By Debora Buerk on an article reported in The Atlantic magazine by Ed Yong on August 4, 2020
“How did it come to this? A virus a thousand times smaller than a dust mote has humbled and humiliated the planet’s most powerful nation. America has failed to protect its people, leaving them with illness and financial ruin. It has lost its status as a global leader. It has careened between inaction and ineptitude. The breadth and magnitude of its errors are difficult, in the moment, to truly fathom.”Ed Yong
Ed Yong, a science writer at The Atlantic, published an eye-opening news story about how the U.S. has responded to the Coronavirus pandemic. In “How the Pandemic Defeated America–A virus has brought the world’s most powerful nation to its knees” Yong writes, “Despite ample warning, the U.S. squandered every possible opportunity to control the coronavirus.”
As of today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, the U.S. has 4,802,491 cases of the virus and of that 53,685 new cases since yesterday. Furthermore, 157,631 people have died–1,320 yesterday, August 5.
The global stats are equally staggering. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports as of August 6:
|Globally||18,354,342 cases |
(206,709 new since yesterday)
|696,147 deaths |
(5,116more since yesterday)
|Africa||834,147 cases (8,875)||14,750 deaths (611)|
|Americas||9,841,842 cases (100,115)||367,934 deaths (2,600)|
|Eastern Mediterranean||1,585,458 cases (10,907)||41,601 deaths (399)|
|Europe||3,451,556 cases (21,623)||214,731 deaths (476)|
|South-East Asia||2,299,433 cases (56,777)||48 569 deaths (995)|
|Western Pacific||341,165 cases (8,412)||8,549 deaths (35)|
The facts speak for themselves. The Americas have by far the highest numbers–approximately half of the global total cases and deaths. How can the wealthiest country in the world –not the most populous–have such staggering numbers?
Yong states in his article a multitude of causes that lead to the country’s inadequate response to the virus. But, more so, Yong offers this dire warning:
“Despite its epochal effects, COVID‑19 is merely a harbinger of worse plagues to come. The U.S. cannot prepare for these inevitable crises if it returns to normal, as many of its people ache to do. Normal led to this. Normal was a world ever more prone to a pandemic but ever less ready for one. To avert another catastrophe, the U.S. needs to grapple with all the ways normal failed us. It needs a full accounting of every recent misstep and foundational sin, every unattended weakness and unheeded warning, every festering wound and reopened scar.”
Yong also points out, “Rather than countering misinformation during the pandemic, trusted sources often made things worse.”
Renée DiResta of the Stanford Internet Observatory, who studies the flow of online information, points out, “In every outbreak throughout the existence of social media, from Zika to Ebola, conspiratorial communities immediately spread their content about how it’s all caused by some government or pharmaceutical company or Bill Gates.”
“And at the center of that confusion is Donald Trump.”
Yong continues: “During a pandemic, leaders must rally the public, tell the truth, and speak clearly and consistently. Instead, Trump repeatedly contradicted public-health experts, his scientific advisers, and himself. He said that ‘nobody ever thought a thing like [the pandemic] could happen’ and also that he ‘felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.’ Both statements cannot be true at the same time, and in fact neither is true.”
In his conclusion, Yong urges:
“COVID‑19 is an assault on America’s body, and a referendum on the ideas that animate its culture. Recovery is possible, but it demands radical introspection. America would be wise to help reverse the ruination of the natural world, a process that continues to shunt animal diseases into human bodies. It should strive to prevent sickness instead of profiting from it. It should build a health-care system that prizes resilience over brittle efficiency, and an information system that favors light over heat. It should rebuild its international alliances, its social safety net, and its trust in empiricism. It should address the health inequities that flow from its history. Not least, it should elect leaders with sound judgment, high character, and respect for science, logic, and reason.”
What are we to make of Yong’s article? For me, it’s a call to action for everyone to fact check–including all citizens. Furthermore, it’s a cautionary tale to consider whom Americans elect as their national leader carefully. Please read the article in full and decide where you want to lead us into this uncertain future. Most importantly, vote!
Debora Ragland Buerk
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