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Bringing in the NTSB

The 3 Weeks That Changed Everything

Imagine if the National Transportation Safety Board investigated America’s
response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Consider a thought experiment: What if the NTSB were brought in to look at the
Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic? What would its investigation
conclude? I’ll jump to the answer before laying out the background: This was a
journey straight into a mountainside, with countless missed opportunities to
turn away. A system was in place to save lives and contain disaster. The people
in charge of the system could not be bothered to avoid the doomed course.

"The organization below differs from that of a standard NTSB report, but it
covers the key points. Timelines of aviation disasters typically start long
before the passengers or even the flight crew knew anything was wrong, with
problems in the design of the airplane, the procedures of the maintenance crew,
the route, or the conditions into which the captain decided to fly. In the worst
cases, those decisions doomed the flight even before it took off. My focus here
is similarly on conditions and decisions that may have doomed the country even
before the first COVID-19 death had been recorded on U.S. soil.

"What happened once the disease began spreading in this country was a federal
disaster in its own right: Katrina on a national scale, Chernobyl minus the
radiation. It involved the failure to test; the failure to trace; the shortage
of equipment; the dismissal of masks; the silencing or sidelining of
professional scientists; the stream of conflicting, misleading, callous, and
recklessly ignorant statements by those who did speak on the national
government’s behalf. As late as February 26, Donald Trump notoriously said of
the infection rate, “You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is
going to be down close to zero.” What happened after that—when those 15 cases
became 15,000, and then more than 2 million, en route to a total no one can
foretell—will be a central part of the history of our times."
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