The nation who was expected to lead the fight against COVID-19 and show the rest of the world how it’s done is in a state of crisis. The United States, with all its might, is today struggling even for basic medical supplies – masks, testing kits, ventilators, etc. When it was expected that the United States would provide these essential medical supplies/equipment to the less developed countries, the President banned all exports to manage the situation at home. In fact, they reached out to countries like South Korea to supply them with crucial medical equipment to handle the situation.
What’s worse and more shameful is the United States asked for a diversion of a crucial mask consignment headed to Berlin from Bangkok airport. Reportedly, the masks were manufactured by American company 3M and were being procured by Berlin for its police force. The international community has strongly condemned this exception of global supply chain norm. You just cannot go to a country, manufacture stuff, set up international supply chains, use cheap labor, earn profits, and when there is an emergency, break the rules and go “America First.” This shows the country’s lack of manufacturing capability and shallowness. 3M, on its part, has denied this claim.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in fact has gone on to caution the United States saying that “trade goes both ways across the border.”
“There are things that Americans rely on, and it would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the amount of back-and-forth trade of essential goods and services, including medical goods, across our border,” he warned.
American supremacy is nowhere visible when it was expected and needed the most by the rest of the world, especially the poor and developing countries. Read on to know what went wrong and what would be the post-corona equation as far as American supremacy is concerned. This COVID-19 crisis is undoubtedly a national embarrassment for the United States.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Engulfs The United States
The United States of America has become the new epicenter for the Covid-19 pandemic. With over 300,000+ cases nationwide that includes more than 120,000 cases in New York City itself, the country is facing the worst ever crisis. Amidst all this, the President of the United States said in one of the recent addresses that he wants the country to reopen by Easter contradicting the advice of most health officials. However, he backed out from this statement on March 29, 2020, and extended social distancing guidelines for another month.
That said, the United States’ response to the Covid-19 has been a national embarrassment. The inability to send out sufficient test kits and protective medical gear for health care workers, the Trump administration has botched up the coronavirus response. In the initial phase, when there were just a handful of cases, the required steps to control the community spread were not taken effectively. The crisis was downplayed, even as it started to get worse. That’s not what is expected from the United States. If their agencies and intelligence network is strong enough to identify countries producing weapons of mass destruction, it is expected that they identify a global health emergency before the rest of the world does. Alas, that never happened. Maybe the priorities need to be re-thought and re-assessed.
Meanwhile, war of words between the federal and state governments have already erupted on Twitter for the world to see.
The Warnings that were ignored
During the critical phase between the outbreak of the virus in China and its arrival in the United States, President Trump was warned about the general vulnerabilities and the specific actions that his administration needed to take to evade the worst. However, for almost ten weeks, the President downplayed the public health threat and ignored warnings about the severity of this deadly disease. The series of exaggerations and statements have all been well-documented; however, despite that, White House is trying to establish that Trump has been a focused leader.
Due to the delay in testing, many cases went undetected, and the virus continued to circulate. At the time when tech solutions for contact tracing, matching demand of critical supplies, mobilizing manufacturers to ramp up ventilator production, and securing supply of other medical equipment was to be done; there was not much attention given to it.
The lead time which should have been used by the Trump administration to prepare for the pandemic was not used efficiently, leading to exacerbating this crisis.
The arrival of Covid-19 in the United States
With coronavirus holding its ground in the Wuhan City of mainland China in January 2020, the Center for Disease Control issued a travel notice for Wuhan. It was ten weeks from this point till March 16 when the Trump administration began to change the tone on this public health emergency. The first case was reported in Washington State on January 20, and the experts said that they expect there would be more cases soon. The advice from the experts was to act now to prevent this epidemic from spreading like wildfire in the United States.
The expansion of testing facilities to identify and isolate cases did not happen for many weeks. The hospitals were not ready with isolation units, masks, and protective bodysuits, and as a result, they got overwhelmed soon. Besides that, the panic among people led to hoarding of masks which causes a further shortage. Till this time, the President was not taking the condition seriously.
The first step that was taken by the Trump administration at the end of January 2020 was to impose a travel ban on China. This, he claimed as one of the major decisions that he had taken in his fight with coronavirus. However, the catch here was that this travel ban was only for the foreign nationals who had been in China in the last two weeks. The arrivals from China into America continued. By this time in Europe, the number of infected cases was snowballing, and the United States continued to receive travelers from the European continent.
The recommendations were made to the President in early February to expand the number of labs for testing and change the rules of testing to allow people to get tested even if they don’t have symptoms. To be noted, these recommendations were finally put into place after three weeks, and by then, it was already too late.
The Congress members widely criticized the administration for not dealing with this crisis efficiently. The President curtailed the warnings of community spread. It was now or never situation for the Trump administration by the first week of March. Finally, by the mid of March, President Trump announced a 15-day period to follow social distancing to slow down the spread of the virus. On March 24, when President Trump, in his address, stated that he wanted the country to open up for Easter, there were already more than 50,000 cases.
The novel coronavirus continued to spread, and now the situation in the United States is the worst across the globe. All this reflects the lack of priority the administration has given to this pandemic. In fact, recently, he has announced that the coming two weeks will be even worse and is expecting 200,000 to 240,000 deaths in the country.
The Economic Shockwaves
As per a BBC report, roughly 10 million Americans lost their jobs in just the last two weeks. To put that in context, 9 million jobs were lost in the 2008 financial crisis.
Well, this is just the beginning of the economic shockwaves, and trillions of dollars have already been wiped out from the markets and millions of jobs lost.
In fact, more than 6.6 million people filed jobless claims in the week ended March 28, the Department of Labor said. The Bank of America has already warned that the United States could face “the deepest recession on record.”
Millions of small businesses have already started feeling the pinch with reduced or virtually non-existent cash flows, and millions of jobs would be lost until the situation improves in the coming days.
The government, on its part, signed the biggest ever bailout of US$2 trillion – a coronavirus stimulus bill. However, will that be enough? Only time will tell.
The country pays the price due to messed up response
By blunting the criticism of COVID-19 response- Trump administration has brought about the worst phase of this pandemic in the country. The delayed response and lack of testing and medical gear have deteriorated the situation further. With people losing jobs, retail shops being closed, high demand for essential supplies (with nearly stock-out conditions), online delivery services being overwhelmed with orders, and on top of all that the death numbers pacing up, it’s going to be a long fight.
Now the only hope to overcome this COVID-19 crisis is to put in stricter measures to contain the virus and hopefully come out with a vaccine as soon as possible.
Till then, Americans will have to deal with this situation patiently- Stay at home and stay safe!