America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was driven as much by politics as it was by science as policymakers tried to balance public health with economic health.
Andy Slavitt, who headed up the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the Obama administration, says that 15 months on many of the choices made by our leaders don’t look so great in hindsight.
“It was a huge public health challenge, and that meant tough decisions and trade-offs. But a lot of what happened came back to politics, which caused us to take a very different approach. And it was to our detriment,” Slavitt said.
Slavitt is the author of the new book Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response. He’s also the host of the “In the Bubble” podcast which examines the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, Utah lawmakers passed the so-called “pandemic endgame” bill, which ended Utah’s mask mandate on April 10 of this year. They also moved to rein in the power of public health officials.
Despite those maneuvers, the number of cases in Utah is rising again as the delta variant of the virus takes hold.
“I wish nothing more than a virus would respond to legislation. That would be really nice. We can fool ourselves for some amount of time, but that’s not real political leadership,” Slavitt said.
Slavitt also details why the Trump administration made the cynical decision to leave the response to the pandemic up to the states, and the real story behind “Operation Warp Speed.”