Today, more than four months after the first reported case of what was then called the novel coronavirus in the state of Washington, Americans will die in Tennessee and Texas, in Arizona and Wisconsin, in Colorado and Kansas and, of course, in New York and New Jersey.
A grave milestone in a public health war, on the heels of a long weekend when we honoured war dead: Since the first US fatality from the virus, initially thought to have happened in late February but later revised to early that month, more than 100,000 souls have perished across the country. That almost surely understates the true toll.
The United States of America, with 4.25% of the world’s population, has suffered 28% of its deaths. The great nation, which beats its chest and chants three proud letters when it wins Olympic medals, has been laid low.
They say defeat is an orphan but success has a thousand fathers, but there are many with responsibility for this carnage.
But America has had an especially fierce battle against Covid-19 because of weaknesses homegrown.
Blame President Donald Trump, who, despite emphatic warnings in briefings throughout January and February, repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus. He imposed a ban on travel from China that he now says saved millions of lives, but that was like plugging a hole after a dam had already broken.
For deaths in New York that comprise 24% of the nation’s, blame Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who, at least a week and probably more past when they should have taken strong action, underestimated the virus’ potential to spread and to kill.
There are no time machines yet, which means there will be no time machines ever, but in hindsight it is clear that the pathogen was circulating in this city and state earlier than we knew; it is deadlier and more contagious than Americans thought; and the country should have clamped down earlier than it did.
Too many more things went wrong to catalogue, including glaring federal failures to test and to produce personal protective equipment.
And, as the country battled the bug and bent a curve that could have continued a steep ascent, many things went right.
Local health officials failed to spot the virus as cases manifested early.
When the worst arrived, Cuomo managed with welcome clarity and consistency, and he and de Blasio belatedly told New Yorkers to stay home whenever possible, and to keep their distance when outside, and to wear masks, and, with the help of Trump and the federal government, they boosted the capacity of the health care system.
Ordinary citizens co-operated. Other ordinary citizens risk their lives carrying out their livelihoods, staffing the hospitals and police precincts and grocery stores and brought the food and prescription drugs and delivered the mail.
These last four months, the country has learned volumes. It will learn volumes more as it strains to contain and reverse the economic damage that now ripples across a worried and infected nation. Hope for many trials, and fewer errors. – Tribune News Service
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