America’s coronavirus response has been a catastrophic disaster. Leaders, obviously upset at the lack of sport currently being played, have decided to take part in a new sport, the blame game. An utterly meaningless and futile process whereby no one takes responsibility, and thousands continue to suffer. Well, President Trump, the buck stops with you, and you have some answering to do.
Firstly, it is essential to note the position of America. They have the most resources, excess funds, and is home to many of the world’s leading medical experts, pharmaceutical companies and public health institutions. Ironically, a 2019 study by the Global Health Security Index judged the US better placed than any other nation to respond to a pandemic or epidemic. This is why America’s response must be considered a failure. As of writing, they have over 1 million cases, 800,000 more than the next nation and over 61,000 deaths, 40,000 more than the next country. So how did it get so out of control?
Trump acted quickly to restrict arrivals from China but failed to acknowledge the spread of the virus domestically. He blatantly rejected the notion that the virus was dangerous. This was not because he was un-informed, he had trade adviser’s and people he pays to give medical opinions relaying information to him about Coronavirus, but he refused to listen. In February, Trump stated that US cases would soon be “down to zero”. Moreover, in early March he was still comparing COVID-19 to the regular flu.
A leader sets the tone. Trump’s relaxed rhetoric and language which downplayed the severity of the virus inevitably influenced other figures in America, from other Republican politicians all the way down to civilians. This highlights the power of a leader to influence their followers, Trump said one thing, people listen and tell someone else, and word begins to spread. Still, thousands of Americans are protesting on the streets that COVID-19 is a scam when it has already killed more Americans than the Vietnam war!
America’s failure also rests on its slow rollout of mass testing. America didn’t want to use the tests developed by the World Health Organisation, but then suffered multiple mistakes in the creation of their own tests. The initial trials produced inconclusive results, there weren’t enough test kits, and there were significant delays in receiving information. This resulted in America failing to gain a grasp of COVID-19 and the full extent of its spread around the country.
The federal government’s top infectious disease expert acknowledged the failure of testing, and I respect his honesty. While Trump blames others and decides sarcasm is an appropriate tool in presenting factual evidence to millions of people, Dr Fauci has been open and honest. What has he received for his honesty? Trump retweeting calls to fire him, how perfect. In case you were wondering President Trump, that was appropriate sarcasm.
In countries that have been able to control the spread of Coronavirus, such as South Korea, a simple yet effective process has been followed. First, widespread testing identifies those who are infected even before they show symptoms. Second, aggressive contact tracing identifying anyone whom the infected person has interacted. Lastly, everyone identified has been subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Every aspect of this approach, the US has failed to do. Contact tracing was not a high priority for the Trump government, and there was no implementation of a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Trump’s primary scapegoat has been the World Health Organisation. When the first reported case of a severe virus out of Wuhan was published, the WHO declined to declare a global public health emergency due to a lack of evidence about the virus spreading outside of China. We must remember that back in January, no one had any idea about what Coronavirus was, how you could be infected, what the symptoms were and what its death rate was. One week later, the WHO declared Coronavirus a global public health emergency. While Trump continues to blame the WHO, it is clear that significant shortcomings in the administration’s response arose from a failure to follow WHO advice. The WHO consistently and explicitly highlighted the importance of widespread testing and the effectiveness of social distancing measures in combatting the spread of the virus.
We are rapidly approaching a new stage of this virus and a chance for President Trump to slightly redeem himself. Do we re-open the economy or continue social distancing until we defeat the virus? President Trump, the decision is up to you. Will you be remembered as a President who learnt from his mistakes to ensure the safety of his people, or a President who prioritised money over lives?