David Segal, What Happened to the Great American Logistics Machine? NYTimes, May 22, 2020:
It was reassuring to watch leaders of Walmart, CVS, Target and others gather in the Rose Garden with President Trump in mid-March to announce that the companies would chip in to rapidly expand Covid-19 testing, working in tandem with the administration. Today, Target has exactly one testing site, in the parking lot of its store in Chula Vista, Calif. After a stumbling start, Walmart announced that it had beaten its goal of opening 100 sites by May 31. CVS had opened 50 sites as of mid-May, and promised to have 1,000 open by the end of the month.
Every bit helps, but 1,101 sites won’t get us to the goal of five million tests a day that Mr. Trump referred to in late April.
You’d never know it from the halting pace of this rollout, but the United States is a pioneer in public-private partnerships. Spectacularly ambitious ones, in fact. Like the moon landing. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration hired 20,000 companies across all 50 states to produce and assemble the roughly six million parts needed for each of the Apollo missions. They included Playtex, best known as the maker of the Cross Your Heart bra, which was hired to build the spacesuits worn by the astronauts. (We know about comfortable, flexible garments, Playtex said in its pitch.)
“In some ways, NASA had to invent large-project management for the modern era,” Charles Fishman wrote in “One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon,” “while supervising the invention and perfection of the technology to do something that had never been done before.”
Back in the present, and back on earth, the coronavirus is offering a real-time demonstration of how to hopscotch the globe, with ease and speed. Exactly how it gets around is, to some degree, a mystery we are still solving. (Cats can give it to cats, a study published this month concluded.) But starting from an unknown patient zero, it has infected nearly five million people around the world in a matter of months, enlisting victims in its supply chain and deploying them as vehicles to get around.