What COVID-19 Tells Us About The US

The first case of coronavirus in the United States appeared on January 21 this year. What has the US done since then, and what does it tell us about the state of our current system? 

It might be more accurate to start with what the US FAILED to do. For example, when South Korea first heard of the coronavirus, each country prepared free testing for all. South Korea has done over 140,000 tests (including easy and safe drive-thru tests), giving them a 0.6% death rate, much more favorable than the US’s 5.7% death rate, the highest in the world, even further above mainland China’s 3.8% death rate. There are a couple reasons why the US’s coronavirus death rate is so high. First, the US only gives testing to cases that already have severe symptoms, which is a group with higher death rates. Second, testing in the US is still extremely limited. Even if someone wants to get a test, calling any relevant government office yields no results (“Try calling the other office,” “We can only help you if you’re showing severe symptoms”). When President Trump claimed that testing was widely available, he was lying. Doctors are rarely able to provide testing. It is only more recently that the threat is being taken more seriously, and testing kits are beginning to be distributed. Currently, there is still little testing available: Almost all tests yesterday were done on 58 NBA players. So why is the US so underprepared for this pandemic? Well, President Trump’s previous dissolution of the pandemic response unit and defunding of the CDC & relevant health organizations is partly responsible, but there are even more worrisome systemic issues plaguing this country. 

Most obvious: lack of healthcare for all. Medical experts recommend delaying the spread of a pandemic as much as possible because faster spreading means more patients at one time, which overloads the health systems, meaning doctors have to choose who lives and who dies. Republicans were halting the progress of a bill including paid sick leave and free testing because there is a stigma … The bill that the House passed only guarantees paid sick leave to around 20 PERCENT of American workers, because of an exception for the grand majority of companies. That exception is there because Democrats think compromising to reach a middle ground is a good idea. It’s not. It doesn’t take much time to reason this: in this case, Republicans are generally against paid sick leave under any circumstance while Democrats are generally for paid sick leave under any circumstance. The center of this would be something like giving paid sick leave to SOME people, which is obviously practically useless but basically what happened. Many politicians have been replacing discussion and understanding with compromise and strategic lies. This is concerning, but what’s more interesting is WHY this is happening, because knowing that will let us know how to solve this social crisis. It’s not that some evil villains want to destroy the world, it just comes down to the systems the US operates under. 

When the best way to work under a system is toxic to other humans, you have a faulty system. It’s faulty healthcare systems, election & governance systems, and economic systems. Why does one man now have 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer in the middle of a pandemic? Because the system is built in a way that would make that a financially wise move (until Amazon banned him from selling through their service). Why do people have to ration medication? Why do people still need to go outside to work while a virus floods the country? This trend of exploitation keeps happening because the system still hasn’t fundamentally changed, and it hurts everyone, even those at the top, though they may not realize it yet. 

Fixing these systems is a big challenge, particularly because there are many who seem to think that refusing to change is an acceptable outcome, and because the kind of change that is needed has never been seen before. However, it is through discussion and mutual understanding that we can get closer to the truth: we can improve ourselves by learning new information from others and accepting where we’re wrong. 

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