How Government Screwed Up Coronavirus Response

From masks to tests, suppression to stimulus, the Reason Roundtable podcast reviews the mistakes that got us to this precarious point.


Believe it or not, we're still in the month of March. On March 1, New York City recorded its first positive case for the novel coronavirus. On March 2, Mayor Bill de Blasio—with future "Love Gov" Andrew Cuomo at his side—said "We have the capacity to keep this contained." On March 10, de Blasio told MSNBC, with reckless inaccuracy, that "If you're under 50 and you're healthy, which is most New Yorkers, there's very little threat here. This disease, even if you were to get it, basically acts like a common cold or flu. And transmission is not that easy." By March 15, with great reluctance, Hizzoner finally joined the rest of big-city America in closing public schools. On March 16, he worked out at the Park Slope YMCA.

Now near the end of the month, New York City is the American epicenter of the deadly virus, with more than 36,000 positive tests and 750+ deaths, and de Blasio has gone from reluctant institutions-shutterer to someone who has threatened churches and synagogues with "potentially closing the building permanently" if they don't keep their doors closed during the upcoming holidays.

Plague-life comes at you fast, exposing some of the worst pathologies of governance and politics. An examination of such begins today's Reason Roundtable podcast, featuring Nick Gillespie, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Peter Suderman, and Matt Welch. We discuss the catastrophe of slow testing, the mixed messaging on masks, the gargantuan bailout/stimulus, and—of course!—what to watch and listen to during the long days of quarantine.

For an video version of this podcast, go here.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

Relevant links from the show:

"As Trump Imagines '2.2 Million Deaths' From COVID-19 in the U.S., a Top Federal Disease Expert Cautions Against Believing Worst-Case Scenarios," by Jacob Sullum

"The World Must Not Mimic China's Authoritarian Model to Fight COVID-19," by Shikha Dalmia

"In Dramatic Shift, Trump Tells Nation To Stay at Home Until the End of April," by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

"As Coronavirus Outbreak Hit, Trump Administration Refused To Ease Hand Sanitizer Tariffs," by Eric Boehm

"Airlines Make Out Like Bandits in $2.3 Trillion Coronavirus Aid Bill," by Christian Britschgi

"How Much Is $2.3 Trillion? More Than Even Obama Could Imagine," by Matt Welch

NEXT: How Many of Us Will Die From the Coronavirus?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Wait, lemme guess. MOAR TESTING!

  2. I think it’s hilarious that any American is not blaming the media AND the government for this.

    The media are lying shitbags and have been for decades. It didnt suddenly change.

    Americans are going back to work, funtivities, and their normal routine. The media hysteria is wearing off.

    1. To be fair, Blue state bureaucrats and politicians are also shitbags to make you unreason hacks feel good.

    2. Americans are going back to work, funtivities, and their normal routine.

      Is that so?

      1. LC is about as provincial as one can be. What’s happening amongst his rural southern kinfolk equals America.

        1. Oh fuck off.
          Your snobbery doesn’t play well in a world were supermarket clerks, truck drivers, nurses and farmers now matter more than your diversity consultants, journalists, sociology TAs and 57 gendered baristas.
          Covid-19 has clarified who is important and who was frivolous garbage.

          1. How about you shut the fuck up instead? Lovecon89 is our resident idiot, and we all deserve the right to entertain ourselves at his well-deserved expense.

            1. Pretty sure you and Kirkland are the resident idiots… although you could also be included in the resident autist group along with Hihn and Sqrls.

              1. Your acrasial effrontery smites my obrumpent heart!

            2. Don’t try to pass the hat over to LC. We still have you around.

              1. Oh shit, I forgot about you. Sorry, Jesse. In my defense, though, lovecon89 is dumber than you.

                1. Lol. Lovecon89 is our OBL.

              2. unreason cannot refute anything that I say, since they are holed up in their flats too scared to go out and see what other Americans are doing.

                1. They could look at real sources of actual news or even check Google maps with traffic feature to see people driving around.

                  Instead unreason would rather suit up in a sock troll and send this rag further down the drain.

          2. Just because I tee off on LC doesn’t make me a snob. He asks for it with his constant (as in every single fucking thread all day long) shit talk about things for which he has no clue. If he can’t take it, he can stop posting. Same goes for any one of us including me.

            1. Poor eric. He wishes his coder programmed him to be a snob.

          3. Also Mother. Am I wrong? If so, how?

          4. As some one still going into work, as I am “essential”, can I still make fun of anyone I like? Where does construction middle manager land me on the new social pyramid, can’t be worse then my last designation; straight white male? Oh and my barista served me a coffee this morning which is “essential” to me.

      2. Yup. I’m sure. Construction workers still working on overpasses. People still doing shopping. Traffic jams for people trying to get to work in Atlanta. People at Lake Lanier on their boats. People traveling from New York and New Jersey to Florida via Georgia interstates. People still buying liquor. People still going to restaurants. People going to law offices to get divorces. People still going to wineries. People still working farms. People still getting together for birthdays and other special events. People still buying guns. People still going to gun clubs and ranges. Kids still playing in streets. People still buying cars. People still buying homes….

        1. People still going to church. People still attending bible study. People still going to the dentist….

          1. You’re proving my point.

            1. Where do the bougies that are still going up to the Colorado mountain towns fall in this equation?

              1. Not like they can do anything there but hike around in the cold. The towns and resorts are just as closed as the cities. And I fail to see the point to your question.

                1. The point is that you’re indulging in typical bougie snark about the hicks in the sticks, even though the same people in your economic class are indulging in the same “violations” of said medical and government recommendations.

                  At least have enough self-awareness to recognize your special pleading.

                  1. I have no issue with rural people other than when they take a “holier than thou” attitude toward those who live in cities.
                    My issue with LC is his weapons grade ignorance. He’s the type who looks outside his window and notices it’s sunny and warm and then proceeds to berate everyone across the country if they are wearing a rain jacket for not “dressing to the weather”.

                    1. And before you dismiss me as some bourgie snob, I would call out someone from New York or LA for doing the same. Small minded people exist everywhere. Why can’t you call it out when it’s coming from those on your side?

                    2. I have no issue with rural people other than when they take a “holier than thou” attitude toward those who live in cities.

                      And before you dismiss me as some bourgie snob, I would call out someone from New York or LA for doing the same.

                      “Those stupid rubes! Why can’t they be as sophisticated and worldly as us? Hey, why do they hate us so much?”

                      This has been as old as civilization. I’m not sure why you think it’s some point against lc.

                    3. We’re obviously not communicating on the same page. If you read the whole thread instead of cherry picking statements you’d understand.

          2. poor eric. He is holed up scared in his apartment.

            While redneck Armenians squabble over who gets the giant rat head to eat.

  3. Florida megachurch pastor arrested for holding crowded services Sunday

    The police tyrants think they are more powerful than the US Constitution.

    Start the woodchippers!

  4. Elderly woman dies after being smacked for not social distancing: sources

    Because murder is perfectly reasonable when your life is not more at risk than the seasonal Flu/Cold.

    1. Do they chalk this one up as a Kung Flu death?

      1. Well, it is coronavirus related…

  5. Can The News Industry Survive Coronavirus?

    Learn to code, you fucking liars.

    1. Post a link to you github, so they can get a head start.

      1. I believe your jokes have killed more people than Covid-19 in the US.

        1. Why thank you, Jesse. A rare compliment from the likes of you.

        2. Chipper MW is a murderer of logical thought.

    2. Luo notes that the Times, Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and New Yorker are among the publications that have recently lowered their paywalls for parts of their coronavirus coverage, writing that an independent press keeps citizens informed and defends against “rumors, half-truths, and propaganda that are rife on digital platforms.”

      Demagoguery by the Times, Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and New Yorker are what led idiot governors to try and ban Chloroquine.
      Other lies printed by those five were “Trump called the virus a hoax”, Trump tariffed hand sanitizer” and “Trump said more people will suicide than get Covid-19”.

      If they’re really serious about stopping the spread of “rumors, half-truths, and propaganda that are rife on digital platforms”, they’ll close their own operations.
      I mean look at all the garbage just Boehm and ENB picked up and regurgitated from them.

      1. So true = look at all the garbage just Boehm and ENB picked up and regurgitated

      2. You can bet ENB, Boehm, and most unreason staff have paid access to Propaganda sites like WaPo, NYT, Atlantic, New Yorker….

  6. Coronavirus-canceled flights could affect weather forecasting at exactly the wrong time

    Well, I for one cannot wait for the first TrumpTornado to hit Los Angeles.

    1. Ripple effects are a bitch.

  7. How Government Screwed Up Coronavirus Response


  8. what screwed up?
    a) we don’t freak during other cold/flu seasons.
    b) government is never where anyone should look in the first place.

    S.O.P. for “the government”

    1. The fact you’re still opining that this is nothing more serious than a regular cold or flu indicates that you deserve early life retirement.

      Go remove yourself from the gene pool.

      1. poor hysteric sock troll.

      2. numbers don’t lie, homes. i don’t live in NYC

  9. Reason Round Table early March vs end of March

    Old: the government sucks, don’t let them use this crisis

    New: the government sucks because they didn’t do enough

    1. Once you understand that the unreason Lefties and Anarchists want America to burn and their utopia rise from the ashes, everything falls into place.

      It’s why unreason Propagandizes so hard.

  10. ‘On March 10, de Blasio told MSNBC, with reckless inaccuracy, that “If you’re under 50 and you’re healthy, which is most New Yorkers, there’s very little threat here. This disease, even if you were to get it, basically acts like a common cold or flu. And transmission is not that easy.”‘

    There’s nothing recklessly inaccurate about any of that. About the most you can say is that “transmission is not that easy” is too vague (easy relative to what). His comments on people who are young and healthy have thus far proven correct.

  11. [Raises hands]

    Can I just tell you guys what a letdown this whole emergency pandemic has become. I mean, I thought all the preppers in society were going to go galt, go into hiding into their stocked mine shafts, emerge from the post-apocalyptic landscape in the ruined aftermath of a civil war and nuclear exchange and then build a libertarian shangri-la free of socialist planning and ugly and undesirable fat women.

    But instead its a bunch of mutual aid and government bailout bullshit that looks like its run by a European social democrat. So boring. I haven’t gotten to use my AR-16 yet to shoot some robber and ward off looters on my propertay and instead my most pressing problem is convincing my boss that I’m actually working while “working from home.” This sucks! When am I going to get to shoot someone?


    1. Your boss already knows you’re a fucking loser. And she knows you sit there all day with your dick in your sweaty hand.

      1. 99% sure this is parody.

    2. “my AR-16”


      Anyway, I’m not sure who you’re trying to parody here. New York, Washington, Iran, Italy and China aren’t exactly libertarian paradises and their responses to the virus have been a shit-show. Meanwhile places that are by-and-large libertarian have been relatively unaffected.
      Maybe you didn’t realize that because you’re a fucking moron.

      1. What places would that be?

        1. Alaska, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, The Dakotas

          1. Wyoming and Alaska have higher per capita COVID rates than California. North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho are catching up fast. Utah is way higher than California (all those missionaries coming back home). Only New Mexico and South Dakota are noticeably lower.

            1. Wyoming and Alaska have higher per capita COVID rates than California.

              The cases are largely confined to the few high-population areas in the states, so this is moot.

              North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho are catching up fast.

              Well, sure, that’s what happens when refugees from shithole Blue areas try to escape to the countryside.

              1. Idaho – point & case; Most infected Boise & Sun Valley (both Blue [D] majority) mostly comprised of CA run-away immigrants & CA vacation spots.

            2. You’re also wrong about the higher per capita rates. Wyoming’s is 6,517 per case, based on estimated 2020 population numbers and the CDC map as of this morning. Alaska’s is 6,438. California’s is 6,959.

              1. You are kind of proving my point there, aren’t you?

                1. ::claimes Alaska and Wyoming have higher per capita infection rates than California::
                  ::is shown to be wrong::

                  “yOU’rE JUsT pROvInG My pOInT!”

            3. California is far higher rates of infection but the state wont test all 39.56 million residents.

              New York would also look relatively uninfected too if they hadn’t tested so many NY residents.

  12. What I’ve enjoyed in watching the world-o-meter site (which has been the most accurate at counting coronavirus infection) doesn’t even include Dear Leader’s press conferences and just references Andrew Cuomo’s press briefings as being the most accurate. Yeah, when you are actually a scientist and not some bullshitter, its best to go with people who actually command the facts.

    1. Cuomo gets you hard. I bet his brother gets yours balls to tighten up.

    2. You think Cuomo is a scientist? Oh wow.

    3. You know what I’ve enjoyed? Watching the hick states force refugees from the shithole Blue areas to self-quarantine.

      1. Did you enjoy watching Kentucky and Louisiana electing Democratic governors?

        1. Did you enjoy watching Maryland and Massachusetts elect Republican ones, Pod-tard?

  13. It seems odd to see libertarians attempting to dissect a particular government failure when, if you’re familiar with Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy and its derivation from John Gall’s Systemantics, you know that government, like all systems, as a rule, operates in failure mode and that the primary function of all systems, regardless of their stated function, is to perpetuate themselves. To the extent that the success of the stated function of the system is to obviate the need for the system itself, it should be obvious that the actual purpose of the system is to make the problem worse rather than better. “Warfare is the health of the state”, as they say; since the duty of the state is to protect the citizen, the more precarious the safety of the citizen, the greater the need for the state and the greater the incentive for the state to maintain the precarious nature of the situation. If government were actually good at its job, there would be little need for government.

    1. Jerry Skids with the real insights as usual. Well put.

    2. ^this x infinity

  14. How is it that the homeless street people in Seattle, SF and LA aren’t dropping like flies?

      1. Guess those city-sponsored injection sites aren’t looking so hot right now.

  15. The response was screwed up because it is a Presidential election year. Politics took precedence over the response. First all the politicians downplayed the threat so as not to look bad. Governors and Mayors did nothing waiting for the Federal government, the biggest slowest most inefficient form of government to react. I mean you have to get 435 House Reps, 100 Senators and one President to agree on anything for them to do something.

    The when President finally tried to do what the Governors should have done weeks ago, wanting to start quarantining hot spot states, Governors threatened to sue him. All this followed by finger pointing and assigning blame as American’s die and idiots worry more about what we call the virus so as not to offend anyone more than worrying about those deaths.

    Now we have Gestapo State police knocking on doors looking for people fleeing hot spots and chasing people off of wide open outdoor spaces, rather than people doing what is best with self-quarantining and civil rights being trampled everywhere.

    1. ^This is probably why the U.S. Constitution never gave the Federal Inner-State police enforcement powers. And probably the very reason the Federal government has been sucking more-so the more they ignore that Supreme Law.

  16. What world are some of these people living in? Seriously, I have to wonder about Unreason, and most of the media. To be frank, I really don’t see ‘screwup’ here; I do see ‘surprised’ which is normal,considering the nature of the Wuhan coronavirus. What’s the playbook for a fucking global pandemic of an unusually high transmissable pathogen for which there is no effective treatment?

    First, China deliberately lied and obfuscated regarding the nature of the Wuhan coronavirus. This continues to this very day. Our response was hampered by a communist, totalitarian government that lied continuously. Hard to react when you don’t know. Oh yeah, WHO was wrong, and lied also.

    Second, the response of America to the Wuhan coronavirus has been nothing short of miraculous. Let me see if I have this right. In the 60 day period from January 31 we have….
    – Developed and deployed nationwide mass testing for covid-19
    – Passed ~2.5T economic stabilization package
    – Developed and now deploying mass serologic testing
    – Increased the production of medical supplies to stratospheric levels
    – Instituted a voluntary quarantine across America (unheard of)

    Now maybe Unreason and the mainstream media call this a failure, but maybe these same shitheads could tell us what success looks like. Go for it. And while you are at it, tell us who is ‘successful’ using whatever measure you’re using.

    Third, at a time when America needs to pull together, Unreason and their media ilk do everything possible to sow dissention, create controversy. There is a time and place for acting like assholes spoiled brats and this is not the time. It will take everything we have as a people to overcome this challenge. Unreason and the media are not helping.

    Fourth, the data is the data. The latest modeling informed by our data here in the US indicate that we will see at least 100K deaths, and quite probably more. Stop denying reality. The Wuhan coronavirus is a mortal threat, and we need to start treating it like that. The carping from the sidelines and asinine behavior from the media really needs to stop for a while.

    Finally, consider the following.
    – the Wuhan coronavirus does a remarkable job tying up resources of HCPs. And sickens many of them.
    – the Wuhan coronavirus sufferers who are critical require ventilation at much higher rates than we have ever seen.
    – the speed at which the Wuhan coronavirus moves through the population is something we have not seen in over a century

    I really wish we would pull together as Americans. God knows, we need to.

    1. Pull together? I thought we were supposed to be engaging in social distancing.

      1. I think the whole point of XY emotional flapper-gas comment was to promote communism by deceptively giving it credit for private accomplishments. (probably on purpose)

        – Developed and deployed nationwide mass testing for covid-19.
        …. of which the FDA/CDC is roadblocking with bureaucracy …
        – Passed ~2.5T economic stabilization package
        …. How the heck did this “stabilize” anything?
        (Monopoly money – Stealing – Destroying motive to EARN/HELP)
        – Developed and now deploying mass serologic testing
        …. of which the FDA/CDC is roadblocking with bureaucracy …
        – Increased the production of medical supplies to stratospheric levels
        …. of which the Government has ZERO credit for short of making those supplies WILDLY expensive (Gov Monopolizing)….
        – Instituted a voluntary quarantine across America (unheard of)
        …. “voluntary” immediately run contrary to any government ….

    2. The problem here, you fucking dipshit, is that between January and the middle of March – when the President was repeatedly told by Doctors and the intelligence agencies that this would be a pandemic, he did LARGELY NOTHING.

      Your ’60 day’ timeline is bullshit. In reality, it’s a “15 day timeline after 45 days of watching the train approach us and thinking the train would move out of our way.”

      I don’t support the idea of pulling together, until the idiots who defend Trump’s lies and narcissism at every turn wind up on hospital beds needing ventilators which don’t exist because we sat around for two months ignoring the problem.

      1. The problem here, you fucking dipshit, is that between January and the middle of March – when the President was repeatedly told by Doctors and the intelligence agencies that this would be a pandemic, he did LARGELY NOTHING.

        What’s Europe’s excuse, then, you fucking cancer cell?

      2. Jason…dude, they’re Americans. They’re dying by the thousands. Literally. We don’t ever cheer for that. We don’t give a shit about their politics. Think that one through.

        Honestly, what is the playbook for an event of this magnitude? There isn’t one. We are writing the playbook on the fly. What the POTUS and his team did, when they did, why they did, how they did will be judged with some finality in November 2020.

        Be safe, be healthy.

      3. dude. meds. yikes.

      4. “when the President was repeatedly told by Doctors and the intelligence agencies that this would be a pandemic, he did LARGELY NOTHING.”

        All Hail the monarchy King – For we as sheeple (the left) cannot do ANYTHING for ourselves without following the all-mighty authority of the almighty king. (this is TRUE Communistic thinking through n through).

        Respectable things President Trump did do –
        1) Didn’t (all mighty king) thwart the States/County/City governments of the ability to handle the situation. As-if Washington D.C. is more equipped to handle the affairs of Fields, OR that the people that live there — HECK, I’d place a bet most people in Washington D.C. doesn’t even KNOW that place exists.

        2) CUT Regulation from previous (all-mighty King) communist lefties + RHINO’s put in place that were really Unconstitutional and made the Federal system by-far more of a curse than a blessing.

  17. This is really a great post, i really like the content, great work, keep it up with sextreffen essen

  18. The Media screwed up by creating panic, Governers screwed up by implementing draconian law.

    1. +10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

  19. I love the podcast. I love Reason. BUT, if you ever say “put a bird on it” again, I will hit the unsubscribe button so fast!!! AAAHHHHH!!!

Please to post comments