United States was not prepared for COVID-19, and it could have been

By Anna McDougall || Contributing Writer

As we move through this terribly uncertain time, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Trump administration was not at all prepared for this pandemic despite warnings from top government officials and epidemics in the past. Though having been formally warned about the outbreak in China on January 3, and having been repeatedly warned since, it took months for the administration to treat the virus as a serious threat, which was valuable time wasted. In February, Trump had said the virus would somehow just simply go away as the weather gets warmer, displaying his ignorance as to how viruses work and his blatant disregard for the health and safety of Americans. In fact, when the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases issued a public warning in late February about the virus without telling the president, he “raged that [they] had scared people unnecessarily” (Lipton et al.). 

Trump has claimed that the federal government is a “backup” for the states, tweeting that “complainers should have stocked up and ready long before this crisis hit” (Yglesias). Rather than unifying the country under a joint effort to combat the spread of the virus and numerous deaths, Trump seems to be playing a game of favorites with state governors, criticizing the responses of governors who are at odds with him and even giving only partial amounts of the aid requested, while completely satisfying all of the aid requested of other states whose governors are more closely allied with him. Did we expect anything better from a president who has historically treated the presidency as a reality TV show? 

This type of response especially reflects the incompetence when compared to that of countries such as South Korea, which recently reported that the country had brought its number of daily reported cases to single digits. When looking at Pennsylvania alone, the number of deaths each day due to the virus is still in the hundreds (Novak). South Korea also avoided completely shutting down the country as the U.S. did by focusing on “government organized mass production of coronavirus test kits” and an effective system of tracking and isolating cases (Aleem). Lessons to learn from South Korea about dealing with a pandemic are to act before it becomes a crisis, test often, and aggressively track possible networks of the virus spreading (Fisher and Sang-Hun). Other countries like New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, and Germany have followed similar procedures and seen effective results. The U.S. has failed to do all of these things. 

On April 15, South Korea held a national election which showed the highest voter turnout in 28 years, with the current ruling party winning 180 out of 300 seats in its National Assembly. Many cite the effective way the government dealt with the pandemic, which undoubtedly saved many lives, as a large factor in the win (Hollingsworth and Kwon). Perhaps our administration could learn from them. 

Also concerning is the fact that the Trump administration had gotten rid of the government office specifically created to address global health issues such as COVID-19, saying global health issues were not important to national security. The office had been created after the Ebola panic had proved the United States government was not prepared to deal with a global pandemic—four years later the government was still woefully underprepared despite being in an incredible position of wealth and power globally (Borger). 

Regardless of what may or may not be the best way out of this mess at this point, there has been an extremely concerning disregard for human lives at the federal level. With conflicting messages, insufficient safety for essential workers, some push to reopen the economy at the risk of further spreading the virus, etc., there was no clear government response to this panic, and there still isn’t, costing many lives.

Junior Anna McDougall is a Contributing Writer. Her email is amcdouga@fandm.edu.

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