Following a long six months of lockdowns and social distancing, the US has crossed a grim milestone in the losing battle against COVID-19. The respiratory disease that has become a dreary backdrop to an awful year has claimed 200,000 lives.
Many in the US seem to have become resigned to this disease simply dictating how we live, work, and play, while others have tried to simply ignore the pandemic and carry on as though things are fine.
Following the bombshell revelation that Donald Trump was perfectly aware of the danger posed by the virus in February 2020, many have accused the president of favoring stock trends over American lives.
Robert Woodward’s new book, Rage, includes interviews with Trump where he admits how dangerous COVID is. He tells Woodward that he is downplaying the virus in order to not cause people to panic.
What Went Wrong?
The US is the wealthiest country in the world, by far, and was predicted to have no trouble stopping a virus from spreading in its borders. In fact, many countries that successfully contained COVID did so using techniques pioneered by American institutions like the CDC. Surprising many in the international community, however, America didn’t just struggle to contain the virus.
The United States allowed the virus to spread, unchecked, for weeks before implementing any forms of lockdown. A number of things had to go wrong at once for things to get as bad as they got here.
Firstly, there was little to no direction from the federal government. Trump himself admitted to Woodward that he didn’t want to “panic” Americans by overseeing a federal response.
Secondly, the US’s unique federal system left it up to individual states to author their own COVID responses. Due to the sharply partisan nature of discussions surrounding the disease, many Republican states were very slow to enact shutdown orders or mask mandates.
The virus spread nearly unchecked through the US for weeks before piecemeal lockdowns slowed it. Now, with 200,000 dead and millions sickened, what comes next? The pandemic is not over, and the virus is far from gone in the US. How will the pandemic end?
It will require strict adherence to social distancing and mask mandates. A vaccine to help protect the most vulnerable in the population will also go a long way to containing the virus.
However, one wonders if this could have all been avoided. Had the US had strong leadership in January or February overseeing a national testing and tracing response, the virus may have never spread, unchecked, through the population.