Problems that are too big or too disbursed for a single jurisdiction to handle are, by definition, national in scope. Surely, the coronavirus pandemic qualifies. The federal government must step up.

Most local and state governments are doing what they can. Budgets will be figured out later. People are dying now.

Theirs is the right approach. The piecemeal, chaotic and reluctant approach of the federal government is the wrong one. Task forces don’t replace national strategy and implementation.

For example, it is no secret that nursing homes have problems with the COVID-19 virus. State public health officials and news outlets have charted what is happening in their own communities. However, the federal government has made little effort to track nursing home deaths.

NBC News has been counting, and its findings are staggering. By April 10, its research found nearly 2,500 long-term care facilities in 36 states with COVID-19 cases. Florida provided no data. Many nursing homes have no access to testing, so NBC concluded that the facility count was low.

Twenty-four states reported 2,246 deaths to NBC, but half the states either didn’t track or declined to release deaths in nursing homes. On March 30, the federal government had “informally” counted 400 nursing homes battling the virus.

Without good data, it is impossible to know the problem’s scope or assess what is necessary to address it. It is impossible to send help.

Failure to track nursing home deaths is only one example of the federal government’s refusal to step up to its role in battling this pandemic.

Only the federal government can make sure there aren’t regulatory, manufacturing or distribution roadblocks limiting the supplies of essential medications.

Only the federal government has the resources to make sure that testing, tracking and treatment are in place to prevent a second viral wave once this one has crested.

States and local governments are working hard to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens. The federal government must step up and do the same.

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