I totally agree the US should learn from the example of South Korea. I also agree the best solution is to nip it in the bud. But we can’t always assume that will happen. So let’s aim for the best, but also prepare for more difficult times. The idea is to have defense in depth, strategic reserves, and surge capacity built into our overall approach.
Trump did take the early actions of banning air travel from China and putting Americans in quarantine on military bases. He was criticized for xenophobic overreaction by some Democrats, but that did buy us some time. Unfortunately, it was not time used as wisely as it should have been. The full story of why our healthcare experts opposed mass decentralized testing has not been told, but it was a bad mistake. Why Trump did not demand that right after the travel ban is also unclear. He should have.
We need to do a lot better in all phases: from preventing the disease from getting here, to having a massive dispersed testing capability, to being able to rapidly impose quarantines, and to having reserves of medical supplies and facilities. Here is where government does have a legitimate role to play.