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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 3)

Targeting WeChat, Trump Takes Aim at China’s Bridge to the World

TAIPEI, Taiwan — In China, WeChat does more than any app rightfully should. People use it to talk, shop, share photos, pay bills, get their news and send money.

With much of the Chinese internet locked behind a wall of filters and censors, the country’s everything app is also one of the few digital bridges connecting China to the rest of the world. It is the way exchange students talk to their families, immigrants keep up with relatives and much of the Chinese diaspora swaps memes, gossip and videos.

Now, that bridge is threatening to crumble.

Late Thursday, the Trump administration issued an executive order that could pull China’s most important app from Apple and Google stores across the world and prevent American companies from doing business with its parent company, Tencent. Light on details, the decree could prove cosmetic, crushing or something in between.

If enforced strongly when it takes effect in 45 days, the order will take dead aim at China’s single most groundbreaking internet product, which 1.2 billion people use every month. An effective ban on the app in the United States would cut short millions of conversations between investors, business partners, family members and friends. The threat alone will likely start a new chapter in the deepening standoff between China and the United States over the future of technology.

Taken together with Thursday’s twin order against the Chinese-owned video app TikTok, the move against WeChat marks a shift in the American approach to the Great Firewall, which for years has kept companies like Facebook and Google from operating in China. Restricting WeChat and TikTok could be the first steps in an eye-for-an-eye reprisal.

While TikTok may be the fad of the moment in the United States, WeChat is far more important in China. A digital bedrock of daily life, WeChat emerged as a tool for the Chinese authorities to impose social controls. Within China, the app is heavily censored and monitored by a newly empowered force of internet police.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_174797511_7a75afea-4af3-4125-8b52-d97198a1b86f-articleLarge Targeting WeChat, Trump Takes Aim at China’s Bridge to the World WeChat (Mobile App) United States International Relations Trump, Donald J TikTok (ByteDance) Mobile Applications Instant Messaging China Censorship
Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

Outside China’s borders, the app has become a key conduit for the spread of Beijing’s propaganda. Chinese security forces have also regularly used WeChat to intimidate and silence members of the Chinese diaspora, including minority Uighurs seeking to raise awareness of harsh crackdowns in their homeland in western China.

“The downside of this executive order is that it’s addressing these concerns by taking steps that also make it harder to directly communicate with ordinary people in China,” said Sheena Greitens, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

“It puts this administration’s policy into conflict with another one of its stated goals: to maintain openness and friendly connections with the Chinese people,” she added.

While WeChat and its owner have long straddled the uncomfortable divides that separate China’s internet from the world, they have rarely come under such direct scrutiny from the United States.

Originally created as the copycat brainchild of a Tencent engineer, Allen Zhang, WeChat mostly failed to catch on in overseas markets, even as the company spent hundreds of millions in marketing dollars to compete with WhatsApp. The app’s reliance on other Chinese apps in the isolated Chinese internet ecosystem probably hurt its chances, even as its usage innovations transformed life within China.

Outside China, it has mainly been a tether for the Chinese diaspora to their homeland.

May Han, a Chinese-born American, moved to the United States with her family when she was 9. Lonely when she first arrived, Ms. Han’s parents encouraged her to use another Tencent chat service, QQ, to keep up with her elementary school friends in China. They also hoped it would help her remember Chinese.

Eventually she made the jump to WeChat, where she still whiles away her online days chatting with about 350 friends and family members, many of them in China. Now an environmental science major at the University of California, San Diego, Ms. Han said WeChat had become the cultural glue that holds together much of her Chinese community.

Credit…Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

“If we can’t use WeChat, our connections to China will decrease or even vanish,” she said. “Most of us have got used to using WeChat, especially older generations. Changing an app is not easy for them; it means changing their lifestyle.”

Some of her friends, she said, had already begun posting links to Line, a messaging app popular in Japan, in case they were forced to switch. To Ms. Han, the order seemed un-American.

“Trump is violating our rights to connect with our families and friends. If WeChat is really banned, the executive order seems rather unconstitutional, it violates the First Amendment,” she said. “It may sound exaggerated here, but I do hope WeChat won’t be blocked.”

The order could end up restricting a variety of dealings between Americans and Tencent.

American companies could, for instance, be barred from advertising on WeChat, cutting them off from a key channel for reaching China’s vast consumer market. Tencent could be prohibited from distributing WeChat through Apple’s and Google’s app stores, which could leave users unable to receive software updates, or unable to use the app entirely.

Apple and Google did not respond to requests for comment.

The White House order could even prevent Tencent from purchasing American equipment for the servers from which it operates WeChat. If the company uses those same servers to run other internet products and services, then a wider swath of its business could be affected, according to David Dai, an analyst in Hong Kong with the investment research firm Sanford C. Bernstein.

This would be the “worst-case scenario” for Tencent, Mr. Dai wrote in a research note on Friday.

Tencent, which has a market capitalization well above $600 billion, said on Friday that it was reviewing the executive order “to get a full understanding.” The company’s shares fell almost 6 percent in Friday trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

TikTok said it was “shocked” by the White House order, which it said had been issued “without any due process.”

At a daily news briefing on Friday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin called the order a “nakedly hegemonic act,” saying that “on the pretext of national security, the U.S. frequently abuses national power and unreasonably suppresses relevant enterprises.”

Tencent’s own products may have struggled to break through in Western countries. But it has built up a wide-ranging, if low-key, presence in the United States through investments and partnerships — all of which could be affected if the White House order results in a broad ban on working with Tencent.

Some of the company’s most significant overseas forays have been in video games, which account for much of its worldwide revenue. Tencent owns Riot Games, the developer behind League of Legends, and a large share of Epic Games, which makes Fortnite. The company’s film unit, Tencent Pictures, has been involved in Hollywood blockbusters including “Wonder Woman” and the most recent “Terminator” movie.

Credit…Richard A. Brooks/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Tencent has also taken stakes in companies with less direct connections to its own businesses, including the electric carmaker Tesla and the social media company Snap. It has even invested in the Chinese operations of Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee chain, to aid in the company’s expansion in China.

As Tencent’s global WeChat expansion foundered, the company tried to purchase WhatsApp but was beaten out by Facebook. If Tencent had succeeded, it may well have looked more like ByteDance, the other Chinese internet company in the cross hairs of the Trump administration. ByteDance’s best known app, TikTok, got a big boost with its takeover of Musical.ly, a short-video app built by Chinese entrepreneurs that had found success in Europe and the United States.

Both companies’ workarounds functioned only because Washington did not follow Beijing’s censorship cues. That may now be changing, though Yaqiu Wang, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said the Trump administration’s executive orders looked puny compared to Beijing’s Great Firewall. While they raise free speech questions, she said, the concerns about WeChat’s role in democracies are very real.

“For many overseas Chinese, the popularity and multifunctionality of WeChat has made apps popular outside of China unnecessary,” she said.

“That means the Chinese government is able to control a significant portion of the information overseas Chinese receive, even outside its borders,” she added. “This could have real domestic political implications, as many members of the Chinese diaspora are voters of the countries they reside in and are, or can be, politically mobilized.”

Lin Qiqing contributed research.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump Targets WeChat and TikTok, in Sharp Escalation With China

Westlake Legal Group merlin_175366002_fe1eaecc-4bf3-4dfe-8538-24ad1d4024bb-facebookJumbo Trump Targets WeChat and TikTok, in Sharp Escalation With China WeChat (Mobile App) United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J TikTok (ByteDance) Tencent Holdings Ltd Social Media Politics and Government Mobile Applications Instant Messaging China

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced sweeping restrictions on two popular Chinese social media networks, TikTok and WeChat, a sharp escalation of its confrontation with China that is likely to be met with retaliation.

The twin executive orders, released late Thursday night and taking effect in 45 days, cited national security concerns. The orders will bar any transactions with WeChat or TikTok by any person or involving any property subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. The order would exclude any contract entered into before the 45 days elapse, opening up a possible reprieve for TikTok, which is in talks to be acquired by Microsoft.

Tensions between the United States and China have already escalated to levels not seen in decades, over rifts in geopolitics, technology and trade. The restrictions would also represent a further Balkanization of the global internet, as nations continue to cut off foreign technology companies from each other’s markets.

In the announcement, President Trump accused WeChat, made by Tencent, and TikTok, made by ByteDance, of providing a channel for the Chinese Communist Party to obtain Americans’ proprietary information, keep tabs on Chinese citizens abroad and carry out disinformation campaigns to benefit China’s interest.

“The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China (China) continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” the president wrote.

Much remains unclear about the scope of the ban, including precisely which transactions would be severed. But it appears to have even more severe consequences for WeChat than for TikTok, which is already in talks with an American suitor. WeChat is used widely around the world, particularly by people of Chinese descent, to communicate with friends and loved ones, read news and even carry out business transactions.

TikTok and Tencent did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A press officer for Microsoft declined to comment.

The order comes in the middle of talks between TikTok and at least three other American companies, including Microsoft, regarding a potential acquisition of TikTok’s business. Last week, Microsoft said it planned to pursue the negotiations for a purchase of TikTok’s service in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and would do so by Sept. 15.

The threat of an outright ban on transactions is a serious blow for ByteDance and Zhang Yiming, the company’s chief executive, whose goal for years has been to connect the world through his various consumer apps. Nicknamed the “app factory” in China, ByteDance is home to more than 20 apps, including personal financial apps and productivity programs.

But TikTok has far and away been the crown jewel of ByteDance’s portfolio. Used by more than 800 million people globally, TikTok grew popular for its short, catchy videos that spread quickly and virally over social media channels. Mr. Zhang took great steps to allow TikTok’s presence in some of the world’s most important consumer markets, like storing user data on servers in Virginia and Singapore, and hiring heads of business in the United States.

Ana Swanson reported from Washington, and Mike Isaac from San Francisco.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Bill Hagerty Wins Tough Tennessee Primary With Trump’s Endorsement

Westlake Legal Group bill-hagerty-wins-tough-tennessee-primary-with-trumps-endorsement Bill Hagerty Wins Tough Tennessee Primary With Trump’s Endorsement United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Tennessee Sethi, Manny Republican Party Hagerty, William F Endorsements Elections, Senate Alexander, Lamar

The Tennessee Senate Republican primary may have taken a competitive turn in its final weeks, but Bill Hagerty proved that for red-state candidates in the Trump era, there are still few things more valuable than the endorsement of Donald J. Trump himself.

On Thursday, Mr. Hagerty, 60, who served as the president’s first ambassador to Japan, trounced 14 other candidates in the primary to succeed the retiring Senator Lamar Alexander.

The race had tightened in its homestretch, with an upstart candidate, Manny Sethi, riding a wave of grass-roots enthusiasm as he positioned himself as the field’s true conservative and most committed ally of the president, earning the support of prominent conservatives like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Mr. Sethi, 42, an orthopedic surgeon, had for months attacked Mr. Hagerty for his background in private equity, longtime friendship with Senator Mitt Romney of Utah and support from the Tennessee Republican establishment.

In the end, it wasn’t enough. Mr. Trump had endorsed Mr. Hagerty before he even entered the race. When skepticism arose about Mr. Hagerty’s commitment to the tenets of Trumpism, Mr. Hagerty squelched it simply by promoting that endorsement even more.

“It’s not as if there was any huge philosophical difference between Hagerty and Manny,” said Stephanie Chivers, a longtime adviser to Mr. Alexander. “So I really believe that Trump’s endorsement made the difference.”

The race was one of the nastiest in recent Tennessee history. As budding enthusiasm for Mr. Sethi became reflected in the polls, Mr. Hagerty went intensely negative. His campaign claimed in television ads that Mr. Sethi’s $50 donation to a Democratic candidate via ActBlue, a liberal online fund-raising platform, was evidence that Mr. Sethi could not be trusted to defend the American flag. He consistently mispronounced his opponent’s name as “Set-ee,” as if to remind voters of the physician’s Indian heritage.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_174909150_83622f68-24a2-4ecc-a755-6855dde33960-articleLarge Bill Hagerty Wins Tough Tennessee Primary With Trump’s Endorsement United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Tennessee Sethi, Manny Republican Party Hagerty, William F Endorsements Elections, Senate Alexander, Lamar
Credit…Brianna Paciorka/Knoxville News Sentinel, via Associated Press

The misleading attacks went both ways: In a web ad, Mr. Sethi tried to link Mr. Hagerty to the Black Lives Matter movement by highlighting his position on the board of a firm that had issued statements in support of it. He referred to Mr. Hagerty as “Mitt Romney’s guy” in ads and speeches, even as Mr. Hagerty made his criticism of the Utah senator clear — a reflection of what now counts as a politically damaging attack in Mr. Trump’s Republican Party.

Mr. Hagerty is unlikely to have trouble in November, as polling suggests that Tennessee remains squarely within Trump country. But his likely ascension to the Senate is an endpoint of sorts to the moderate tenor that has long defined Tennessee Republicanism, of which Mr. Alexander was among the last representatives.

“This may well be the end of an era,” said Keel Hunt, the author of two books on Tennessee politics.

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A 4th Presidential Debate? Commission Says No to Trump

Members of the Commission on Presidential Debates on Thursday rejected the Trump campaign’s request for changes to the fall debate schedule, declining to shift the debates earlier or add a fourth debate to the calendar.

President Trump and his campaign had argued that the current debate schedule, which calls for three debates between Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. in late September and October, would render them all but useless to the many Americans who will by then already have voted by mail.

“How can voters be sending in Ballots starting, in some cases, one month before the First Presidential Debate. Move the First Debate up,” Mr. Trump said Thursday morning in a tweet. “A debate, to me, is a Public Service. Joe Biden and I owe it to the American People!”

The president’s urging came one day after Rudolph W. Giuliani, a campaign adviser to Mr. Trump, wrote to the commission to discuss the timing of the debates and sent a list of two dozen journalists “for consideration as moderators.”

In its response to Mr. Giuliani on Thursday, the commission said that people planning to vote by mail could wait until after viewing the debates to send in their ballots if they so choose.

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Updated 2020-08-07T01:49:39.375Z

“While more people will likely vote by mail in 2020, the debate schedule has been and will be highly publicized,” the commission, which is nonpartisan, said in the letter. “Any voter who wishes to watch one or more debates before voting will be well aware of that opportunity.”

The commission also sidestepped Mr. Giuliani’s list of preferred moderators, saying simply that it would exercise “great care, as always, to ensure that the selected moderators are qualified and fair.” Mr. Giuliani’s list was heavy on Fox News personalities and conservative talk-show hosts.

Campaigns have no formal say in the debate schedule, which was set months ago, and at least technically speaking, the commission has sole discretion when it comes to selecting moderators. But officials have already had to change the location of two of its four events, after a pair of universities that were set to host pulled out because of concerns about the coronavirus.

The first presidential debate is scheduled to be held on Sept. 29 in Cleveland; the second on Oct. 15 in Miami; and the third on Oct. 22 in Nashville. A vice-presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 7, will be held in Salt Lake City.

In his letter to debate officials, Mr. Giuliani wrote that “as many as eight million Americans in 16 states will have already started voting” early by the time the first debate takes place.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_174121248_f234e700-3ba3-49ab-a797-41f9e2a6434e-articleLarge A 4th Presidential Debate? Commission Says No to Trump Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Simply put, the commission’s current approach is an outdated dinosaur and not reflective of voting realities in 2020,” Mr. Giuliani wrote. “For a nation already deprived of a traditional campaign schedule because of the Covid-19 global pandemic, it makes no sense to also deprive so many Americans of the opportunity to see and hear the two competing visions for our country’s future before millions of votes have been cast.”

Mr. Biden’s campaign had mostly dismissed his opponent’s proposals, calling them a “distraction,” while affirming that Mr. Biden would take part in the events as planned.

“We’re glad that Donald Trump is now following Joe Biden’s lead from June and — at long last— has accepted the commission’s invitation to debate,” TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for Mr. Biden, said on Thursday.

“As we have said for months, the commission will determine the dates and times of the debates, and Joe Biden will be there,” Mr. Ducklo said. “Now that Donald Trump’s transparent attempt to distract from his disastrous response to the virus is over, maybe now he can focus on saving American lives and getting our economy back on track.”

Michael P. McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida who studies American elections, said he had discussed the timing of the debates and early voting with the commission. He said Mr. Giuliani was correct in asserting that millions of Americans will have received their ballots and have had the opportunity to vote by mail by Sept. 29.

But he said that based on his research from previous presidential elections, far fewer people will have actually voted by that time. And those who choose to vote very early, he added, are likely not the types of people who would be swayed by a television debate.

“These are people who are hard partisans,” Mr. McDonald said of those who cast early ballots.

“They’ve made up their mind a long time ago as to who they’re going to vote for,” he said, adding that “no debate is really going to sway them one way or another.”

Mr. McDonald said he thought there was “very little risk” involved in having early voting start before a debate has taken place, and that although his data was incomplete, his best estimates suggested that only about 10,000 people had actually voted by late September during the 2016 election.

Many signs point to increased turnout this fall, he said, and because of risks posed by the virus, more people could chose to vote very early by mail. But in all likelihood, he added, “it’s not going to be millions.”

Michael Grynbaum and Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

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How the US Has Uniquely Failed to Control the Coronavirus

Nearly every country has struggled to contain the coronavirus and made mistakes along the way.

China committed the first major failure, silencing doctors who tried to raise alarms about the virus and allowing it to escape from Wuhan. Much of Europe went next, failing to avoid enormous outbreaks. Today, many countries — Japan, Canada, France, Australia and more — are coping with new increases in cases after reopening parts of society.

Yet even with all of these problems, one country stands alone, as the only affluent nation to have suffered a severe, sustained outbreak for more than four months: the United States.

When it comes to the virus, the United States has come to resemble not the wealthy and powerful countries to which it is often compared but instead to far poorer countries, like Brazil, Peru and South Africa, or those with large migrant populations, like Bahrain and Oman.

As in several of those other countries, the toll of the virus in the United States has fallen disproportionately on poorer people and groups that have long suffered discrimination. Black and Latino residents of the United States have contracted the virus at roughly three times as high of a rate as white residents.

How did this happen? The New York Times set out to reconstruct the unique failure of the United States, through numerous interviews with scientists and public health experts around the world. The reporting points to two central themes.

First, the United States faced longstanding challenges in confronting a major pandemic. It is a large country at the nexus of the global economy, with a tradition of prioritizing individualism over government restrictions. That tradition is one reason the United States suffers from an unequal health care system that has long produced worse medical outcomes — including higher infant mortality and diabetes rates and lower life expectancy — than in most other rich countries.

“As an American, I think there is a lot of good to be said about our libertarian tradition,” Dr. Jared Baeten, an epidemiologist and vice dean at the University of Washington School of Public Health, said. “But this is the consequence — we don’t succeed as well as a collective.”

The second major theme is one that public health experts often find uncomfortable to discuss because many try to steer clear of partisan politics. But many agree that the poor results in the United States stem in substantial measure from the performance of the Trump administration.

In no other high-income country — and in only a few countries, period — have political leaders departed from expert advice as frequently and significantly as the Trump administration. President Trump has said the virus was not serious; predicted it would disappear; spent weeks questioning the need for masks; encouraged states to reopen even with large and growing caseloads; and promoted medical disinformation.

In recent days, Mr. Trump has continued the theme, offering a torrent of misleading statistics in his public appearances that make the situation sound less dire than it is.

Some Republican governors have followed his lead and also played down the virus, while others have largely followed the science. Democratic governors have more reliably heeded scientific advice, but their performance in containing the virus has been uneven.

“In many of the countries that have been very successful they had a much crisper strategic direction and really had a vision,” said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who wrote a guide to reopening safely for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group. “I’m not sure we ever really had a plan or a strategy — or at least it wasn’t public.”

Together, the national skepticism toward collective action and the Trump administration’s scattered response to the virus have contributed to several specific failures and missed opportunities, Times reporting shows:

  • a lack of effective travel restrictions;

  • repeated breakdowns in testing;

  • confusing advice about masks;

  • a misunderstanding of the relationship between the virus and the economy;

  • and inconsistent messages from public officials.

Already, the American death toll is of a different order of magnitude than in most other countries. With only 4 percent of the world’s population, the United States has accounted for 22 percent of coronavirus deaths. Canada, a rich country that neighbors the United States, has a per capita death rate about half as large. And these gaps may worsen in coming weeks, given the lag between new cases and deaths.


Daily deaths per million in wealthy countries

Source: New York Times database from state and local governments. Includes all countries with a G.D.P. per capita of more than $25,000 and a population of at least 10 million people.

For many Americans who survive the virus or do not contract it, the future will bring other problems. Many schools will struggle to open. And the normal activities of life — family visits, social gatherings, restaurant meals, sporting events — may be more difficult in the United States than in any other affluent country.

In retrospect, one of Mr. Trump’s first policy responses to the virus appears to have been one of his most promising.

On Jan. 31, his administration announced that it was restricting entry to the United States from China: Many foreign nationals — be they citizens of China or other countries — would not be allowed into the United States if they had been to China in the previous two weeks.

It was still early in the spread of the virus. The first cases in Wuhan, China, had been diagnosed about a month before, and the first announced case in the United States had come on Jan. 21. In announcing the new travel policy, Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, declared that the virus posed “a public health emergency.” Mr. Trump described the policy as his “China ban.”

After the Trump administration acted, several other countries quickly announced their own restrictions on travel from China, including Japan, Vietnam and Australia.

But it quickly became clear that the United States’ policy was full of holes. It did not apply to immediate family members of American citizens and permanent residents returning from China, for example. In the two months after the policy went into place, almost 40,000 people arrived in the United States on direct flights from China.

Even more important, the policy failed to take into account that the virus had spread well beyond China by early February. Later data would show that many infected people arriving in the United States came from Europe. (The Trump administration did not restrict travel from Europe until March and exempted Britain from that ban despite a high infection rate there.)

The administration’s policy also did little to create quarantines for people who entered the United States and may have had the virus.

Authorities in some other places took a far more rigorous approach to travel restrictions.

South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan largely restricted entry to residents returning home. Those residents then had to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, with the government keeping close tabs to ensure they did not leave their home or hotel. South Korea and Hong Kong also tested for the virus at the airport and transferred anyone who was positive to a government facility.

Australia offers a telling comparison. Like the United States, it is separated from China by an ocean and is run by a conservative leader — Scott Morrison, the prime minister. Unlike the United States, it put travel restrictions at the center of its virus response.

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Updated 2020-08-06T22:21:25.187Z

Australian officials noticed in March that the travel restrictions they had announced on Feb. 1 were not preventing the virus from spreading. So they went further.

On March 27, Mr. Morrison announced that Australia would no longer trust travelers to isolate themselves voluntarily. The country would instead mandate that everyone arriving from overseas, including Australian citizens, spend two weeks quarantined in a hotel.

The protocols were strict. As people arrived at an airport, the authorities transported them directly to hotels nearby. People were not even allowed to leave their hotel to exercise. The Australian military helped enforce the rules.

Around the same time, several Australian states with minor outbreaks shut their own borders to keep out Australians from regions with higher rates of infection. That hardening of internal boundaries had not happened since the 1918 flu pandemic, said Ian Mackay, a virologist in Queensland, one of the first states to block entry from other areas.

The United States, by comparison, imposed few travel restrictions, either for foreigners or American citizens. Individual states did little to enforce the rules they did impose.

“People need a bit more than a suggestion to look after their own health,” said Dr. Mackay, who has been working with Australian officials on their pandemic response. “They need guidelines, they need rules — and they need to be enforced.”

Travel restrictions and quarantines were central to the success in controlling the virus in South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia, as well as New Zealand, many epidemiologists believe. In Australia, the number of new cases per day fell more than 90 percent in April. It remained near zero through May and early June, even as the virus surged across much of the United States.

In the past six weeks, Australia has begun to have a resurgence — which itself points to the importance of travel rules. The latest outbreak stems in large part from problems with the quarantine in the city of Melbourne. Compared with other parts of Australia, Melbourne relied more on private security contractors who employed temporary workers — some of whom lacked training and failed to follow guidelines — to enforce quarantines at local hotels. Officials have responded by banning out-of-state travel again and imposing new lockdowns.

Still, the tolls in Australia and the United States remain vastly different. Fewer than 300 Australians have died of complications from Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus. If the United States had the same per capita death rate, about 3,300 Americans would have died, rather than 158,000.

Enacting tough travel restrictions in the United States would not have been easy. It is more integrated into the global economy than Australia is, has a tradition of local policy decisions and borders two other large countries. But there is a good chance that a different version of Mr. Trump’s restrictions — one with fewer holes and stronger quarantines — would have meaningfully slowed the virus’s spread.

Traditionally, public health experts had not seen travel restrictions as central to fighting a pandemic, given their economic costs and the availability of other options, like testing, quarantining and contact tracing, Dr. Baeten, the University of Washington epidemiologist, said. But he added that travel restrictions had been successful enough in fighting the coronavirus around the world that those views may need to be revisited.

“Travel,” he said, “is the hallmark of the spread of this virus around the world.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_175041549_f4134f61-d95b-4dc5-af99-dfff4e1d68c9-articleLarge How the US Has Uniquely Failed to Control the Coronavirus United States Economy United States Trump, Donald J Tests (Medical) Quarantines Masks Georgia Disease Rates Coronavirus Reopenings Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

On Jan. 16, nearly a week before the first announced case of the coronavirus in the United States, a German hospital made an announcement. Its researchers had developed a test for the virus, which they described as the world’s first.

The researchers posted the formula for the test online and said they expected that countries with strong public health systems would soon be able to produce their own tests. “We’re more concerned about labs in countries where it’s not that easy to transport samples, or staff aren’t trained that thoroughly, or if there is a large number of patients who have to be tested,” Dr. Christian Drosten, the director of the Institute for Virology at the hospital, known as Charité, in Berlin.

It turned out, however, that the testing problems would not be limited to less-developed countries.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed their own test four days after the German lab did. C.D.C. officials claimed that the American test would be more accurate than the German one, by using three genetic sequences to detect the virus rather than two. The federal government quickly began distributing the American test to state officials.

But the test had a flaw. The third genetic sequence produced inconclusive results, so the C.D.C. told state labs to pause their work. In meetings of the White House’s coronavirus task force, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director, played down the problem and said it would soon be solved.

Instead, it took weeks to fix. During that time, the United States had to restrict testing to people who had clear reason to think they had the virus. All the while, the virus was quietly spreading.

By early March, with the testing delays still unresolved, the New York region became a global center of the virus — without people realizing it until weeks later. More widespread testing could have made a major difference, experts said, leading to earlier lockdowns and social distancing and ultimately less sickness and death.

“You can’t stop it if you can’t see it,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to the director general at the World Health Organization, said.

While the C.D.C. was struggling to solve its testing flaws, Germany was rapidly building up its ability to test. Chancellor Angela Merkel, a chemist by training, and other political leaders were watching the virus sweep across northern Italy, not far from southern Germany, and pushed for a big expansion of testing.

By the time the virus became a problem in Germany, labs around the country had thousands of test kits ready to use. From the beginning, the government covered the cost of the tests. American laboratories often charge patients about $100 for a test.

Without free tests, Dr. Hendrik Streeck, director of the Institute of Virology at the University Hospital Bonn, said at the time, “a young person with no health insurance and an itchy throat is unlikely to go to the doctor and therefore risks infecting more people.”

Germany was soon far ahead of other countries in testing. It was able to diagnose asymptomatic cases, trace the contacts of new patients and isolate people before they could spread the virus. The country has still suffered a significant outbreak. But it has had many fewer cases per capita than Italy, Spain, France, Britain or Canada — and about one-fifth the rate of the United States.

The United States eventually made up ground on tests. In recent weeks, it has been conducting more per capita than any other country, according to Johns Hopkins researchers.

But now there is a new problem: The virus has grown even more rapidly than testing capacity. In recent weeks, Americans have often had to wait in long lines, sometimes in scorching heat, to be tested.

One measure of the continuing troubles with testing is the percentage of tests that come back positive. In a country that has the virus under control, fewer than 5 percent of tests come back positive, according to World Health Organization guidelines. Many countries have reached that benchmark. The United States, even with the large recent volume of tests, has not.


Percent of coronavirus tests that come back positive

Seven-day averages. Source: Our World in Data. Includes all countries with a G.D.P. per capita of more than $25,000 and a population of at least 10 million people.

“We do have a lot of testing,” Ms. Rivers, the Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, said. “The problem is we also have a lot of cases.”

The huge demand for tests has overwhelmed medical laboratories, and many need days — or even up to two weeks — to produce results. “That really is not useful for public health and medical management,” Ms. Rivers added. While people are waiting for their results, many are also spreading the virus.

In Belgium recently, test results have typically come back in 48 to 72 hours. In Germany and Greece, it is two days. In France, the wait is often 24 hours.

For the first few months of the pandemic, public health experts could not agree on a consistent message about masks. Some said masks reduced the spread of the virus. Many experts, however, discouraged the use of masks, saying — somewhat contradictorily — that their benefits were modest and that they should be reserved for medical workers.

“We don’t generally recommend the wearing of masks in public by otherwise well individuals because it has not been up to now associated with any particular benefit,” Dr. Michael Ryan, a World Health Organization official, said at a March 30 news conference.

His colleague Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove explained that it was important to “prioritize the use of masks for those who need them most.”

The conflicting advice, echoed by the C.D.C. and others, led to relatively little mask wearing in many countries early in the pandemic. But several Asian countries were exceptions, partly because they had a tradition of mask wearing to avoid sickness or minimize the effects of pollution.

By January, mask wearing in Japan was widespread, as it often had been during a typical flu season. Masks also quickly became the norm in much of South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan and China.

In the following months, scientists around the world began to report two strands of evidence that both pointed to the importance of masks: Research showed that the virus could be transmitted through droplets that hang in the air, and several studies found that the virus spread less frequently in places where people were wearing masks.

On one cruise ship that gave passengers masks after somebody got sick, for example, many fewer people became ill than on a different cruise where people did not wear masks.

Consistent with that evidence was Asia’s success in holding down the number of cases (after China’s initial failure to do so). In South Korea, the per capita death rate is about one-eightieth as large as in the United States; Japan, despite being slow to enact social distancing, has a death rate about one-sixtieth as large.

“We should have told people to wear cloth masks right off the bat,” Dr. George Rutherford of the University of California, San Francisco, said.

In many countries, officials reacted to the emerging evidence with a clear message: Wear a mask.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada began wearing one in May. During a visit to an elementary school, President Emmanuel Macron of France wore a French-made blue mask that complemented his suit and tie. Zuzana Caputova, the president of Slovakia, created a social media sensation by wearing a fuchsia-colored mask that matched her dress.

In the United States, however, masks did not become a fashion symbol. They became a political symbol.

Mr. Trump avoided wearing one in public for months. He poked fun at a reporter who wore one to a news conference, asking the reporter to take it off and saying that wearing one was “politically correct.” He described former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s decision to wear one outdoors as “very unusual.”

Many other Republicans and conservative news outlets, like Fox News, echoed his position. Mask wearing, as a result, became yet another partisan divide in a highly polarized country.

Throughout much of the Northeast and the West Coast, more than 80 percent of people wore masks when within six feet of someone else. In more conservative areas, like the Southeast, the share was closer to 50 percent.

A March survey found that partisanship was the biggest predictor of whether Americans regularly wore masks — bigger than their age or whether they lived in a region with a high number of virus cases. In many of the places where people adopted a hostile view of masks, including Texas and the Southeast, the number of virus cases began to soar this spring.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Throughout March and April, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia and staff members held long meetings inside a conference room at the State Capitol in Atlanta. They ordered takeout lunches from local restaurants like the Varsity and held two daily conference calls with the public health department, the National Guard and other officials.

One of the main subjects of the meetings was when to end Georgia’s lockdown and reopen the state’s economy. By late April, Mr. Kemp decided that it was time.

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Georgia had not met the reopening criteria laid out by the Trump administration (and many outside health experts considered those criteria too lax). The state was reporting about 700 new cases a day, more than when it shut down on April 3.

Nonetheless, Mr. Kemp went ahead. He said that Georgia’s economy could not wait any longer, and it became one of the first states to reopen.

“I don’t give a damn about politics right now,” he said at an April 20 news conference announcing the reopening. He went on to describe business owners with employees at home who were “going broke, worried about whether they can feed their children, make the mortgage payment.”

Four days later, across Georgia, barbers returned to their chairs, wearing face masks and latex gloves. Gyms and bowling alleys were allowed to reopen, followed by restaurants on April 27. The stay-at-home order expired at 11:59 p.m. on April 30.

Mr. Kemp’s decision was part of a pattern: Across the United States, caseloads were typically much higher when the economy reopened than in other countries.


The United States reopened with more cases

Other countries relaxed their restrictions to America’s current level with far fewer cases per million.

Source: Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker, New York Times database from state and local governments. Includes all countries with a G.D.P. per capita of more than $25,000 that have a population of at least 10 million people. Japan and Sweden never reached a high enough stringency level to be included.

As the United States endured weeks of closed stores and rising unemployment this spring, many politicians — particularly Republicans, like Mr. Kemp — argued that there was an unavoidable trade-off between public health and economic health. And if crushing the virus meant ruining the economy, maybe the side effects of the treatment were worse than the disease.

Dan Patrick, the Republican lieutenant governor of Texas, put the case most bluntly, and became an object of scorn, especially from the political left, for doing so. “There are more important things than living,” Mr. Patrick said in a television interview the same week that Mr. Kemp reopened Georgia.

It may have been an inartful line, but Mr. Patrick’s full argument was not wholly dismissive of human life. He was instead suggesting that the human costs of shutting down the economy — the losses of jobs and income and the associated damages to living standards and people’s health — were greater than the costs of a virus that kills only a small percentage of people who get it.

“We are crushing the economy,” he said, citing the damage to his own children and grandchildren. “We’ve got to take some risks and get back in the game and get this country back up and running.”

The trouble with the argument, epidemiologists and economists agree, was that public health and the economy’s health were not really in conflict.

Early in the pandemic, Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist and former Obama administration official, proposed what he called the first rule of virus economics: “The best way to fix the economy is to get control of the virus,” he said. Until the virus was under control, many people would be afraid to resume normal life and the economy would not function normally.

The events of the last few months have borne out Mr. Goolsbee’s prediction. Even before states announced shutdown orders in the spring, many families began sharply reducing their spending. They were responding to their own worries about the virus, not any official government policy.

And the end of lockdowns, like Georgia’s, did not fix the economy’s problems. It instead led to a brief increase in spending and hiring that soon faded.

In the weeks after states reopened, the virus began surging. Those that opened earliest tended to have worse outbreaks, according to a Times analysis. The Southeast fared especially badly.

States that reopened earlier are seeing bigger outbreaks

⟵ Reopened later Reopened earlier ⟶ //x Axis //yAxis 50 days since reopening 70 90 110 100 200 300 400Avg. new cases per million now Alabama Arizona California Florida Georgia Louisiana Michigan Mississippi Missouri Nevada New Jersey New York Oklahoma Texas

In June and July, Georgia reported more than 125,000 new virus cases, turning it into one of the globe’s new hot spots. That was more new cases than Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Australia combined during that time frame.

Americans, frightened by the virus’s resurgence, responded by visiting restaurants and stores less often. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits has stopped falling. The economy’s brief recovery in April and May seems to have petered out in June and July.

In large parts of the United States, officials chose to reopen before medical experts thought it wise, in an attempt to put people back to work and spark the economy. Instead, the United States sparked a huge new virus outbreak — and the economy did not seem to benefit.

“Politicians are not in control,” Mr. Goolsbee said. “They got all the illness and still didn’t fix their economies.”

The situation is different in the European Union and other regions that have had more success reducing new virus cases. Their economies have begun showing some promising signs, albeit tentative ones. In Germany, retail sales and industrial production have risen, and the most recent unemployment rate was 6.4 percent. In the United States, it was 11.1 percent.

Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

The United States has not performed uniquely poorly on every measure of the virus response.

Mask wearing is more common than throughout much of Scandinavia and Australia, according to surveys by YouGov and Imperial College London. The total death rate is still higher in Spain, Italy and Britain.

But there is one way — in addition to the scale of the continuing outbreaks and deaths — that the United States stands apart: In no other high-income country have the messages from political leaders been nearly so mixed and confusing.

These messages, in turn, have been amplified by television stations and websites friendly to the Republican Party, especially Fox News and the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which operates almost 200 local stations. To anybody listening to the country’s politicians or watching these television stations, it would have been difficult to know how to respond to the virus.

Mr. Trump’s comments, in particular, have regularly contradicted the views of scientists and medical experts.

The day after the first American case was diagnosed, he said, “We have it totally under control.” In late February, he said: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” Later, he incorrectly stated that any American who wanted a test could get one. On July 28, he falsely proclaimed that “large portions of our country” were “corona-free.”

He has also promoted medical misinformation about the virus. In March, Mr. Trump called it “very mild” and suggested it was less deadly than the common flu. He has encouraged Americans to treat it with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, despite a lack of evidence about its effectiveness and concerns about its safety. At one White House briefing, he mused aloud about injecting people with disinfectant to treat the virus.

These comments have helped create a large partisan divide in the country, with Republican-leaning voters less willing to wear masks or remain socially distant. Some Democratic-leaning voters and less political Americans, in turn, have decided that if everybody is not taking the virus seriously, they will not either. State leaders from both parties have sometimes created so many exceptions about which workplaces can continue operating normally that their stay-at-home orders have had only modest effects.

“It doesn’t seem we have had the same unity of purpose that I would have expected,” Ms. Rivers, the Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, said. “You need everyone to come together to accomplish something big.”

Across much of Europe and Asia, as well as in Canada, Australia and elsewhere, leaders have delivered a consistent message: The world is facing a deadly virus, and only careful, consistent action will protect people.

Many of those leaders have then pursued aggressive action. Mr. Trump and his top aides, by contrast, persuaded themselves in April that the virus was fading. They have also declined to design a national strategy for testing or other virus responses, leading to a chaotic mix of state policies.

“If you had to summarize our approach, it’s really poor federal leadership — disorganization and denial,” said Andy Slavitt, who ran Medicare and Medicaid from 2015 to 2017. “Watch Angela Merkel. Watch how she communicates with the public. Watch how Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand does it. They’re very clear. They’re very consistent about what the most important priorities are.”

New York — both the city and the state — offers a useful case study. Like much of Europe, New York responded too slowly to the first wave of the virus. As late as March 15, Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged people to go to their neighborhood bar.

Soon, the city and state were overwhelmed. Ambulances wailed day and night. Hospitals filled to the breaking point. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — a Democrat, like Mr. de Blasio — was slow to protect nursing home residents, and thousands died. Earlier action in New York could have saved a significant number of lives, epidemiologists say.

By late March, however, New York’s leaders understood the threat, and they reversed course.

They insisted that people stay home. They repeated the message every day, often on television. When other states began reopening, New York did not. “You look at the states that opened fast without metrics, without guardrails, it’s a boomerang,” Mr. Cuomo said on June 4.

The lockdowns and the consistent messages had a big effect. By June, New York and surrounding states had some of the lowest rates of virus spread in the country. Across much of the Southeast, Southwest and West Coast, on the other hand, the pandemic was raging.

Many experts now say that the most disappointing part of the country’s failure is that the outcome was avoidable.

What may not have been avoidable was the initial surge of the virus: The world’s success in containing previous viruses, like SARS, had lulled many people into thinking a devastating pandemic was unlikely. That complacency helps explains China’s early mistakes, as well as the terrible death tolls in the New York region, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Britain and other parts of Europe.

But these countries and dozens more — as well as New York — have since shown that keeping the virus in check is feasible.

For all of the continuing uncertainty about how this new coronavirus is transmitted and how it affects the human body, much has become clear. It often spreads indoors, with close human contact. Talking, singing, sneezing and coughing play a major role in transmission. Masks reduce the risk. Restarting normal activity almost always leads to new cases that require quick action — testing, tracing of patients and quarantining — to keep the virus in check.

When countries and cities have heeded these lessons, they have rapidly reduced the spread of the virus and been able to move back, gingerly, toward normal life. In South Korea, fans have been able to attend baseball games in recent weeks. In Denmark, Italy and other parts of Europe, children have returned to school.

In the United States, the virus continues to overwhelm daily life.

“This isn’t actually rocket science,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, who ran the New York City health department and the C.D.C. for a combined 15 years. “We know what to do, and we’re not doing it.”

Contributing reporting were Damien Cave, J. David Goodman, Sarah Mervosh, Monika Pronczuk and Motoko Rich.

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With Old Allies Turning Against Her, Birx Presses On Against the Coronavirus

WASHINGTON — As Dr. Deborah L. Birx was taking heat from both President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week, the Democratic governor of Kentucky spoke up in her defense.

Dr. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, had visited his state in late July, after he issued a statewide mask order and was contemplating even more aggressive steps, including closing down bars, Gov. Andy Beshear recounted on a private conference call with Vice President Mike Pence and the rest of the nation’s governors. It was a difficult move for a Democrat in a Republican state, but Dr. Birx provided him cover.

“She stood in front of our press and made it very clear that she and the administration supported the steps that we were going to take,” Mr. Beshear said.

It was most likely welcome praise for the otherwise embattled Dr. Birx, a respected AIDS researcher who took her current post five months ago and increasingly seems like a woman without a country.

Old allies and public health experts have expressed disgust at her accommodations to Mr. Trump and, more so, at the performance of the federal response she is supposed to be leading against the most devastating public health crisis in a century. Ms. Pelosi said she had lost confidence in Dr. Birx, while Mr. Trump called her “pathetic” after she suggested the obvious: The coronavirus is in a “new phase” and is spreading rampantly.

“Her credibility, particularly in the H.I.V.-AIDS community, has taken an enormous hit in the last five months,” said Mitchell Warren, the executive director of AVAC, a global advocacy group fighting to end H.I.V./AIDS, who has worked closely with Dr. Birx. “She is absolutely data driven, so it is incredibly disappointing to see her coordinating a national response which has not at all been best in class, but has been a disaster on many levels.”

But beyond the cameras and outside the Washington media bubble, governors say she deserves praise for persistence and presence. Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi, a Republican, said she prodded him for weeks to institute a statewide mask order; this week he relented.

“She would have been more aggressive. I was a little less aggressive,” he said.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University who leads the scientific advisory board for a State Department AIDS program run by Dr. Birx, said, “I know that she told the vice president, ‘Enough is enough; you’re putting a mask on and appearing with a mask,’” adding that Mr. Pence followed the order. “It requires a lot of guts to do that.”

Dr. Birx declined to be interviewed for this article. Her defenders, and even her critics, say she is in a difficult spot, serving a mercurial president who has shown little regard for science.

“Sometimes, looking from the outside you will say she has been too cozy to the president in certain things, but also having talked to her, she’s pushing,” Dr. del Rio said.

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Updated 2020-08-06T21:21:16.061Z

Within public health circles, debate is raging over how much blame Dr. Birx bears for the virus’s spread. Some say Mr. Trump is responsible, but, they add, the dangerous misinformation he has spread has often gone uncorrected by Dr. Birx.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 06dc-virus-birx03-articleLarge With Old Allies Turning Against Her, Birx Presses On Against the Coronavirus United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Medicine and Health Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Birx, Deborah L Appointments and Executive Changes
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Trump is like the reverse Midas,” said Gregg Gonsalves, a longtime AIDS activist and assistant professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health. “Everybody who is in his orbit, if they’ve had any integrity, it gets leeched away from them like some parasite.”

But some say Dr. Birx is at least partly responsible for mismanaging the government’s response. A report issued by the State Department’s inspector general in February relayed criticism of her AIDS program leadership team, which was called “dictatorial” and “autocratic.” She has been critical of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and some public health experts view her as partly responsible for sidelining the agency.

Some also fault her for offering unduly rosy assessments of the pandemic — both in public and in private. In April, she told officials in the White House Situation Room that the United States was in good shape.

“I understand obviously wanting to highlight what’s working well,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “I also think that failing to be frank about the shortcomings of the response undermines governmental credibility, and governmental credibility is so critical in getting people to take this threat seriously.”

From her office in the West Wing, Dr. Birx serves as a link between federal agencies — the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and others — engaged in the response.

She is also the point of contact for state and local officials, and oversees the drafting of detailed reports offering guidance to the states. She briefs Mr. Pence weekly and the president at least once a week, and must contend with competing forces on the task force, which includes Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director. She is often the only woman in the room.

In interviews with AIDS activists and public health experts, Dr. Birx drew unfavorable comparisons with the outspoken Dr. Fauci, in whose lab she trained. Mr. Gonsalves, who has long known both of them, said he wrote in March to Drs. Birx, Fauci and Redfield, as well as Adm. Brett P. Giroir, who oversees coronavirus testing, complaining that they were “parroting the president.” Only Dr. Fauci replied.

“Debbie is now in the position where she’s saying to the emperor that those new clothes look fantastic,” Mr. Gonsalves said.

But inside the White House, aides refer to Dr. Birx as “Dr. Doom” for her efforts to temper the president’s positive spin. And she and Dr. Fauci are not in the same situation. Dr. Fauci, 79, is nearing the end of his career and is a civil servant, which frees him to speak his mind. Dr. Birx, 64, is a political appointee who serves at the pleasure of the president.

“She’s one of the hardest workers, and she’s devoted to trying to get this pandemic under control,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview Tuesday night.

Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Dr. Birx was right for saying the pandemic is in a “new phase,” Dr. Fauci said, even if it meant she would be “blasted by the president.” That phase, “community spread,” means the virus is racing through the general population and is no longer confined to discrete outbreaks in places like nursing homes, factories and prisons.

In a statement, Alyssa Farah, the White House director of strategic communications, said, “Dr. Birx is an American hero, and the president has great respect for her.”

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Outside Washington, governors said they appreciated Dr. Birx’s forthrightness and her attention to detail. She has traveled to more than a dozen states by car to get a sense of what is happening and is about to head out on another six-state swing next week, officials said.

Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, a Democrat, said Dr. Birx “knows what’s happening in Louisiana in real time in terms of our tests results, our positivity numbers” — down to the parish level.

Mr. Reeves said Dr. Birx had been unfairly tarred by liberals who despise the president — the same people, he said, who “have said for months that no one should question the scientists.”

Dr. Birx has drawn criticism for what she has said — and what she has not said. She remained virtually silent while Mr. Trump suggested from the White House lectern that exposure to ultraviolet light or household disinfectants might cure Covid-19. Her lavish praise for the president on the Christian Broadcasting Network in March still rankles.

“He’s been so attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data,” she said then.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, who has known Dr. Birx for at least a decade and regards her as “a genuinely smart and caring person,” initially gave her the benefit of the doubt on that interview.

“A bunch of people in the public health world just lost their minds on that one, but I said, ‘Look, if she has to praise the president to get him to do the right thing, I can live with that,’” Dr. Jha said. But now, he said, “she has to ask herself whether she’s being effective in protecting the American people, and I would argue at this point that it is not clear that she is.”

Dr. Birx, a colonel in the Army, began her career in the early 1980s as an immunologist at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and spent part of her training as a fellow in Dr. Fauci’s lab. She was on the cutting edge of research and won the respect not only of fellow scientists but also of evangelical Christians devoted to stopping the spread of the disease.

In 2005, Dr. Birx moved to the C.D.C., where she remained until President Barack Obama appointed her to the State Department as his global AIDS ambassador. When Mr. Trump was elected, she told friends she wanted to keep the job; the next day, she flew to Boston to speak at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, where she was circumspect about her future.

“We were all like, ‘Oh my God, the devil just got elected,’ and she did not ditto the language,” said Peter Staley, a longtime AIDS activist, who was then on fellowship at Harvard and hosted that November 2016 visit. “I could see the gears in her head moving a million miles an hour wondering, ‘How can I survive?’”

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The Unique U.S. Failure to Control the Virus

Nearly every country has struggled to contain the coronavirus and made mistakes along the way.

China committed the first major failure, silencing doctors who tried to raise alarms about the virus and allowing it to escape from Wuhan. Much of Europe went next, failing to avoid enormous outbreaks. Today, many countries — Japan, Canada, France, Australia and more — are coping with new increases in cases after reopening parts of society.

Yet even with all of these problems, one country stands alone, as the only affluent nation to have suffered a severe, sustained outbreak for more than four months: the United States.

When it comes to the virus, the United States has come to resemble not the wealthy and powerful countries to which it is often compared but instead to far poorer countries, like Brazil, Peru and South Africa, or those with large migrant populations, like Bahrain and Oman.

As in several of those other countries, the toll of the virus in the United States has fallen disproportionately on poorer people and groups that have long suffered discrimination. Black and Latino residents of the United States have contracted the virus at roughly three times as high of a rate as white residents.

How did this happen? The New York Times set out to reconstruct the unique failure of the United States, through numerous interviews with scientists and public health experts around the world. The reporting points to two central themes.

First, the United States faced longstanding challenges in confronting a major pandemic. It is a large country at the nexus of the global economy, with a tradition of prioritizing individualism over government restrictions. That tradition is one reason the United States suffers from an unequal health care system that has long produced worse medical outcomes — including higher infant mortality and diabetes rates and lower life expectancy — than in most other rich countries.

“As an American, I think there is a lot of good to be said about our libertarian tradition,” Dr. Jared Baeten, an epidemiologist and vice dean at the University of Washington School of Public Health, said. “But this is the consequence — we don’t succeed as well as a collective.”

The second major theme is one that public health experts often find uncomfortable to discuss because many try to steer clear of partisan politics. But many agree that the poor results in the United States stem in substantial measure from the performance of the Trump administration.

In no other high-income country — and in only a few countries, period — have political leaders departed from expert advice as frequently and significantly as the Trump administration. President Trump has said the virus was not serious; predicted it would disappear; spent weeks questioning the need for masks; encouraged states to reopen even with large and growing caseloads; and promoted medical disinformation.

In recent days, Mr. Trump has continued the theme, offering a torrent of misleading statistics in his public appearances that make the situation sound less dire than it is.

Some Republican governors have followed his lead and also played down the virus, while others have largely followed the science. Democratic governors have more reliably heeded scientific advice, but their performance in containing the virus has been uneven.

“In many of the countries that have been very successful they had a much crisper strategic direction and really had a vision,” said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who wrote a guide to reopening safely for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group. “I’m not sure we ever really had a plan or a strategy — or at least it wasn’t public.”

Together, the national skepticism toward collective action and the Trump administration’s scattered response to the virus have contributed to several specific failures and missed opportunities, Times reporting shows:

  • a lack of effective travel restrictions;

  • repeated breakdowns in testing;

  • confusing advice about masks;

  • a misunderstanding of the relationship between the virus and the economy;

  • and inconsistent messages from public officials.

Already, the American death toll is of a different order of magnitude than in most other countries. With only 4 percent of the world’s population, the United States has accounted for 22 percent of coronavirus deaths. Canada, a rich country that neighbors the United States, has a per capita death rate about half as large. And these gaps may worsen in coming weeks, given the lag between new cases and deaths.


Daily deaths per million in wealthy countries

Source: New York Times database from state and local governments. Includes all countries with a G.D.P. per capita of more than $25,000 and a population of at least 10 million people.

For many Americans who survive the virus or do not contract it, the future will bring other problems. Many schools will struggle to open. And the normal activities of life — family visits, social gatherings, restaurant meals, sporting events — may be more difficult in the United States than in any other affluent country.

In retrospect, one of Mr. Trump’s first policy responses to the virus appears to have been one of his most promising.

On Jan. 31, his administration announced that it was restricting entry to the United States from China: Many foreign nationals — be they citizens of China or other countries — would not be allowed into the United States if they had been to China in the previous two weeks.

It was still early in the spread of the virus. The first cases in Wuhan, China, had been diagnosed about a month before, and the first announced case in the United States had come on Jan. 21. In announcing the new travel policy, Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, declared that the virus posed “a public health emergency.” Mr. Trump described the policy as his “China ban.”

After the Trump administration acted, several other countries quickly announced their own restrictions on travel from China, including Japan, Vietnam and Australia.

But it quickly became clear that the United States’ policy was full of holes. It did not apply to immediate family members of American citizens and permanent residents returning from China, for example. In the two months after the policy went into place, almost 40,000 people arrived in the United States on direct flights from China.

Even more important, the policy failed to take into account that the virus had spread well beyond China by early February. Later data would show that many infected people arriving in the United States came from Europe. (The Trump administration did not restrict travel from Europe until March and exempted Britain from that ban despite a high infection rate there.)

The administration’s policy also did little to create quarantines for people who entered the United States and may have had the virus.

Authorities in some other places took a far more rigorous approach to travel restrictions.

South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan largely restricted entry to residents returning home. Those residents then had to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, with the government keeping close tabs to ensure they did not leave their home or hotel. South Korea and Hong Kong also tested for the virus at the airport and transferred anyone who was positive to a government facility.

Australia offers a telling comparison. Like the United States, it is separated from China by an ocean and is run by a conservative leader — Scott Morrison, the prime minister. Unlike the United States, it put travel restrictions at the center of its virus response.

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Updated 2020-08-06T10:04:45.639Z

Australian officials noticed in March that the travel restrictions they had announced on Feb. 1 were not preventing the virus from spreading. So they went further.

On March 27, Mr. Morrison announced that Australia would no longer trust travelers to isolate themselves voluntarily. The country would instead mandate that everyone arriving from overseas, including Australian citizens, spend two weeks quarantined in a hotel.

The protocols were strict. As people arrived at an airport, the authorities transported them directly to hotels nearby. People were not even allowed to leave their hotel to exercise. The Australian military helped enforce the rules.

Around the same time, several Australian states with minor outbreaks shut their own borders to keep out Australians from regions with higher rates of infection. That hardening of internal boundaries had not happened since the 1918 flu pandemic, said Ian Mackay, a virologist in Queensland, one of the first states to block entry from other areas.

The United States, by comparison, imposed few travel restrictions, either for foreigners or American citizens. Individual states did little to enforce the rules they did impose.

“People need a bit more than a suggestion to look after their own health,” said Dr. Mackay, who has been working with Australian officials on their pandemic response. “They need guidelines, they need rules — and they need to be enforced.”

Travel restrictions and quarantines were central to the success in controlling the virus in South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia, as well as New Zealand, many epidemiologists believe. In Australia, the number of new cases per day fell more than 90 percent in April. It remained near zero through May and early June, even as the virus surged across much of the United States.

In the past six weeks, Australia has begun to have a resurgence — which itself points to the importance of travel rules. The latest outbreak stems in large part from problems with the quarantine in the city of Melbourne. Compared with other parts of Australia, Melbourne relied more on private security contractors who employed temporary workers — some of whom lacked training and failed to follow guidelines — to enforce quarantines at local hotels. Officials have responded by banning out-of-state travel again and imposing new lockdowns.

Still, the tolls in Australia and the United States remain vastly different. Fewer than 300 Australians have died of complications from Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus. If the United States had the same per capita death rate, about 3,300 Americans would have died, rather than 158,000.

Enacting tough travel restrictions in the United States would not have been easy. It is more integrated into the global economy than Australia is, has a tradition of local policy decisions and borders two other large countries. But there is a good chance that a different version of Mr. Trump’s restrictions — one with fewer holes and stronger quarantines — would have meaningfully slowed the virus’s spread.

Traditionally, public health experts had not seen travel restrictions as central to fighting a pandemic, given their economic costs and the availability of other options, like testing, quarantining and contact tracing, Dr. Baeten, the University of Washington epidemiologist, said. But he added that travel restrictions had been successful enough in fighting the coronavirus around the world that those views may need to be revisited.

“Travel,” he said, “is the hallmark of the spread of this virus around the world.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_175041549_f4134f61-d95b-4dc5-af99-dfff4e1d68c9-articleLarge The Unique U.S. Failure to Control the Virus United States Trump, Donald J Tests (Medical) Quarantines Masks Disease Rates Coronavirus Reopenings Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

On Jan. 16, nearly a week before the first announced case of the coronavirus in the United States, a German hospital made an announcement. Its researchers had developed a test for the virus, which they described as the world’s first.

The researchers posted the formula for the test online and said they expected that countries with strong public health systems would soon be able to produce their own tests. “We’re more concerned about labs in countries where it’s not that easy to transport samples, or staff aren’t trained that thoroughly, or if there is a large number of patients who have to be tested,” Dr. Christian Drosten, the director of the Institute for Virology at the hospital, known as Charite, in Berlin.

It turned out, however, that the testing problems would not be limited to less-developed countries.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed their own test four days after the German lab did. C.D.C. officials claimed that the American test would be more accurate than the German one, by using three genetic sequences to detect the virus rather than two. The federal government quickly began distributing the American test to state officials.

But the test had a flaw. The third genetic sequence produced inconclusive results, so the C.D.C. told state labs to pause their work. In meetings of the White House’s coronavirus task force, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director, played down the problem and said it would soon be solved.

Instead, it took weeks to fix. During that time, the United States had to restrict testing to people who had clear reason to think they had the virus. All the while, the virus was quietly spreading.

By early March, with the testing delays still unresolved, the New York region became a global center of the virus — without people realizing it until weeks later. More widespread testing could have made a major difference, experts said, leading to earlier lockdowns and social distancing and ultimately less sickness and death.

“You can’t stop it if you can’t see it,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to the director general at the World Health Organization, said.

While the C.D.C. was struggling to solve its testing flaws, Germany was rapidly building up its ability to test. Chancellor Angela Merkel, a chemist by training, and other political leaders were watching the virus sweep across northern Italy, not far from southern Germany, and pushed for a big expansion of testing.

By the time the virus became a problem in Germany, labs around the country had thousands of test kits ready to use. From the beginning, the government covered the cost of the tests. American laboratories often charge patients about $100 for a test.

Without free tests, Dr. Hendrik Streeck, director of the Institute of Virology at the University Hospital Bonn, said at the time, “a young person with no health insurance and an itchy throat is unlikely to go to the doctor and therefore risks infecting more people.”

Germany was soon far ahead of other countries in testing. It was able to diagnose asymptomatic cases, trace the contacts of new patients and isolate people before they could spread the virus. The country has still suffered a significant outbreak. But it has had many fewer cases per capita than Italy, Spain, France, Britain or Canada — and about one-fifth the rate of the United States.

The United States eventually made up ground on tests. In recent weeks, it has been conducting more per capita than any other country, according to Johns Hopkins researchers.

But now there is a new problem: The virus has grown even more rapidly than testing capacity. In recent weeks, Americans have often had to wait in long lines, sometimes in scorching heat, to be tested.

One measure of the continuing troubles with testing is the percentage of tests that come back positive. In a country that has the virus under control, fewer than 5 percent of tests come back positive, according to World Health Organization guidelines. Many countries have reached that benchmark. The United States, even with the large recent volume of tests, has not.


Percent of coronavirus tests that come back positive

Seven-day averages. Source: Our World in Data. Includes all countries with a G.D.P. per capita of more than $25,000 and a population of at least 10 million people.

“We do have a lot of testing,” Ms. Rivers, the Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, said. “The problem is we also have a lot of cases.”

The huge demand for tests has overwhelmed medical laboratories, and many need days — or even up to two weeks — to produce results. “That really is not useful for public health and medical management,” Ms. Rivers added. While people are waiting for their results, many are also spreading the virus.

In Belgium recently, test results have typically come back in 48 to 72 hours. In Germany and Greece, it is two days. In France, the wait is often 24 hours.

For the first few months of the pandemic, public health experts could not agree on a consistent message about masks. Some said masks reduced the spread of the virus. Many experts, however, discouraged the use of masks, saying — somewhat contradictorily — that their benefits were modest and that they should be reserved for medical workers.

“We don’t generally recommend the wearing of masks in public by otherwise well individuals because it has not been up to now associated with any particular benefit,” Dr. Michael Ryan, a World Health Organization official, said at a March 30 news conference.

His colleague Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove explained that it was important to “prioritize the use of masks for those who need them most.”

The conflicting advice, echoed by the C.D.C. and others, led to relatively little mask wearing in many countries early in the pandemic. But several Asian countries were exceptions, partly because they had a tradition of mask wearing to avoid sickness or minimize the effects of pollution.

By January, mask wearing in Japan was widespread, as it often had been during a typical flu season. Masks also quickly became the norm in much of South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan and China.

In the following months, scientists around the world began to report two strands of evidence that both pointed to the importance of masks: Research showed that the virus could be transmitted through droplets that hang in the air, and several studies found that the virus spread less frequently in places where people were wearing masks.

On one cruise ship that gave passengers masks after somebody got sick, for example, many fewer people became ill than on a different cruise where people did not wear masks.

Consistent with that evidence was Asia’s success in holding down the number of cases (after China’s initial failure to do so). In South Korea, the per capita death rate is about one-eightieth as large as in the United States; Japan, despite being slow to enact social distancing, has a death rate about one-sixtieth as large.

“We should have told people to wear cloth masks right off the bat,” Dr. George Rutherford of the University of California, San Francisco, said.

In many countries, officials reacted to the emerging evidence with a clear message: Wear a mask.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada began wearing one in May. During a visit to an elementary school, President Emmanuel Macron of France wore a French-made blue mask that complemented his suit and tie. Zuzana Caputova, the president of Slovakia, created a social media sensation by wearing a fuchsia-colored mask that matched her dress.

In the United States, however, masks did not become a fashion symbol. They became a political symbol.

Mr. Trump avoided wearing one in public for months. He poked fun at a reporter who wore one to a news conference, asking the reporter to take it off and saying that wearing one was “politically correct.” He described former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s decision to wear one outdoors as “very unusual.”

Many other Republicans and conservative news outlets, like Fox News, echoed his position. Mask wearing, as a result, became yet another partisan divide in a highly polarized country.

Throughout much of the Northeast and the West Coast, more than 80 percent of people wore masks when within six feet of someone else. In more conservative areas, like the Southeast, the share was closer to 50 percent.

A March survey found that partisanship was the biggest predictor of whether Americans regularly wore masks — bigger than their age or whether they lived in a region with a high number of virus cases. In many of the places where people adopted a hostile view of masks, including Texas and the Southeast, the number of virus cases began to soar this spring.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Throughout March and April, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia and staff members held long meetings inside a conference room at the State Capitol in Atlanta. They ordered takeout lunches from local restaurants like the Varsity and held two daily conference calls with the public health department, the National Guard and other officials.

One of the main subjects of the meetings was when to end Georgia’s lockdown and reopen the state’s economy. By late April, Mr. Kemp decided that it was time.

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Georgia had not met the reopening criteria laid out by the Trump administration (and many outside health experts considered those criteria too lax). The state was reporting about 700 new cases a day, more than when it shut down on April 3.

Nonetheless, Mr. Kemp went ahead. He said that Georgia’s economy could not wait any longer, and it became one of the first states to reopen.

“I don’t give a damn about politics right now,” he said at an April 20 news conference announcing the reopening. He went on to describe business owners with employees at home who were “going broke, worried about whether they can feed their children, make the mortgage payment.”

Four days later, across Georgia, barbers returned to their chairs, wearing face masks and latex gloves. Gyms and bowling alleys were allowed to reopen, followed by restaurants on April 27. The stay-at-home order expired at 11:59 p.m. on April 30.

Mr. Kemp’s decision was part of a pattern: Across the United States, caseloads were typically much higher when the economy reopened than in other countries.


The United States reopened with more cases

Other countries relaxed their restrictions to America’s current level with far fewer cases per million.

Source: Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker, New York Times database from state and local governments. Includes all countries with a G.D.P. per capita of more than $25,000 that have a population of at least 10 million people. Japan and Sweden never reached a high enough stringency level to be included.

As the United States endured weeks of closed stores and rising unemployment this spring, many politicians — particularly Republicans, like Mr. Kemp — argued that there was an unavoidable trade-off between public health and economic health. And if crushing the virus meant ruining the economy, maybe the side effects of the treatment were worse than the disease.

Dan Patrick, the Republican lieutenant governor of Texas, put the case most bluntly, and became an object of scorn, especially from the political left, for doing so. “There are more important things than living,” Mr. Patrick said in a television interview the same week that Mr. Kemp reopened Georgia.

It may have been an inartful line, but Mr. Patrick’s full argument was not wholly dismissive of human life. He was instead suggesting that the human costs of shutting down the economy — the losses of jobs and income and the associated damages to living standards and people’s health — were greater than the costs of a virus that kills only a small percentage of people who get it.

“We are crushing the economy,” he said, citing the damage to his own children and grandchildren. “We’ve got to take some risks and get back in the game and get this country back up and running.”

The trouble with the argument, epidemiologists and economists agree, was that public health and the economy’s health were not really in conflict.

Early in the pandemic, Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist and former Obama administration official, proposed what he called the first rule of virus economics: “The best way to fix the economy is to get control of the virus,” he said. Until the virus was under control, many people would be afraid to resume normal life and the economy would not function normally.

The events of the last few months have borne out Mr. Goolsbee’s prediction. Even before states announced shutdown orders in the spring, many families began sharply reducing their spending. They were responding to their own worries about the virus, not any official government policy.

And the end of lockdowns, like Georgia’s, did not fix the economy’s problems. It instead led to a brief increase in spending and hiring that soon faded.

In the weeks after states reopened, the virus began surging. Those that opened earliest tended to have worse outbreaks, according to a Times analysis. The Southeast fared especially badly.

States that reopened earlier are seeing bigger outbreaks

⟵ Reopened later Reopened earlier ⟶ //x Axis //yAxis 50 days since reopening 70 90 110 100 200 300 400Avg. new cases per million now Alabama Arizona California Florida Georgia Louisiana Michigan Mississippi Missouri Nevada New Jersey New York Oklahoma Texas

In June and July, Georgia reported more than 125,000 new virus cases, turning it into one of the globe’s new hot spots. That was more new cases than Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Australia combined during that time frame.

Americans, frightened by the virus’s resurgence, responded by visiting restaurants and stores less often. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits has stopped falling. The economy’s brief recovery in April and May seems to have petered out in June and July.

In large parts of the United States, officials chose to reopen before medical experts thought it wise, in an attempt to put people back to work and spark the economy. Instead, the United States sparked a huge new virus outbreak — and the economy did not seem to benefit.

“Politicians are not in control,” Mr. Goolsbee said. “They got all the illness and still didn’t fix their economies.”

The situation is different in the European Union and other regions that have had more success reducing new virus cases. Their economies have begun showing some promising signs, albeit tentative ones. In Germany, retail sales and industrial production have risen, and the most recent unemployment rate was 6.4 percent. In the United States, it was 11.1 percent.

Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

The United States has not performed uniquely poorly on every measure of the virus response.

Mask wearing is more common than throughout much of Scandinavia and Australia, according to surveys by YouGov and Imperial College London. The total death rate is still higher in Spain, Italy and Britain.

But there is one way — in addition to the scale of the continuing outbreaks and deaths — that the United States stands apart: In no other high-income country have the messages from political leaders been nearly so mixed and confusing.

These messages, in turn, have been amplified by television stations and websites friendly to the Republican Party, especially Fox News and the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which operates almost 200 local stations. To anybody listening to the country’s politicians or watching these television stations, it would have been difficult to know how to respond to the virus.

Mr. Trump’s comments, in particular, have regularly contradicted the views of scientists and medical experts.

The day after the first American case was diagnosed, he said, “We have it totally under control.” In late February, he said: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” Later, he incorrectly stated that any American who wanted a test could get one. On July 28, he falsely proclaimed that “large portions of our country” were “corona-free.”

He has also promoted medical misinformation about the virus. In March, Mr. Trump called it “very mild” and suggested it was less deadly than the common flu. He has encouraged Americans to treat it with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, despite a lack of evidence about its effectiveness and concerns about its safety. At one White House briefing, he mused aloud about injecting people with disinfectant to treat the virus.

These comments have helped create a large partisan divide in the country, with Republican-leaning voters less willing to wear masks or remain socially distant. Some Democratic-leaning voters and less political Americans, in turn, have decided that if everybody is not taking the virus seriously, they will not either. State leaders from both parties have sometimes created so many exceptions about which workplaces can continue operating normally that their stay-at-home orders have had only modest effects.

“It doesn’t seem we have had the same unity of purpose that I would have expected,” Ms. Rivers, the Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, said. “You need everyone to come together to accomplish something big.”

Across much of Europe and Asia, as well as in Canada, Australia and elsewhere, leaders have delivered a consistent message: The world is facing a deadly virus, and only careful, consistent action will protect people.

Many of those leaders have then pursued aggressive action. Mr. Trump and his top aides, by contrast, persuaded themselves in April that the virus was fading. They have also declined to design a national strategy for testing or other virus responses, leading to a chaotic mix of state policies.

“If you had to summarize our approach, it’s really poor federal leadership — disorganization and denial,” said Andy Slavitt, who ran Medicare and Medicaid from 2015 to 2017. “Watch Angela Merkel. Watch how she communicates with the public. Watch how Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand does it. They’re very clear. They’re very consistent about what the most important priorities are.”

New York — both the city and the state — offers a useful case study. Like much of Europe, New York responded too slowly to the first wave of the virus. As late as March 15, Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged people to go to their neighborhood bar.

Soon, the city and state were overwhelmed. Ambulances wailed day and night. Hospitals filled to the breaking point. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — a Democrat, like Mr. de Blasio — was slow to protect nursing home residents, and thousands died. Earlier action in New York could have saved a significant number of lives, epidemiologists say.

By late March, however, New York’s leaders understood the threat, and they reversed course.

They insisted that people stay home. They repeated the message every day, often on television. When other states began reopening, New York did not. “You look at the states that opened fast without metrics, without guardrails, it’s a boomerang,” Mr. Cuomo said on June 4.

The lockdowns and the consistent messages had a big effect. By June, New York and surrounding states had some of the lowest rates of virus spread in the country. Across much of the Southeast, Southwest and West Coast, on the other hand, the pandemic was raging.

Many experts now say that the most disappointing part of the country’s failure is that the outcome was avoidable.

What may not have been avoidable was the initial surge of the virus: The world’s success in containing previous viruses, like SARS, had lulled many people into thinking a devastating pandemic was unlikely. That complacency helps explains China’s early mistakes, as well as the terrible death tolls in the New York region, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Britain and other parts of Europe.

But these countries and dozens more — as well as New York — have since shown that keeping the virus in check is feasible.

For all of the continuing uncertainty about how this new coronavirus is transmitted and how it affects the human body, much has become clear. It often spreads indoors, with close human contact. Talking, singing, sneezing and coughing play a major role in transmission. Masks reduce the risk. Restarting normal activity almost always leads to new cases that require quick action — testing, tracing of patients and quarantining — to keep the virus in check.

When countries and cities have heeded these lessons, they have rapidly reduced the spread of the virus and been able to move back, gingerly, toward normal life. In South Korea, fans have been able to attend baseball games in recent weeks. In Denmark, Italy and other parts of Europe, children have returned to school.

In the United States, the virus continues to overwhelm daily life.

“This isn’t actually rocket science,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, who ran the New York City health department and the C.D.C. for a combined 15 years. “We know what to do, and we’re not doing it.”

Contributing reporting were Damien Cave, J. David Goodman, Sarah Mervosh, Monika Pronczuk and Motoko Rich.

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Trump Raises $165 Million With G.O.P. in July, Overtaking Biden

Westlake Legal Group 05trumpbiden-money1-facebookJumbo Trump Raises $165 Million With G.O.P. in July, Overtaking Biden United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Republican National Committee Presidential Election of 2020 democratic national committee Campaign Finance Biden, Joseph R Jr

President Trump raised $165 million in July for his campaign and shared committees with the Republican National Committee, outpacing Joseph R. Biden Jr., who raised $140 million last month as a record-setting pace of money continued to flood into the presidential campaign.

Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, had outraised Mr. Trump in the two previous months, the first time that he had outraised the Republican incumbent. Mr. Biden raised $141 million in his shared accounts with the Democratic National Committee in June, compared with $131 million for Mr. Trump with the R.N.C.

The sums for both parties are far higher than for the campaigns four years ago, when Hillary Clinton raised $89 million with the Democratic Party in July and Mr. Trump collected $80 million.

Both campaigns announced their dueling July figures on Wednesday evening, with Mr. Biden’s campaign going first and Mr. Trump’s soon following.

“Silent Majority Donors,” wrote Gary Coby, Mr. Trump’s digital director, on Twitter, surrounding the phrase with four American flag emojis.

The Biden campaign cheered how much of its haul it saved for the fall.

“The Biden campaign is on the march, building off the incredible momentum from this summer with another lights-out fund-raising month, banking another $50 million for the final stretch to Election Day,” said Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, in a statement.

She said the campaign and party entered August with $294 million in the bank. Mr. Trump’s campaign said it and the party had more than $300 million cash on hand.

“The enthusiasm behind President Trump’s re-election continues to grow as July’s massive fund-raising totals prove,” said Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump’s new campaign manager. The Trump campaign said that July was its biggest online fund-raising month ever, as donations poured in even as Mr. Trump trails Mr. Biden in national and key battleground polls.

The Biden campaign did not break down how much of its total came from six-figure contributions but said that 97 percent of donations had been from “grass-roots” donors.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Biden campaign announced that it was reserving $280 million in ads beginning in September across 15 battleground states, with $220 million in television ads and $60 million in digital. Mr. Trump’s campaign has reserved $145 million in television ads after Labor Day but has not yet announced the size of its online reservations.

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Another Inspector General Resigns, Raising Questions About Pompeo

Westlake Legal Group another-inspector-general-resigns-raising-questions-about-pompeo Another Inspector General Resigns, Raising Questions About Pompeo United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J State Department Pompeo, Susan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Linick, Steve A Inspectors General Appointments and Executive Changes
Westlake Legal Group 05dc-state-IG-facebookJumbo Another Inspector General Resigns, Raising Questions About Pompeo United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J State Department Pompeo, Susan Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Linick, Steve A Inspectors General Appointments and Executive Changes

WASHINGTON — The State Department’s acting watchdog has resigned his post less than three months after replacing the previous inspector general, whom President Trump fired in May, the department said Wednesday.

The departure of Stephen J. Akard came as Congress continued to look into the firing of his predecessor, Steve A. Linick, who was pursuing investigations into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Three congressional committees issued subpoenas this week to top aides of Mr. Pompeo.

Mr. Linick had opened investigations into Mr. Pompeo’s potential misuse of department resources and his effort to push arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The department gave no explanation for the departure of Mr. Akard, an ally of Vice President Mike Pence.

“Ambassador Stephen J. Akard, the State Department’s acting inspector general and the director of the Office of Foreign Missions, has announced he is returning to the private sector after years of public service,” the department said in a statement. “We appreciate his dedication to the department and to our country. The deputy inspector general, Diana R. Shaw, will become the new acting inspector general.”

Mr. Akard previously worked as the head of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, when Mr. Pence was governor of the state.

Mr. Akard had told officials at the State Department that he would recuse himself from the ongoing inquiry into Mr. Pompeo and his wife’s potential misuse of government resources.

In addition to serving as the State Department’s acting watchdog, Mr. Akard was also the agency’s head of the Office of Foreign Missions, an arrangement that was a clear conflict of interest and widely criticized by Democratic lawmakers.

Mr. Akard took over the acting inspector general role after Mr. Linick was fired by Mr. Trump at the private urging of Mr. Pompeo.

The events surrounding Mr. Linick’s firing have come under intense scrutiny.

Three congressional committees are investigating Mr. Pompeo’s role. On Monday, House lawmakers subpoenaed four State Department official staff to further their investigation. Two of the aides, Brian Bulatao and Toni Porter, are longtime close friends of Mr. Pompeo and his wife, Susan. They were appointed to senior roles by Mr. Pompeo at both the State Department and the C.I.A., where Mr. Pompeo served as director for one year.

Critics say Mr. Pompeo urged Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Linick out of retribution and to evade accountability.

Mr. Pompeo has admitted he knew about at least one of Mr. Linick’s investigations, an almost completed inquiry into whether Mr. Pompeo acted unlawfully in bypassing Congress to push through $8.1 billion of arms sales last year to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Pompeo has dismissed allegations at the center of the inquiry into his potential abuse of government resources and taxpayer funds, which include a possible misuse of Ms. Porter’s time to perform personal and political tasks for him and his wife.

Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the lead Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed concern upon hearing of Mr. Akard’s resignation.

“Independent, experienced inspectors general are paramount to effective oversight,” Mr. Menendez said in a statement. “I do not believe he was the right choice to lead the office, but I am concerned that his sudden resignation leaves another opportunity for the Trump administration to try to weaken oversight and accountability.”

Edward Wong contributed reporting.

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Is TikTok a Good Buy? It Depends on What’s Included

TikTok is going to get acquired or die trying.

The hit video app appears headed for a shotgun wedding after President Trump has decided to force its owner, the Chinese tech conglomerate ByteDance, to sell TikTok to an American acquirer or be barred from operating in the country. On Monday, the president — acting as a combination of investment banker, regulator, and back-room mafioso — said he would approve a bid by Microsoft for TikTok’s U.S. operations, provided that both parties meet his as-yet-unspecified demands and hit a Sept. 15 deadline.

There are a million questions still swirling around a possible TikTok-Microsoft deal.But the most glaring question mark is that nobody I’ve talked to has figured out exactly what “buying TikTok” will mean, or whether what many experts consider TikTok’s golden goose — the complex algorithms that make the app so addictive — would be included in a deal.

A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment. A TikTok spokeswoman, Ashley Nash-Hahn, declined to offer details about what parts of TikTok’s technology were and weren’t up for sale.

“While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok,” she said in an emailed statement.

Some corporate acquisitions are straightforward. In the simplest kind of deal — say, a big restaurant buying a smaller restaurant — the acquirer buys everything on the other company’s balance sheet: all its assets and liabilities, including its kitchen equipment, its secret recipes, and any real estate it owns. Lawyers and bankers try to place a value on those things, and estimate the company’s future cash flows. Then they hash out terms, negotiate a price and sign a deal.

A TikTok acquisition is far, far more complicated.

For starters, even though TikTok has gone to great lengths to distance itself from its Chinese parent company, the app is still very tightly integrated with ByteDance’s Chinese operations. As The Information recently reported, most of TikTok’s core features were developed by ByteDance’s Chinese engineers using a suite of shared software tools — known as “zhongtai,” or “central platform” — that is available to all of ByteDance’s more than two dozen apps. And most of the important decisions about TikTok’s operations and strategy have been made by executives in China.

Separating TikTok from ByteDance would, by definition, require untangling many of these Chinese connections. That could present problems. Many of TikTok’s top American executives — including Kevin Mayer, its chief executive — are new to the company, and presumably still getting up to speed. And while TikTok does have engineers based in the United States who could theoretically help with the technical untangling, many of the engineers with the deepest knowledge of TikTok’s systems are presumably Chinese nationals in Beijing.

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And what about the algorithm? By all accounts, TikTok’s core algorithm — which selects videos for the central feed users see when they open the app, called the “for you page” or FYP — could be the most valuable asset the company owns. Eugene Wei, a longtime tech executive and blogger, likens TikTok’s FYP algorithm to the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter series — a “rapid, hyper-efficient matchmaker” that analyzes users’ behavior and places them into personalized niches, based on their interests.

The FYP algorithm is TikTok’s secret sauce, and a big part of what makes it so accurate is ByteDance’s global reach. Every swipe, tap and video viewed by TikTok users around the world — billions and billions of data points a day — is fed into giant databases, which are then used to train artificial intelligence to predict which videos will keep users’ attention.

Sometimes, that might mean showing American users videos made in India or China. (I once fell into a delightful rabbit hole of TikTok dances by multigenerational Chinese families.) Other times, it could mean using data from one country’s users to inform another country’s recommendations. It could even mean using data gleaned from an entirely different ByteDance app — such as Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok — to inform what TikTok users are shown.

ByteDance considers itself, first and foremost, an A.I. company. And the nature of building A.I. is that the more data you have, the better your algorithms generally are. Would an American TikTok algorithm, trained only on American users’ data, be less addictive? It’s certainly possible.

But even if ByteDance was willing to part with TikTok’s algorithms and the machine learning models they rely on — a big if — it’s not clear that an American acquirer would be able to recreate TikTok’s magic right away.

Karl Higley, a recommender systems engineer who previously worked at Spotify, said that without access to historical data — data about what TikTok’s users swiped, tapped and lingered on weeks or months earlier — a new, Americanized TikTok might essentially need to start from scratch.

“In order to personalize the app for existing users, they’re going to need historical data for U.S. folks unless they want to wipe the slate clean, which would be a terrible user experience,” Mr. Higley said.

American tech giants, of course, are no slouches when it comes to building addictive algorithms. And it’s possible that an American-owned TikTok could rebuild the app’s core technology without users even noticing a difference. But it’s not trivial work, and it could take months or years to do — months or years in which Facebook, Snapchat and other competitors would be nipping at TikTok’s heels. And if users sensed that their algorithm was degrading in the meantime, or showing them fewer interesting videos than it once did, they could be tempted to jump ship.

In addition to recreating TikTok’s algorithms, an American acquirer would also need to work quickly to preserve TikTok’s other valuable asset: its creator culture. As my colleague Taylor Lorenz has written, TikTok is home to a large, vibrant community of creative talent, some of whom make a full-time living from the app. Those people are attracted to TikTok partly because the platform gives them a way to reach a mass audience. But they’re also attracted to it because TikTok has cultivated an aura of cool through advertising, striking partnerships with music festivals and other popular events, and hosting exclusive parties for TikTok creators at industry events like VidCon.

Already, Facebook is reportedly trying to poach popular TikTok creators for Instagram Reels, its new TikTok clone, by dangling six-figure deals in front of them. And if TikTok is acquired by Microsoft — a company not historically known for its youth appeal — creators could sense that it’s time to move on.

TikTok could try to lower the risk for an acquirer by striking multiyear exclusive deals with its most popular American creators, the way that platforms like YouTube and Twitch have done. It could also accelerate its plans to let popular users earn money from the platform. But without a firm grip on its A-list talent, TikTok’s acquirer won’t be assured that the platform isn’t losing its edge.

Hank Green, a YouTube star and chief executive of the education company Complexly, who has more than 600,000 followers on TikTok, said that a TikTok acquisition could make creators more skeptical of the company’s motives.

“One of the things about TikTok is they’ve been able to make lots of changes really fast, and people are open and receptive to that,” Mr. Green said. “If you see that change as coming from outside the ecosystem, that can feel like a foreign change.”

Many of the people I spoke to agreed that even with the potential pitfalls and unresolved questions, the opportunity to buy TikTok is a once-in-a-decade deal for the right acquirer. Popular, growing social networks are exceedingly rare, and TikTok has already made itself a fixture of American culture in a way that few other apps ever have.

“TikTok is compelling, not just because of its large and growing user base, but also because of its platform potential to expand into e-commerce and livestreaming,” said Connie Chan, a partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. “Video is a fantastic way to sell things and short videos are perfect for product discovery.”

Mr. Green, the YouTube star, agreed.

“If I had the opportunity to buy TikTok, I’d buy TikTok,” he said. “There’s so much value on that platform right now that is completely untapped.”

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