You know how politicians like to use international test scores to bash our public schools? Here’s good reason to bash the politicians in D.C.

Teresa Hanafin of the Boston Globe writes:

The expected numbers of American deaths from the coronavirus unveiled by the administration yesterday was pretty shocking — 100,000 to 240,000 — although those numbers have been floating around among scientists, researchers, and epidemiologists for awhile now.

But for Trump to allow his task force doctors to reveal those numbers publicly was remarkable, and a sign that it has finally dawned on him that he’s is presiding over a devastating epidemic.

It’s beyond sad to contemplate how low those numbers could have been, and how many lives could have been saved, had Trump listened to the experts instead of being contemptuously dismissive for weeks.

Had he seized control of the situation and kicked the feds into high gear with an aggressive, comprehensive, and nationwide approach, we wouldn’t be talking about World War II-level deaths.

That’s what South Korea did, a country that reported its first case on the same day as the US: Jan. 20. South Korea immediately convened officials from 20 medical companies and ordered them to start producing tests.

As tests were approved, the government opened hundreds of drive-through testing sites. The tests were free to anyone who wanted one, with results within hours. Test kits were supplied to hospitals and clinics as well.

Within seven weeks, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had tested about 300,000 people out of a population of 51 million.

In the same time period, the United States tested only 60,000 people in a population of 330 million.

That’s how community spread happens: When you don’t know who has the virus, you can’t stop it from spreading. At a certain point, the virus outruns you, and you can do nothing but keep scrambling to catch up. That’s where we are.

Face masks were readily available to South Koreans in local pharmacies, with each person allowed two per week. In the US, even frontline medical workers are rationing and reusing face masks.

Another factor: South Korea’s national health care system, under which nobody has to worry that they’ll get a lower quality health care than somebody richer than them, hospitals don’t have to fret about low reimbursements when they treat the poor, and people don’t have to worry about being driven into medical bankruptcy as so many Americans are.

In the US, Trump’s sustained attacks on Obamacare means that millions more Americans are uninsured than when he took office. Now, of course, those uninsured Americans are desperate to enroll, but in an act of what Democrats say is simply utter cruelty, Trump is refusing to reopen the federal exchange so that the uninsured can obtain insurance before they or someone in their family, God forbid, contracts the virus.

Fortunately, some governors have reopened their state exchanges, so if you live in a state with Democratic leadership, you could be in luck.

The bottom line:

The US has close to 200,000 cases, about .06 percent of the population, and 4,400 deaths, a rate of 2.2 percent. (That rate has increased, not declined, as more cases are uncovered.)

South Korea has 9,900 cases, about .02 percent of its population, and 165 deaths, a rate of 1.7 percent.

By late February, South Korea was getting about 900 new cases a day. Today, it’s about 100. In contrast, the number of new cases in the US is still soaring.

While the trajectory of South Korean cases has declined, the US trajectory is solidly pointing upward, increasing at the fastest rate in the world.

It didn’t have to be this way.