Dean M. Chriss

COVID-19, America's Epic Failure
December 1, 2020

SARS-COV-2 Virus  -  CDC Image

As I write this the tiny virus shown at the left is wreaking havoc around the globe. Some countries have controlled it very well. Taiwan and new Zealand have had only 7 and 25 deaths respectively nationwide from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Australia started out as well but had a serious outbreak in the state of Victoria, caused by the illegal activities of a few guards at a quarantine hotel. Immediate restrictions like sealing the state borders to keep the rest of the country safe, a 5 km travel restriction, a mask mandate, curfews, and other restrictions, all enforced by police with very stiff penalties, controlled the outbreak in short order. Today Victoria has had no new COVID-19 cases in more than a month and life for residents is relatively normal again. The rest of the country was never affected, and today Australians across the whole country go about enjoying their lives with little concern about the virus. It's not surprising that the Australian economy has already started to rebound, growing 3% in the last three months. Numerous other countries have done as well as those I have mentioned.

Nothing these successful countries did is complex. Basic science tells us that strict isolation to bring down any initial outbreak to near zero, followed by continuing precautions like masks and hand sanitizing to keep the virus suppressed, works incredibly well. After ten months the results from around the world speak for themselves. It's no coincidence that every successful country put their pandemic related policies in the hands of well qualified epidemiologists and other medical professionals.

Then there's America, with only 4% of the world's population and more than 20% of the world's COVID-19 deaths. When it comes to controlling the virus the United States is arguably the world's biggest failure. The Obama administration left a "pandemic game plan" and a group of experts called the "Directorate of Global Health Security and Biodefense" in place for the Trump administration, which disbanded them and subsequently said there was no "game plan". Regardless, ten months into the pandemic there is still no nationwide plan. There was initially a nationwide lockdown. It worked to bring down the number of COVID-19 related infections and deaths in spite of no enforcement and flagrant violation of the restrictions. Then Trump and many GOP state governors insisted on opening the country before the virus was under control. On top of that they discounted the seriousness of the disease so people would feel more comfortable about shopping and going to work, even as new cases and deaths were increasing. They were selling a fantasy people desperately wanted to believe, telling them everything is fine and luring many to sickness, lingering disability, and death.

Even with a serious negligence caused outbreak that accounts for most of Australia's COVID-19 death toll, Australia now has 908 deaths nationwide. Adjusting for the population difference, if America had handled the pandemic as well the death toll would currently be under 12,000. Instead America's death toll today stands at 268,000. That's  256,000 needless deaths. Their blood is on the hands of those who discounted the virus, opened America too soon, and refused to implement basic science based restrictions and precautions. In fact, as early as April 18 Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, boasted about how the President had cut out the doctors and scientists advising him on the coronavirus pandemic. We all know how this turned out, yet people continue to elect politicians who ignored the best available science thereby causing the death of more than a quarter million Americans.



1. All of the numbers I used were current as of December 1, 2020. COVID-19 related deaths are projected to skyrocket during the next couple of months, soon topping 3,000 per day, possibly doubling the number of American COVID-19 deaths to date.

2. When people discuss COVID-19 they tend to focus on case counts and deaths because those numbers are easy to find. What people don't discuss are the uncounted but enormous number of people with long term and permanent disabilities from COVID-19. These include damage to the heart, lungs, and brain, blood clotting problems, cognitive disabilities and other neurological problems.

3. While America's political leaders were functionally absent or working to help the virus spread, the American people are also not blameless. Many insist it is their "right" infect everyone around them by not wearing a mask. Many continued activities known to spread the virus. For instance, according to the CDC "Adults with positive SARS-CoV-2 test results were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative SARS-CoV-2 test results." Some say they take precautions, but truly effective precautions are impossible when you're traveling. Every time you stop, touch a public surface, or interact with another person there is an opportunity to be infected and to infect others with a disease you can unknowingly carry. You can leave or acquire the virus on and in restrooms, door handles, gas pumps, motel rooms, convenience stores, restaurants and countless other places. Masks help, but they are not an impervious shield. There's a reason lockdowns work to stop the spread of this disease. Extensive travel during this time is completely irresponsible.

4. It was America's great misfortune to encounter a pandemic when the country was for practical purposes without competent leadership. Trump and his spineless minions continue their disastrous COVID-19 policies, even failing to reserve enough of the highly effective (95%) Pfizer vaccine. 100 million doses or enough for 50 million people were reserved but America has a population of 328.2 million. Pfizer's offer in June 2020, which provided the option to reserve 500 million additional doses, was declined. Because supplies have since been reserved by other countries, Pfizer cannot supply more to the U.S. until June or July. Only one other similarly effective vaccine from Moderna will soon be authorized for use in the U.S., and there are no details as to what quantities will be available. Hopefully the Trump team did not screw up that purchase too. Several other vaccines are in development but so far no other candidates are as effective. A third candidate from Astra Zeneca, is said to be 62% effective when "two standard doses" are given, but mistakes were made in the trials. Higher effectivity was found when different dosing was mistakenly given to a subset of test subjects, all of whom were under 65 years old. With no way to know whether the higher effectivity was due to the age of the test subjects or the different dosage, it is not yet clear how effective the vaccine is or what dosage will be used. All of these delays and blunders mean more lives will be lost. Initially it was thought that most Americans could be vaccinated by mid-summer, but with a disastrous and uncoordinated roll out, inadequate vaccine supply, and lack of people to administer the vaccine, that may be a fantasy. Our government has nearly a year to make plans, but Trump was too busy destroying democracy to bother. So, we wait... 

Copyright 2020 Dean M. Chriss