Posted in: Headlines
Published:
March 13, 2020 12:15 PM UTC

U.S. Coronavirus Response Crapshoot Highlights Failure to Act Decisively

Had the U.S. handled the coronavirus outbreak properly in February with large-scale testing, the situation would have been much less dire.

  • The U.S. has been criticized for taking a bizarrely reactive approach towards the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Some states like Massachusetts are at risk of seeing a local epidemic in the size if Italy.
  • If the U.S. implemented safety precautions in late February, it would have prevented a massive outbreak from occurring.

The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has officially surpassed 1,215 according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), and infections of high-profile individuals are intensifying panic across the nation. Had the U.S. handled the virus outbreak properly in February, Trump won’t need to rage-tweet before markets open on a Friday morning.

Source: Twitter

Several states like Massachusetts are showing early signs of a serious epidemic at the size of Italy, says the Northeastern University Emergent Epidemics Lab, placing the country at risk of widespread infections.

What could have the U.S. done differently to contain coronavirus?

The U.S. and Europe, despite seeing the rapid spread of coronavirus in China, Japan, and South Korea, have not been proactive in establishing sufficient precautionary measures to fight against the virus.

Ian Johnson, a journalist based in Beijing, described the approach of the U.S. and Europe towards dealing with coronavirus as “bizarrely reactive,” and said that the governments missed the “best chance” to contain the outbreak.

The complacency of the U.S. government towards the pandemic was evident when individuals were having trouble getting tested for the virus until early March.

Even today, individuals in many states like Washington are reportedly having difficulty being tested, because “hospitals are simply not ready.”

In most cities, hospitals have the kits to test coronavirus but medical staff do not have the protective equipment to receive the samples.

Countries that are considered to have passed the peak of coronavirus have implemented an aggressive approach in testing hundreds of thousands of individuals.

China and South Korea, for instance, vamped up their testing capacity to be able to test millions of individuals in weeks, running efficient tests at drive-thru checkpoints.

Medical staff in protective gear work at a ‘drive-thru’ testing center for the novel coronavirus disease of COVID-19 in  South Korea.| Source: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

While South Korea had a local epidemic break out in the metropolitan city of Daegu that placed the entire region under lockdown, large-scale testing prevented other cities from being infected from coronavirus at a rapid rate.

Ashish Jha, the head of Harvard Global Health Institute, said that the response of the U.S. towards coronavirus has been “much, much worse than almost any other country that’s been affected.”

Jha told NPR:

I still don’t understand why we don’t have extensive testing. Vietnam! Vietnam has tested more people than America has.

How different would the U.S. be now with a proactive response?

Based on a study released on the Journal of Thoracic Disease by researchers at Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Health, if China delayed the lockdown of 55 million people in Hubei by five days, it would have increased the total number of cases by three times.

The highly contagious nature of coronavirus can make several days of delay in response cause rapid expansion of the virus outbreak in a short period of time.

When Italy surpassed 600 cases, it took merely 11 days to get to 9,000 cases, and the country now has more than 15,000 coronavirus cases.

If the U.S. implemented a system that worked in China and South Korea in late February when dozens of cases were reported, it would have been able to prevent states like Massachusetts become vulnerable to an outbreak at the size of Italy and other major European nations.

This article was edited by Samburaj Das.

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Last modified: March 13, 2020 12:16 PM UTC

Joseph Young @iamjosephyoung

Financial analyst based in Seoul, South Korea. Contributing regularly to CCN and Forbes. I have covered the stock market and bitcoin since 2013.

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