As coronavirus ravaged the United States on Monday, Donald Trump issued one of his infamous, all-caps tantrum tweets. He questioned whether containment measures were “worse than the problem itself.”
Coronavirus is the “problem” Mr. Trump is referring to.
While it’s valid to consider the economic impact that the virus will have and prudent to find ways to minimize that, it’s downright irresponsible to encourage the nation at the center of the world’s coronavirus outbreak to question lockdown measures.
That’s right, contrary to what many Americans seem to believe, the U.S. is at the center of the coronavirus pandemic.
New York is on par with Italy when it comes to the number of cases. Not in a few weeks, not in a few days— today. Italy had 886 cases per 1 million inhabitants as of Sunday; New York reported 778 per million.
Many people, apparently including Donald Trump, wonder why states like Ohio and Louisiana are locking down. After all, they’re nowhere near New York.
But consider this. When Italy was reporting a mere 15,113 cases , or 249 cases per 1 million inhabitants, the U.S. banned travel from Europe . At that point, Italy had already locked down the entire country for two days.
New York only started instituting lockdown measures this weekend. Enforcing those measures has been a challenge, and social distancing advice has been widely disregarded. Travel in and out of New York is still largely unrestricted.
If there was ever a time to learn from the past— in this case, the very recent past— it’s now. Step one is to take this “problem” seriously.
Back in February, when the number of cases in Italy had only just begun to rise, politician Nicola Zingaretti visited the city of Milan and encouraged people not to panic by heading out for a drink with students. Zingaretti posted “Our economy is stronger than fear” on social media during the outing.
Nine days later, he announced he’d tested positive for coronavirus.
There are economic consequences to consider, but making people skeptical about social distancing and self-isolation isn’t the way to address those concerns.
It doesn’t matter how deadly the disease currently is. The healthcare system is going to collapse under the influx of new coronavirus patients.
Simple math shows that the U.S., like most other countries in the world, is utterly unprepared to care for the number of critically ill people it’s about to see.
That’s already playing out in New York where hospitals are becoming overwhelmed by coronavirus cases.
Italy, it turns out, was actually better prepared than the U.S. when it comes to the healthcare system’s capacity.
The U.S. had the benefit of time. Time to prepare hospitals with protective gear, staff and ventilators. More importantly, it had time to “flatten the curve.”
But instead of taking social distancing seriously, fears about the economy and conspiracy theories about government control caused many Americans to disregard warnings from medical professionals around the world.
New York is about to overtake Italy as the world’s coronavirus epicenter, and Trump is still questioning whether or not extreme measures are required. Irresponsible tweets like the one he sent today will give people an excuse to resume dangerous social interactions.
Trump’s blunder will be America’s painful loss as the grim reality of coronavirus sets in across the nation.