How COVID Broke Up The United States

It’s every state for themselves


“Four months ago this map could reasonably have been interpreted as a near-future dystopian world-building schema for a series of young adult books.” (Ankit Panda)

The United States Of America does not have a national government. States are on their own to decide closures, to find their own PPE, to bid against each other for ventilators. Governors have become the government, but with porous borders, the virus doesn’t care.

In stark contrast to almost every country on Earth, there is no national leadership or top-down control. The result is a hodge-podge of policies, shutdowns, and responses which differ from state to state, or even county to county. Resources are not allocated or coordinated in any way. For a virus that doesn’t see borders at all, this is a completely ineffective defense. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and America is barely linked at all.

Beaches in one county are open, the others closed. You can see the line.

How Trump Broke Up The Epidemic Command

What many countries, including the US, learned from prior epidemics was that a clear chain of command was necessary for fighting epidemics. Diseases are actually international (ie, human), and the only meaningful level of control is at the nation-state level. Only nation-states can shut borders, print/raise money, deploy military, etc.

The trouble is that federal governments are slow, sclerotic beasts. During the SARS, MERS and Ebola epidemics valuable time was wasted on politics, and those countries tried to learn from their mistakes.

In countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore they set up (and physically) built central command centers, funded them and kept them ready for the next one. The US actually did the same after Ebola.

The Obama administration set up a permanent epidemic command within the National Security Council and an Ebola Czar — one person responsible, one neck to squeeze. They built and funded infrastructure for the next epidemic.

Out of ignorant spite for all things Obama, Trump ordered the entire global health security unit shut down. John Bolton pressured the entire epidemic team at the Department of Homeland Security to resign. Neither was replaced, and the global…



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at