Two Washingtons. Two Very Different Coronavirus Responses.


April 17, 2020

In the initial episode of our “Covering Coronavirus” podcast series a month ago, we brought you an interview with veteran science journalist Miles O’Brien from Washington State, where the first known case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was identified.

Miles has been there ever since, speaking with some of the very first doctors, public health experts, and politicians in America who confronted the virus, for a FRONTLINE documentary airing Tuesday. 

In today’s episode of “Covering Coronavirus,” Miles walks us through what he’s learned about their response, how it has played out, and what it means for the rest of the country as the battle against COVID-19 and efforts to “flatten the curve” unfold.

“The most dangerous element in my state today is the virus of complacency,”Washington Governor Jay Inslee tells Miles. “We have to be just as diligent for the next several weeks as we were in the last several.”

In this episode, Miles talks with me about why the Trump administration’s coronavirus response has left some state and local officials feeling as if they’re in the “Hunger Games” as they compete for scarce, life-saving equipment, and what the feud between Inslee and President Donald Trump reveals about broader state-federal tensions in the coronavirus fight.

“It does reflect this feeling in the states that they are not just on their own, but… almost what should be a partnership with the federal government is like this hostile relationship,” Miles says.
When you listen, you’ll hear more from Miles’ conversation with the governor. You’ll also hear from the doctor who confirmed that COVID-19 was spreading in the Seattle community, Francis Riedo — who takes Miles inside his discovery, and what happened next.

“Covering Coronavirus: A Tale of Two Washingtons” is available now from the FRONTLINE Dispatch, on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, RadioPublic, Google Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

For more on how the coronavirus first emerged in the U.S., how the response in Washington State and Washington, D.C., has unfolded, and the challenges that lie ahead, we hope you’ll tune in to Miles’ new FRONTLINE documentary, Coronavirus Pandemic, this Tuesday, April 21.


Raney Aronson-Rath

Raney Aronson-Rath, Executive Producer, FRONTLINE



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