Politicians were more worried about their buddies’ profits in travel, tourism, et al than they were about a dangerous disease. When the word first came out that this shit was spreading in China, all the borders should have been closed right then. It also didn’t help that China was (and still is) about as transparent as a god damn brick wall about what was going on, so the rest of the world and particularly the USA was left making overly optimistic guesses. So by the time the severity of the situation was fully realized outside China, it was literally months too late and travelers had spread it all over the world. This is what happens when profits are valued over people.
“Optimism and stupidity are nearly synonymous.” – ADM Hyman G. Rickover USN.