to 11,000 customers early Sunday and planned outages for 54,000 others later in the day because of fire risks.

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TikTok beats Trump in court, ban won't take effect

A federal court judge on Sunday granted TikTok's request for a temporary restraining order against a ban by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: American will be able to continue downloading one of the country's most popular social media and entertainment apps. At least for now.

Go deeper: WH pushes to uphold TikTok ban

New York Times: Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017

The New York Times has obtained more than two decades worth tax-return data from Trump and the companies that make up his business, writing in an explosive report that the documents "tell a story fundamentally different from the one [the president] has sold to the American public."

Why it matters: The Times' bombshell report, published less than seven weeks before the presidential election, lays bare much of the financial information Trump has long sought to keep secret — including allegations that he paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, and has over $300 million in personal debt obligations coming due in the next four years.

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