On Politics: Biden Ventures Out



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Former Vice President Joe Biden, with his wife, Jill Biden, laid a wreath at Veterans Memorial Park at the Delaware Memorial Bridge in New Castle.

The White House sent Congress a nationwide virus testing strategy on Sunday that more or less rejects the idea that a national strategy is needed at all.

The document, which the Trump administration was required to submit by a stimulus bill passed last month, puts into writing two things that the administration had long made clear. First, it remains states’ responsibility to figure out how to acquire and administer tests. Second, the president thinks that enough tests are already available, despite many governors’ and health officials’ statements to the contrary.

Democratic leaders responded on Monday, saying the White House’s report was an attempt to “reject responsibility and dump the burden onto the states,” and accusing Trump of trying to “paint a rosy picture about testing while experts continue to warn the country is far short of what we need.”

Our science and global health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli covered the news, and she agreed to answer a few questions for us, explaining what this report will (and won’t) do to help states address testing shortfalls.

Hi, Apoorva. What exactly does this report signify?

The Trump administration said last month that it considered the states responsible for setting and meeting testing goals and for coming up with an overall testing strategy that works for each state. With this report, it’s making that stance official. It’s telling the states: We’ll support and encourage you, and even provide some supplies, but ultimately this is your responsibility. And that sets up an everyone-for-themselves, “Hunger Games”-style competition between states.

Doesn’t it make sense for each state to identify and manage its own public health needs?

To a certain extent, yes. States have always managed their own public health, but they have traditionally received enormous amounts of guidance and support from the federal government. So they have not had to develop a ton of expertise on their own. This move essentially represents the federal government “walking away from that partnership in the middle of a pandemic,” Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told me. States also can’t negotiate international supply chains on their own.

What about the testing numbers?

The report also said that by focusing only on people likely to be positive, the country should be able to get by with 300,000 tests a day. There are no epidemiologists I know of who would agree with that. Most models suggest at least a million tests per day, ranging up to as many as 100 million, depending on whether you want to just bring down the number of infections a little or suppress the outbreak entirely.

The fighters of the suffrage movement frequently flouted laws and norms about how women were expected to behave in public in order to achieve the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Today’s public spotlight looks very different. How do modern women in the public eye draw on the lessons of the past to make a better present and future? What barriers have they felt, broken, ignored and challenged? Join us on Tuesday as we search for answers.

Special guests include Representative Debra Haaland of New Mexico and Reshma Saujani, founder and chief executive of Girls Who Code and author of “Brave, Not Perfect.” Hosted by Monica Drake, assistant managing editor of The Times.

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