HomeTrump Bets Business Will Answer Call to Fight Virus, but Strategy Bewilders FirmsBusinessTrump Bets Business Will Answer Call to Fight Virus, but Strategy Bewilders Firms

Trump Bets Business Will Answer Call to Fight Virus, but Strategy Bewilders Firms

Yet as that debate has played out in the White House Situation Room, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has thrown out the established government plan for dealing with pandemics, after concluding it was insufficient because it never envisioned a pandemic of this breadth.

Mr. Kushner and other aides concluded that only FEMA had what they internally called the “battle rhythm” to be the lead agency. But although the agency has experience cleaning up after tornadoes and hauling in trailers for temporary housing, “it likely won’t know a thing about medical supply chains and devices,” said Christopher Kirchhoff, who examined the capabilities of each government agency for the Obama administration and wrote a detailed report of its shortcomings in dealing with the H1N1 swine flu virus, and then Ebola.

While FEMA knows how to issue contracts rapidly and move goods, it is important not to “divorce the expertise from the execution,” Mr. Kirchhoff said.

On Sunday, the FEMA administrator, Peter T. Gaynor, an experienced emergency manager, was unable to say how many face masks had been shipped from national stockpiles, or how many had been ordered. “I can’t give you a rough number; I can tell you it is happening every day,” he said. That led Mr. Trump, in a late afternoon news conference, to begin to announce specific figures.

To Mr. Trump’s critics, the core problem is not the effort now underway, but the failure to address the issue over the past three years, after government-run simulations, including one code-named Crimson Contagion, revealed some of the huge vulnerabilities.

Mr. Trump’s likely opponent in the coming presidential election, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., said the administration’s effort was coming too late.

“Now a tragic and inescapable truth is clear: Even though the senior-most medical and intelligence experts in the United States government were sounding the alarm about coronavirus for months, President Trump neglected, minimized and lied about this virus,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “He failed to expeditiously get us enough tests, respirators, ventilators and other vital equipment when his peers in other countries did their duty and stood up for their people.”

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