Being a health pandemic, the first house of cards to fall behind America’s glossy façade was the health system.
For most fellow followers of TV series like House and Grey’s Anatomy
or movies like Contagion,
Hollywood had made us believe that should a virus outbreak occur, the American health system, security apparatus and valiant heroes would swing into action and save the world. That was before Donald Trump became president and handling a real pandemic.
In one of his latest attempts to downplay the devastating effects Covid-19 has wrought on America, one of Trump’s tweets on March 26 read, “...if I hadn’t done my job well, and early, we would have lost 1.5 to two million people, as opposed to the 100,000 plus…”
With a population slightly above 330 million people, losing 100,000 people to the pandemic might look like an achievement as Trump wants to put it but it is not lost on us that China, with a population of 1.3 billion people has so far recorded only 4,634 deaths.
With the advent of the virus, the socio-economic turmoil in America over centuries has finally imploded. The country’s handling of the virus has exacerbated the inequalities in American society, taking a disparate toll on low-income Americans, people of colour and others already marginalised before the crisis.
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Being a health pandemic, the first house of cards to fall behind America’s glossy façade was the health system, which has been ravaged despite the country spending up to $175 billion in to cover the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak.
Who would have thought that the leading economy in the world which spends more than 17 per cent of its GDP on healthcare would have a problem providing basic medical supplies like protective gear for its health workers and kits to carry out mass tests?
With a healthcare system that heavily relies on insurance, a corporate entity that is driven by profits, cases of the poor not getting help once infected due to lack of insurance are spiraling out of control in the US. This is the reason why minorities in America and especially African Americans are some of the worst affected by Covid-19. Many African Americans live in areas that make it difficult to maintain social-distancing and endure higher levels of medical conditions like diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure.
Another pointedly ineffective aspect of the US economy that has been brought to the fore by the pandemic is the lack of social security for American workers. Unlike some leading economies in Europe and Asia, the US doesn’t require employers to grant sick leave and paid time-off to its workers.
As a result, 30 million Americans have filed initial unemployment claims since mid-March, according to the US Department of Labor. With low-wage workers mostly made of minorities being vulnerable to layoffs during this time, the pandemic has laid bare the fact that America’s system for providing unemployment aid isn’t generous or efficient enough to subsidise wages or provide safeguards to limit layoffs.
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The other blow the virus has dealt on the superpower image is the lack of leadership both on the global stage and back at home. When President Trump instructed his administration to temporarily halt funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic in April, majority of world leaders termed it as a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating Covid-19 easier.
Despite Trump seeking a scapegoat, the rising numbers of infections and deaths tell a different story. Unlike China which imposed its first lockdown one day after the WHO said there was evidence of human-to-human transmission in Wuhan on January 22, the Trump administration waited until mid-March to start introducing social distancing rules and purchasing large quantities of medical supplies.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. The coronavirus pandemic has been nothing short of an eye opener and it is now clear to see who was forearmed, and it is definitely not the US.
-The author is a freelance writer. [email protected]