As coronavirus failures mount, 'it's like nothing has changed'

"We’ve done a great job," Trump declared in reference to the pandemic, based on "anything you want to look at." Anything? How about PPE?
Image: Respiratory therapist Casey White prepares to attend to a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Chula Vista
Respiratory therapist Casey White prepares to attend to a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Chula Vista, Calif., on May 12, 2020.Lucy Nicholson / Reuters file
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By Steve Benen

Dr. Anthony Fauci sounded awfully discouraged about the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic yesterday during a FiveThirtyEight interview. "I don't think you can say we're doing great," he said. "I mean, we're just not."

The comments came right around the time Donald Trump, patting himself on the back for a job poorly done, boasted, "We’ve done a great job" based on "anything you want to look at."

Really? "Anything"? How about personal-protective equipment?

Health-care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are encountering shortages of masks, gowns, face shields and gloves -- a frustrating recurrence of a struggle that haunted the first months of the crisis. Nurses say they are reusing N95 masks for days and even weeks at a time. Doctors say they can’t reopen offices because they lack personal protective equipment. State officials say they have scoured U.S. and international suppliers for PPE and struggle to get orders filled. Experts worry the problem could worsen as coronavirus infections climb, straining medical systems.

Note the date on this Washington Post report: it wasn't published on March 8 or April 8; rather, this reached the public on July 8. It just seems like the sort of thing we saw months ago -- because it was.

The article quoted Deborah Burger, a California nurse and president of National Nurses United, a union representing registered nurses, saying, “A lot people thought once the alarm was sounded back in March surely the federal government would fix this, but that hasn’t happened."

Exactly. It's a problem that these shortages exist, but the problem is exacerbated by the fact that these shortages aren't new. The same breakdowns that plagued the U.S. response at the outset are the same ones confronting front-line professionals now.

It's not just PPE, either. The Post added, "The specter of equipment shortages comes as other issues that plagued the country’s early response to the pandemic return: surging cases, overwhelmed hospitals, lagging testing and contradictory public health messages."

Megan Ranney, an emergency room doctor and researcher at Brown University, helped launch the #GetUsPPE campaign in March. She added this week, “We thought we were creating this thing that would be around a few weeks, like a temporary fix to this problem others would solve once they saw just how bad it was. Here we are months later and it’s like nothing has changed.”

All of which brings us back to the president's misguided victory lap yesterday, when he declared, "We’ve done a great job" based on "anything you want to look at."

Wouldn't it be great if that were true?