Speed Reads

Regrets he's had a few

World War Z author explains what the federal government should have done to smother coronavirus

Ford and GE announced Tuesday they are partnering to built ventilators, one of the most urgent shortfalls in America's fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus — but they won't start arriving until early June.

That's "just one of several examples that underscored the price of the Trump administration's slow response to evidence as early as January that the coronavirus was headed to the United States," The New York Times reports. "Ford's timeline suggested that if the administration had reacted to the acute shortage of ventilators in February, the joint effort between Ford and General Electric might have produced lifesaving equipment sometime in mid- to late April. A month later, the administration still does not appear to have a streamlined response to the pandemic."

The Trump administration didn't have to reinvent the wheel, because "we have a network in place that we as taxpayers have been funding to get us ready for something just like this," Max Brooks, the author of World War Z and other virus-based apocalyptic novels, and a real-life emergency response expert, told Terry Gross on Tuesday's Fresh Air, recorded Monday. The idea that America was unprepared for a pandemic like COVID-19 is "an onion of layered lies," Brooks said. The problem is "we have been disastrously slow and disorganized from Day 1."

"If the president had been working since January to get the organs of government ready for this," Americans "could be looking back on the great overreaction of 2020," Brooks said. President Trump should have immediately activated the Defense Protection Act and "the government could have put the word out to ramp up emergency supplies to get them ready and then have an information strategy in place."

"I can tell you that the federal government has multiple layers of disaster preparedness who are always training, always planning, always preparing," staffed by "countless dedicated professionals who think about this constantly and they're ready to go," Brooks said. "The entire reason that we have these networks is when the bells start ringing — and they have not been activated. I don't know. I'm not sitting in the White House. I don't know whether the president is being lied to, whether he is holding onto a political ideology. I honestly don't know. But there is no excuse not to mobilize the full forces of the federal government right now and to centralize the response." Listen to the interview below. Peter Weber