By: ALFRED MORGAN
COVID-19 struck the world with surprise and panic when it became a worldwide pandemic. Originating in China, it spread across the continents of Asia, Europe, and finally crossed the ocean border to the Americas to where it reached the United States. Some countries such as South Korea and New Zealand took extreme precautions to prevent the spread, with South Korea implementing contact tracing which allowed the government to track people through their phones and quarantined anyone in contact with a suspected carrier in the past 14 days. Presently, most countries are starting to turn the tide on the virus, flattening the curve. Unfortunately the United States, a very prominent country on the global stage, seems to be struggling with the pandemic, increasing the amount of cases and spiking the curve.
While one might argue that the United States is a bigger country than most of the countries getting a handle on the pandemic, we have a great example in our northern neighbor; Canada. Their response was quick and based almost solely on their health specialists and experts, causing a success in containment.
In a video published by CBC News, they speak to two Canadian health specialists who give a perspective on the comparison of the pandemic between the United States and Canada. The first specialist, Dr. Raywat Deonandan made statements towards the US such as “what this pandemic has revealed of the US is a fractured society” and other statements such as “we’re seeing a distrust of authority.” He also mentions the rampant belief in pseudoscience; a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method. This reveals a substantial amount of ignorance among the US population. The second specialist, Dr. Isaac Bogosh talks about the numbers. He mentions that the United States was seeing somewhere between 70,000- 75,000 new cases every day.
Statements by the two specialists were extremely different towards Canada’s handling of the pandemic. Dr. Raywat Deonandan pointed out that “we’ve seen most Candians lining up behind our leaders” and that “we’ve seen people willing to sacrifice for the betterment of society.” In the case of numbers, Dr. Isaac Bogosh stated that “in general we’re getting between 200 to 400 new cases today from coast to coast.” The comparison made by the two doctors truly shows the enormous and terrifying difference between the United States and Canada.
So, why is one of the most prominent countries in the world struggling to this degree? The two main causes behind the embarrassing failure are the President’s flaws in judgement and an ignorant American culture.
While not being the only reason, Trump’s decisions have definitely been a factor in the failure of containment. Perhaps the most harmful decision was to defund programs set up specifically to combat things such as COVID-19. According to Business Insider, Trump shut down the entire global health security unit of the National Security Council. The National Security Council is a group of senior advisers to the President who give critical information. By removing the global health section of it, he directly cut off information important for decision making.
Trump also eliminated the US government’s $30 million Complex Crisis Fund. The purpose of this fund was to be ready and in place in case a national emergency (such as the pandemic) were to occur. The funding, while not massive, would have definitely helped in the beginning to implement important equipment to help control the virus in a way such as Canada did.
Another piece of poor judgement and arguably the most harmful is that Trump reduced national health spending by $15 billion. According to the Washington Post, the motive behind this was to appease conservatives over angst caused by budget deficits. In other words, he cut extremely important funding to please conservative votes due to his upcoming 2020 campaign to be re-elected. What this seems to show is that he was more focused on maintaining his position instead of addressing the elephant in the room. However, while Trump’s decisions did account for a lot of the failure, the final reason is by far the most damaging.
The final cause for the severity of the failure in containment is American attitude towards major issues. In the early 1900s, the South experienced a pellagra epidemic which caused diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death. The cause of the severity of this epidemic was rooted in a corn-based diet and a general state of poverty. Instead of listening to the North’s warnings and advice, the South looked at it as an attack and insult to their culture. This look on the epidemic caused 3 million people to be affected by the outbreak and helped bring the death toll to a devastating 100,000.
The response of ignorance and refusal to address the issue has repeated itself in the United States during the current pandemic. People are refusing to wear masks, social distance, and as the Candian specialists mentioned, are choosing to believe and follow pseudoscience instead of health mandates. According to Paul Krugman from the NY Times, “We’re also doing badly because, as the example of pellagra shows, there’s a longstanding anti-science, anti-expertise streak in American culture — the same streak that makes us uniquely unwilling to accept the reality of evolution or acknowledge the threat of climate change.” Paul sums it up perfectly and reveals to us that the blame not only is in our leaders, but our general population as well. Unless we focus as a whole population on defeating a common enemy, the final outcome will be catastrophic.