Despite being widely regarded as the country most capable of handling a pandemic, the US accounted for 21 percent of COVID-19 deaths by June 2020, with only four percent of the global population. The development of collective cognition and subsequent response operations cannot be viewed at the national level. This chapter explores the role of the US federal system in developing a coherent response and collective understanding of threats posed by COVID-19. The political and cultural systems at work in the US pose significant challenges in creating consensus and building coalitions across jurisdictional boundaries. Absent strong national leadership, individual states and counties served the primary governmental role in combating the spread of the virus and disseminating information to citizens. This chapter conducts a comparative case study analysis of three states: California, Florida, and Illinois. These states provide variation in geography, timing of outbreaks, policy decisions, and political influence. Text data from daily briefings provided by the governor’s office in each state are analyzed for variation in messaging, reliance on data and evidence, and coordination networks among relevant actors. Additional data available from citizen surveys conducted in each state provide context for assessing the development of cognition and the evolution of COVID-19’s spread.