The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly challenged governments and their leaders around the world. But the crisis may have tested one particular form of government more than any other – federalism. Of the 23 federations around the world today, no two systems are alike. And of these systems, two in particular have had very different pandemic experiences: the United States and Germany. In the U.S., competing constitutional interpretations and stark political divisions have undermined most cooperative efforts and hopes of a coordinated nationwide response. Indeed, conflictual, combative, and even dysfunctional best describe American federalism in the COVID-19 era. National, state, and local leaders have repeatedly sparred over appropriate courses of action, jurisdiction, financial support, and the procurement of medical supplies.