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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Trump adviser Jared Kushner

White House photo

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump has had two separate coronavirus task forces: the White House task force that is headed by Vice President Mike Pence and includes medical experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, and a private sector-oriented task force headed by Jared Kushner — a White House senior adviser and the president's son in law. Kushner, according to Vanity Fair's Katherine Eban, launched a coronavirus testing plan back in the spring. But as a July 30 article by Eban explains, things did not go well at all.

During a three-month period, Eban notes, "more than 2.4 million Americans contracted COVID-19, and 123,331 of them died of the illness — first in New York, and then in states around the country. Governors, public health experts and frightened citizens sounded the alarm that a critical shortage of tests and the ballooning time to get results were crippling the U.S. pandemic response. But the million tests, some of which were distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to several states, were of no help. According to documents obtained by Vanity Fair, they were examined in two separate government laboratories and found to be 'contaminated and unusable.'"

Vanity Fair, Eban reports, has obtained a copy of an invoice from the company Cogna Technology Solutions that "noted a total order of 3.5 million tests for an amount owed of $52 million."

"The tests' mysterious provenance would spark confusion and finger-pointing," Eban notes. "An Abu Dhabi–based artificial intelligence company, Group 42, with close ties to the UAE's ruling family, identified itself as the seller of 3.5 million tests and demanded payment. Its requests were routed through various divisions within Health and Human Services, whose lawyers sought in vain for a bona fide contracting officer."

Kushner, according to Eban, "oversaw a secret project to devise a comprehensive plan that would have massively ramped up and coordinated testing for COVID-19 at the federal level." But a participant, quoted anonymously, told Vanity Fair that the plan "just went poof into thin air."Trump has been claiming that the U.S. has the most comprehensive, efficient and widely available coronavirus testing program in the world. But that claim is wildly inaccurate: during the recent coronavirus surge, there have been numerous reports of people waiting much too long for their test results.

In the U.S., Eban observes, "Cable news and front pages have been dominated by images of miles-long lines of cars in scorching Arizona and Texas heat, their drivers waiting hours for scarce diagnostic tests, and desperate Sun Belt mayors pleading in vain for federal help to expand testing capacity."

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.