Let’s go a bit back in time and visit the day of January 22, 2020. Do you know why this day? Well, that’s because it was the day when the USA got its first Coronavirus patient. The first case in the USA was followed by downplay and ignorance by the US President as well as by the bureaucracy. They repeatedly told the world that the situation was under control and that the US had lower risk of this infection.
Now, let’s come back to the present day (March 31, 2020), and the US has over 164,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, by far the highest in the world. Not only that, but more than 3100 people have already died because of it. Just a day before, the US President made the statement that keeping US Covid-19 deaths to 100,000 would be a ‘very good job.’
If you compare these two scenarios, it’s crystal clear that this has been a story of a failure , a gigantic failure. No, I’m not attacking the president or want to get into the politics of it but this has been a failure of the most powerful nation on the earth. And we have every reason to learn from this failure example, or exemplary failure if I should call it.
Wilful Negligence at its Deadliest
Going by various reports in the media, the intelligence had been warning the government of such a breakout since 2017 so that the country can prepare for such a challenge. In fact, in worldwide threat assessment in 2017 and 2018, the agencies even warned about an outbreak of a close cousin of coronavirus.
The worldwide threat assessment 2019 by Director of National Intelligence had clearly mentioned of such a pandemic. “We assess that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support,” it said.
Unfortunately, all of this was neglected.
On January 5, World health organization (WHO) announced this outbreak. As per the reports, the US Intelligence agencies had been warning the federal government about the potential threat of this infection. After almost two weeks of this announcement, Alex Azar – the secretary of health and human services – was trying to convince Donald Trump of the seriousness of Coronavirus. Not only that, but intelligence agencies had been warning of such a virus outbreak since 2017.
The thing about negligence is that it turns into actions before you even know it. In early February, when countries like South Korea were investing in testing kits on a war basis, the USA shockingly continued with its ignorance and didn’t approve tests that were in use in other countries. This delayed the most effective weapon against such a pandemic: testing.
The USA Paying Price for Not Doing Large-Scale Testing
Today, when almost the whole world is struggling against this invisible enemy, South Korea has more or less won the war against it. It did this on the back of actions that had the word “war” written all over it. Within a week of its first case, South Korea summoned 20 private companies and told them to develop a test at a blazing fast speed.
Just a week after that summit, the first diagnostic test was approved and the country began the battle by testing people on a large-scale. This was the only way we could come closer to the reality so that we can deal with it accordingly.
On the other hand, the world’s most powerful government had other ideas. After the first case, Donald Trump was asked about it and he said, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming from China. It’s going to be just fine.” The difference in both these responses speaks volumes.
The Trump administration refused to take any concrete actions against this threat for more than a month after the first case on January 22. Although the government did impose an early ban to stop any travellers from China, the denial of the situation was clearly seen in actions and words. On February 29, the government allowed laboratories and hospitals to conduct their own Covid-19 tests.
Till early March, large-scale testing of people didn’t take place. You can blame technical flaws, regulatory hurdles, bureaucracy and many more reasons but most important of all, it was the lack of intention from the federal government.
And in spite of being miles behind the eight ball, they didn’t test people anywhere near the speed with which it was required. South Korea has tested five-times more people per million compared to the USA.
Testing unearthed the reality that the whole world was afraid of, as the cases started exploding on a daily basis. To control the situation, the government had to impose a nation-wide lockdown but it was too late. By the time government came to its senses, the entire situation had become a benchmark in dealing with pandemic. Not only the testing kits, but the lack of ventilators and personal protection equipments was another issue.
Today, the USA has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world, and many experts have predicted the situation to go much worse.
Ron Klain, who served as the United States Ebola response coordinator said, “The US response will be studied for generations as a textbook example of a disastrous, failed effort. What’s happened in Washington has been a fiasco of incredible proportions.”
In future, when the Covid-19 will be discussed by our future generations, they’ll be shocked to learn that the World’s richest country with the most advanced technologies and the most scholar scientists couldn’t stop something that many had warned them before.
You can see this disaster in terms of politics or a bureaucratic disaster, but there’s something we all can learn from this. On a personal level, it teaches us of the foreseen and unforeseen failures that will come in life. If we all could introspect a bit, this pandemic has a big lesson for us to learn. You don’t need to be smartest or the richest to know how to face failure in life. All you need is dedication to reality and willpower, just like South Korea has exemplified – something that all of us can learn from failure examples.