WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s decision to let states chart their own responses to the coronavirus crisis rather than impose a national strategy will cost thousands of lives and is likely to result in an open-ended outbreak rolling across the country, a dozen public health experts told NBC News.

The only way to win what President Donald Trump has called a war against an “invisible enemy” is to establish a unified federal command, the experts insist — something Trump has yet to do. So far, the federal government hasn’t leveraged all its authority and influence to dramatically expand testing and tracing measures, ensure a sufficient supply of crucial medical equipment or require residents of all 50 states to stay at home.

Each day that passes without such a national strategy, the experts say, will raise the ultimate U.S. death toll from COVID-19, the disease associated with the virus. Right now, there aren’t enough tests and gear as states compete with one another to buy them on the open market. And there is very little ability to trace who has the virus and where it is spreading.

“This is a problem that we should be dealing with over the entire nation,” said William Haseltine, a biologist famed for his work on HIV and AIDS. “This is a national problem — it needs a national response.”

Without such a national plan of action carried out on a scale akin to the country’s mobilization during World War II, the experts say, some hospitals will continue to suffer shortages and the U.S. will lack the data needed to have a clear picture of where COVID-19 has spread, making it much harder to get the virus under control.