In theory, the small flock of task forces are all working toward the same goal: defeating the novel coronavirus and getting the nation back to work — and life — as quickly as possible. But the reality is far more complicated: a bureaucratic nesting doll of groups with frequently competing aims and agendas.
As a result, an administration that has lagged behind at nearly every step of the pandemic still has no consensus plan for when or how to reopen parts of the economy, even as the president and many advisers push to do so as soon as May 1. There is still no concerted plan for getting vital medical supplies to states, which are left to fight among themselves or seek favors from Trump. There is also no developed plan for what happens if cases or deaths spike as people begin to return to work, or how to respond if the coronavirus surges again in the fall, as many public health experts and administration officials fear.
Public health experts say that among the keys to returning to normalcy are nationwide virus testing (to determine who has the virus); serological testing (to allow those who have been exposed to the virus and developed immunity to return to work); and contact tracing (quickly tracking all the contacts of an infected individual, to halt further spread). Two task force officials said that more important even than nationwide testing is surveillance — using data to make informed decisions about public health.
But the administration has not fully grappled with the sheer manpower and resources required for an effort like contact tracing — and right now, there are not even enough coronavirus tests for those who need them, let alone the entire country.