“Every state was allowed to go off and do their own activities,” said Howard Koh, a senior public health official in the Obama administration who is now at Harvard. “And a lot of states opened up when the trends were going the wrong way.”…

Earlier this spring, it looked like there might be a plan, a national blueprint that states could adapt to the pandemic’s unique reach and pace within its borders.

The White House task force in mid-April laid out those gates so states could measure their progress and determine when they were ready to open one phase at a time. The approach was criticized at the time for lacking specifics — for instance, the White House document didn’t spell out how to arrange schoolchildren’s desks or where shopkeepers should put up plexiglass. But they gave a common framework, a scientifically based starting point for tiptoeing out of shutdowns as the virus was still widely circulating.

And they were largely ignored. The White House task force stopped giving public briefings. States went their own ways. The big new public health message about face coverings or masks being essential to safely reopen got politicized.