Ron Klain served as the chief of staff to vice presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden. In 2014, President Barack Obama tapped him to lead the administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He successfully oversaw a hellishly complex effort preparing domestically for an outbreak and surging health resources onto another continent to contain the disease.
But Klain is quick to say that the coronavirus is a harder challenge even than Ebola. The economy is in free fall. Entire cities have been told to shelter in place. And there’s no telling how long any of this will last. In this conversation on The Ezra Klein Show, Klain answers my questions about the disease and how to respond to it, as well as questions many of you submitted.
We discuss how to change the virus’s reproduction and fatality rates, the economic policy necessary to make social distancing possible, what the Trump administration needed to do earlier (and what they still can do now), the strengths and weaknesses of America’s particular health care system in responding to a pandemic like this one, what Joe Biden is like in a crisis, and much more.
I’ve been covering the coronavirus nonstop, and this is one of the clearest, most useful conversations I’ve had. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the clarity of Klain’s analysis will help.