The Trump Administration’s Poor Coordination with States on Pandemic Response

In the absence of strong federal leadership, states were left to determine their own “reopening” strategies and even compete with one another for medical supplies and personal protective equipment. We’re examining the Trump administration’s distribution of resources and information to learn more about the federal government’s response to the needs of various states, whether those states were led by his allies or his critics.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and President Donald Trump in December 2018

Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” President Donald Trump told governors on March 16, 2020. Just a few days earlier, the president had defiantly announced, “I don’t take responsibility at all” when asked about the administration’s failure to provide widespread access to coronavirus testing.

The poor coordination between the federal government and states during the pandemic was defined not just by Trump’s abdication of responsibility, but also by his attacks on state leaders critical of his response. From smearing Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Twitter (and reportedly telling Vice President Pence not to call her) to telling reporters that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker “couldn’t do his job, so we had to help him,” the first months of the pandemic painted a picture of an administration intent on forcing states to go it alone.

“Desperate for medical equipment, states encounter a beleaguered national stockpile,” read one Washington Post headline from late March. Reporting in that article suggested that states were receiving aid and supplies unequally, and American Oversight is looking into whether the federal government is favoring or disfavoring states, and into how the administration addressed the spread of Covid-19 through Native American communities

The lack of central leadership continued into the summer, as the president’s political interests, rather than science and safety, apparently remained the White House’s primary navigator in its pandemic response. Testing capacity remained worryingly low, leaving labs and state leaders concerned about preparations for the fall. As states experience case surges at different times and rates, it is essential for the public to know how the Trump administration coordinated with state and local leaders to respond to the crisis.

Updates

Covid-19 Oversight News: 2021’s Death Toll, Private-Sector Bailouts, and Scrutiny of Trucking Company’s Pandemic Loan

October 12, 2021
American Oversight’s Covid-19 Oversight Hub provides news and policy resources to help you keep track of investigations into the government’s pandemic response. The project brings together a public documents database, an oversight tracker of important ongoing investigations and litigation, regular news updates, and deeper dives into key issues.

The Trump Administration’s March 2020 Covid-19 Mailers Originally Included Mask-Wearing Guidance

September 30, 2021
Emails obtained by American Oversight reveal that during early confusion about face coverings last spring, the Trump White House omitted a line about wearing masks from postcards sent to U.S. households.

Covid-19 Oversight News: The Summer Surge, Vaccine Mandates, and Masking in Schools

September 14, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our bi-weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Soaring Hospitalizations, Booster Shots, and Full Approval for Pfizer Vaccine

August 24, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our bi-weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

News Roundup: Warming Planet, Surging Pandemic, and Election-Undermining Reviews

August 13, 2021
It's been a busy news week, from the fast-growing U.S. surge in Covid-19 cases and the new "code red" report on global warming to news about efforts past and present to undermine the 2020 presidential election.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Vaccinations Fall Along Partisan Lines, New CDC Guidance on Schools

July 12, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: The Pandemic in Nursing Homes, Relief for Renters, and Cases Among Secret Service Officers

June 28, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Slowing Vaccine Rates, New Coronavirus Variant, and Emergent BioSolutions’ Big Year

June 21, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

News Roundup: From the Trump White House to Wisconsin

June 17, 2021
New emails released to Congress show the former president exerting pressure on Justice Department officials to support his baseless fraud claims. The lies haven't disappeared.

Covid-19 Oversight News: The Delta Variant, Vaccine Challenges, and Covid-Spreading Deportations to Guatemala

June 14, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: 600,000 U.S. Lives Lost, Disparities in Vaccinations

June 7, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Vaccine Eligibility, Covid-19 Origins, and New Pandemic Communications

June 1, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

The Poultry Industry’s Influence on the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic

May 11, 2021
American Oversight has obtained more communications showing that last April, the poultry industry pushed the Department of Agriculture to loosen regulations, resulting in crowded working conditions in poultry plants.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Airborne Transmission, Vaccine Patents, and State Strategies to Incentivize Vaccinations

May 10, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

New Documents Show CDC Officials Dealing with Early Covid Testing Problems

April 29, 2021
American Oversight obtained more than 2,000 pages of documents from the early months of the pandemic that illustrate the CDC’s struggles to create and implement reliable Covid-19 testing.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Vaccinations Drop, ICE Facilities Spread the Virus, and Trump Administration Misconduct

April 26, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

News Roundup: Racial Justice Protests, Extremism in the Military, and the Trump Administration’s Anti-Immigration Measures

April 16, 2021
The racial justice protests that swept the nation last summer following Floyd's death drew a heavy-handed response from the Trump administration — one we're still learning about today.

Veterans Affairs Documents Provide Glimpse Into Agency’s Early Struggles

April 14, 2021
American Oversight obtained additional documents that show the agency’s handling of the pandemic last spring.

News Roundup: The Big Lie Becomes Big Policy

March 25, 2021
The sheer number of voting-restriction bills currently floating in state legislatures makes it hard to keep track of where each proposal stands. But they all point to the fact that conservative leaders and fundraisers have increasingly adopted such restrictions as a primary policy position.

One Year of the Coronavirus Pandemic: The Federal Response

March 24, 2021
From the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last year, a stumbling federal response exacerbated a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Vaccines in Prisons, the Pandemic in Florida, and Oversight in Congress

March 22, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Congressional Investigations, Vaccine Distribution, and New Revelations about Misused Pandemic Funds

March 8, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

News Roundup: New Voting-Restriction Bills and the Upcoming Round of Redistricting

February 5, 2021
The anti-democratic forces that fed Trump’s stolen-election lie are at work across the country.

News Roundup: Heightened Security, Unanswered Questions, and a Twice-Impeached President

January 14, 2021
The Trump administration may be ending in less than a week, but the work of protecting our democracy will continue.

Investigations Update: The Attack on the Capitol, Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Resignation, and White House Meeting with State Attorneys General

January 13, 2021
Summary: See the latest in our investigations of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, the resignation of U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak, and states’ responses to the pandemic.

Wisconsin Official’s Emails from Spring 2020 Reveal Deep Frustration with Trump Administration over PPE Shortages

January 13, 2021
Other records obtained by American Oversight show communications regarding plans for Vice President Mike Pence’s visits to Wisconsin in 2020.

News Roundup: A Dark Day

January 7, 2021
Wednesday’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol was a frightening and astounding display of violence instigated by the president himself.

Open Questions About President Trump’s Abuses of Office

December 28, 2020
Trump’s time as president was defined by multiple financial conflicts of interest and unprecedented abuses of power that touched nearly every aspect of public life — and there’s still a lot the American public needs to know.

Covid-19 Oversight News: More Americans Receive Vaccines, A Second Relief Bill, and Congress Investigates Political Interference

December 21, 2020
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

News Roundup: The Long Month Ahead

December 17, 2020
With just over a month left in his administration, there is still plenty of time for President Donald Trump to cause lasting damage.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Vaccine Distribution Begins, CDC Record Preservation, and PPP Failures

December 14, 2020
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Investigations Update: Preservation of White House Communications, Federally Deputized Portland Police, Trump Aide Banned from DOJ

December 8, 2020
See the latest in our investigations into the Trump administration’s compliance with document preservation laws, law enforcement’s response to social unrest, and Covid-19 precautions at the state level.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Rising Case Numbers, Vaccine Progress, and the Pandemic in Prisons

November 23, 2020
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

News Roundup: Overstepping Authority and Undermining Democracy

November 19, 2020
It’s now been nearly two weeks since Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election, but President Trump and his most partisan supporters continue their attempts to thwart the will of U.S. voters.

Covid-19 Oversight News: The Pandemic Surges, Dubious Tests and Treatments, and Change on the Horizon

November 9, 2020
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

News Roundup: Out of Control

October 30, 2020
The pandemic continues to hit new case records, and the Trump administration is finding new ways to flout longstanding ethics requirements.

Open Questions About Trump Administration Policies

October 29, 2020
The tragically botched pandemic response and devastating practice of separating immigrant families are just some of the Trump administration’s actions that bear further scrutiny.

News Roundup: Sidelining Safety and Science

July 10, 2020
The disconnect between the Trump administration’s posture and the reality on the ground — and the advice of health experts and scientists — has reached a disturbing degree.
Show all updates

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