Trump Team Thought COVID-19 Would Hit Blue States Worst — So They Abandoned National Strategy

A report this week says that Jared Kushner had a plan for a national COVID-19 testing program. It was scrapped, and testing was left to states to figure out, after team members felt that data showed blue states would be hit hardest by the pandemic.

Kushner's covid response team thought virus would only hit blue states
[Photo credit SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images]

Vanity Fair obtained a copy of the plan that Kushner’s team, assembled from experts and business associates, had outlined.

Rather than have states fight each other for scarce diagnostic tests and limited lab capacity, the plan would have set up a system of national oversight and coordination to surge supplies, allocate test kits, lift regulatory and contractual roadblocks, and establish a widespread virus surveillance system by the fall, to help pinpoint subsequent outbreaks.

However, the ideas never came to fruition. One participant described the plan as being ready to present to the president that weekend, then, “poof, into thin air.”

An expert connected to Trump’s COVID-19 task force says that the most troubling thing about the plan’s disappearance was something one of Kushner’s team members had said — that the virus was hitting blue states hardest, and so a national strategy would be a bad political decision.

The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy.

The White House has denied this report.

However, BUsiness Insider reported in April that Trump was doing exactly that. A senior administration official had explained that Trump planned to start ‘feuds’ with governors over their COVID-19 response, and use that to fuel his campaign.

Sure enough, Trump lashed out at governors who tried to slow the spread by shutting down their states. The push to reopen has been linked to the resurgence in cases.

Also, as reported earlier this week, Trump staffers say that the president began to take the pandemic more seriously once he understood it was also hitting areas with higher populations of Republican voters. It’s not clear exactly when Trump was warned about this, but just over a week ago, Trump shifted from mocking Joe Biden for wearing a mask, to declaring mask-wearing a patriotic activity (though he’s still rarely seen in one in public himself).

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