- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 29, 2020

Wayne Gretzky would not be impressed with America’s feckless response to the coronavirus.

Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player in history, is reputed to have skated to where the puck was going — not where it was.

The United States government’s inept response to the coronavirus epidemic, by contrast, has been decidedly anti-Gretzkyian. From the federal government on down to feckless local officials, U.S. authorities, with rare exceptions, have skated not even to where the puck is now, but where it was two weeks ago.

Begin at the federal level. The Trump administration’s decision to impose a halfhearted ban on travel between China and the United States (it exempted Americans, though they can carry the disease just as easily as any foreigner) was made in late January, weeks after COVID-19 had begun rampaging through the Asian country and sickening tens of thousands.

During that period, as the pneumonialike ailment brought China to its knees, about 14,000 people a day were flying from China to the United States.

Ditto for the supposed Europe flight ban, a case study in showing up a day late and a dollar short. When the Trump administration announced its restrictions on European travel — which, like the alleged China flight ban, do not apply to Americans — it was already March 12. By that point, more than 1,000 Italians had died of the disease and cases and fatalities were increasing exponentially.

Closer to 1,000 are dying each day in Italy now, and still there are two daily flights from Rome to New York.

Current attempts at curtailing the travel of New Yorkers are similarly belated. The state of Rhode Island is enlisting National Guard troops to keep New Yorkers out. (An effort some have suggested should have begun years ago for altogether different reasons.) Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, has ordered anyone arriving from New York to self-quarantine for two weeks.

President Trump over the weekend tweeted that he, too, was mulling a quarantine order for the tri-state area — likely causing thousands to flee who otherwise wouldn’t have — only to shy away from the action.

But as much as quarantine may have been helpful two or three weeks ago, it is now just about pointless. Florida has thousands of cases. The corona genie will not be put back into the bottle.

Speaking of Florida, the Sunshine State has finally closed many of its public beaches — a week or two after thousands swarmed them for spring break.

New Orleans issued a stay-at-home order — after hordes of tourists packed the streets for Mardi Gras.

New York officials shuttered bars and restaurants — after they were packed with St. Patrick’s Day revelers on the weekend before the famously social holiday. Making matters worse, even as the coronavirus spread, Gotham Mayor Bill de Blasio was recklessly encouraging residents to go out and about.

Mr. Gretzky also once observed that “hockey is a unique sport in the sense that you need each and every guy helping each other and pulling in the same direction to be successful.”

If Americans help one another and pull in the same direction by practicing social distancing, we have a chance of reducing the still-rising rate of infections. But our record of following Gretzskian precepts leaves much to be desired.

Ethan Epstein is editorial editor of The Washington Times. Contact him at eepstein@washingtontimes.com or on Twitter @ethanepstiiiine.

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