“Every time I see a commercial on TV that says we are all in this together, my blood boils,” Ms. Millner said. “We are not in this together! The upper middle class is fine. But two-thirds of this country is going down the drain.”

Long before the coronavirus crisis, another one was brewing: a slow but steady decline in how many Americans trust the federal government. That number has been declining for decades, through Democratic and Republican administrations. And in 2019, it reached one of the lowest points since the measure began: Just 17 percent of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing “just about always” or “most of the time,” according to the Pew Research Center.

The lack of trust in Washington does not necessarily mean that people do not want any government. Polls consistently show much more faith in local government, and some governors are currently enjoying high marks for their handling of the pandemic.

Even so, in a week of more than 20 interviews, Americans said that the government in Washington was not rising to meet the challenge of the virus.