COVID-19: A National Failure

Alex Parker, Contributing Writer

In February, when word started trickling in about how badly the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting Italy, the United States continued to conduct business as usual.  Stories of waiting lists for ventilators reached us, but never led to action.  At least, it never affected anyone with enough political influence to take preventative measures.  While Italians began social distancing and the death toll kept rising, American politicians declined to take action.  They waited until the last second to establish mask mandates, mandatory quarantines, and curfews.  By that point, COVID-19 had already been declared a pandemic.  It had crossed the ocean and come crashing onto our shores. 

Before the outset of the pandemic, the Trump administration fired the entire pandemic response team that the Obama administration had appointed.  Right off the bat, the country was wildly unprepared.  

“I don’t know how preventable the pandemic is just because of an obvious lack of foresight.  Still, its management was terrible and Americans treated the disease like a joke.  The government didn’t put enough safety measures in place.  While I support quarantine, the government has to support that by paying the people and small businesses.  Both sides were too implicated in partisan squabbling to get anything meaningful done,” said senior Dylan Schor. 

 Government support for individuals forced to quarantine is essential to prevent the economy from crashing.  Those living at or below the poverty line must be helped so they can continue to support their families.  However, governmental payments were delayed because politicians were busy fighting among themselves. 

“The disease may have been inevitable, but it becoming a pandemic was completely preventable.  If world leaders were able to come together sooner perhaps we wouldn’t have this severity.  Perhaps it would be more tolerable to watch the news and to go grocery shopping and to do everyday tasks,” said junior Emily Djohan.  

America’s lack of enthusiasm for cooperating with other countries led to fewer resources being allocated to combat the disease and, as a result, COVID-19 continued to spread.  After all, the Trump administration pulled out of the World Health Organization because it baselessly decided that the organization was controlled by the Chinese government.  Above all, this suggests the administration’s lack of interest to assist other countries and receive help in return.  The country was forced to battle the virus alone.  

In addition, there has been increased partisanship.  While some governors were quick to enforce mask mandates in their states, others quibbled about supposed freedom. 

 “I think that the pandemic would have been better had the CDC encouraged mask wearing earlier and followed more closely with countries such as Italy and England.  There was the feeling that we should preserve masks for our medical professionals.  It might have made people who are reluctant about the safety of masks feel a little less doubtful if the immediate consensus had been that they are helpful,” said junior Jacqueline Atchely.  

The lack of consensus concerning mask-wearing divided the nation.  While many accepted the masks, others rebelled against them, citing their freedom of speech and expression.  Ironically, these happened to be many of the people who would describe themselves as “pro-life” during any other election cycle.  And their actions had real and deadly consequences.

The implications of the pandemic reach beyond the virus itself. 

“We are on the cusp of a mass eviction and homelessness epidemic, as well as the most severe economic turmoil since the Great Depression.  And despite people’s suffering, much of the owner-class has raked in tremendous amounts of wealth during this crisis.  What’s more, we are seeing a mass consolidation of industries into a few corporations, the likes of which we have not seen since the Gilded Age.  Due to the abysmal management of the response, we will be facing a great many new problems ahead,” said senior Ian Miller.  

Indeed, COVID is heightening long standing issues of inequality in America, with an approaching wave of economic depression and homelessness.  Those with money have fared far better than those without during this pandemic. 

Management of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a travesty and the resulting national embarrassment cannot be overlooked.  There was no pandemic response team when it all began, and the lack of federal unity meant that necessary funds could not be distributed, the importance of masks were not properly communicated, and there was almost no support to people pushed into poverty.  

It is horrific that the death toll has climbed so high, and equally disturbing to realize that the scope of the pandemic here in the United States was avoidable.  Unlike Europe, the US had a warning about the coming crisis, and yet still did nothing.  

Now hundreds of thousands of Americans have died, and the number grows larger every day.  Still, no new action is being taken.  The American people will not forget how their government failed them, but for many it is already too late.