It's 2020 and everyone in the US (and the world) has the same question. What the f*** is going on?!
Tragedy, drama and anxiety has plagued the American public throughout 2020. From the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, to the United States coming to the brink of war with Iran and to the impeachment of President Trump, the American public hasn't had a reprieve from drama this year. However, nothing has upended the way of life across the world, including the United States, as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has.
The Coronavirus has impacted the United States with the power and fury of a Mike Tyson punch. As this article is being written, 524,903 people have been infected in the US with 20,436 of those people dying. These numbers will continue to grow in the coming days and weeks.
There are two stories to this pandemic in the United States. The first is the actual disease and its devastating impact to the most vulnerable people in our society. Those who are immunocompromised, have pre-existing conditions and are senior citizens are most at risk to COVID-19. It's an absolute tragedy at the rate these people are dying and the impact it's having on their loved ones. The second story is how unprepared our government was for this pandemic. For a country as technologically advanced, rich and powerful as the United States is, it's absolutely incomprehensible for us to be as unprepared as we have been. We don't send our troops to war without the proper equipment, yet we have sent our first responders to war against this invisible enemy without basic personal protective equipment. How did this happen? How were we so unprepared? How did we let this disease ravage our country, our economy and our psyche?
The Coronavirus pandemic is a worldwide disaster that has impacted the lives of almost every single person on the planet. This disease is by no means just an issue for Americans. However, this article will focus on the impact on Americans. So buckle up and let me tell you how the World Health Organization, Chinese and US Governments failed us, the American public.
Where did the Coronavirus (COVID-19) come from?
COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan, China. The earliest case was reported in December of 2019. The virus quickly spread in Wuhan and Hubei province. Doctors and scientists in the region began ringing the alarm after they noticed how contagious, lethal and foreign this pathogen was. The virus spread to other countries in Asia in January and then found its way across Europe and the United States in January of 2020.
Let's talk about racism
Before we begin, let's get some things out of the way. If you're blaming Chinese people or people of East Asian descent for this pandemic, you're wrong and you're a racist. If you are perpetuating Asian stereotypes and believe Asians are complicit in some sort of conspiracy to spread this disease, you're ignorant and a racist.
Calling the virus the "Chinese" or "Wuhan" virus isn't racist as the virus did originate there. Many of the viruses we have heard of have had their name origins based on where they came from. The Zika Virus is named after the Zika Forest in Uganda. Ebola is named after the Ebola River in the Congo where they first discovered the virus. The West Nile Virus is named after the West Nile Area in Uganda. When the outbreak first happened, most news outlets were using the term "Chinese" or "Wuhan" Virus. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people will quickly politicize and stigmatize the words "Chinese" and "Wuhan". In addition, we have ignorant folks who will see those two words and use it as an excuse to inflict harm on Chinese people and people of East Asian descent. Because of this, it's important society stays away from those two words so that these stereotypes aren't continuously perpetuated. This is why you should be calling the virus, the Coronavirus or COVID-19.
So how did the Chinese Government fail Americans? They're not obligated to "help" Americans
If you are blaming the Chinese government for withholding information that could have prevented the further spread of this disease; the same government that has rounded up and tortured millions of Uyghurs and put them into religious conversion camps; the same government that denies human rights to the people of Tibet; the same government that violated the rights of millions of protestors in Hong Kong; the same government that denies Taiwan exists; the same government that limits freedom of speech, then that would not make you a racist. That would make you correct.
In December of 2019, when the disease first appeared in Wuhan, Dr, Li Wenliang was a doctor who treated several patients who had developed the coronavirus. At the time, it was unknown what this disease was. Dr. Li wrote to several of his medical school colleagues about a virus he had treated with unknown origins. His message began circulating on Chinese forums across the Internet. Four days later, the doctor was ordered to go to the police station and remain silent. The government was forcing him to keep silent on his findings and observations. Sadly, Dr. Li passed away after contracting the virus himself. He was only 33 years old.
Throughout this entire ordeal, the Chinese government has continuously withheld information to the general public and has silenced those who have tried to ring the alarm. In addition to Dr. Li Wenliang, the Chinese government has silenced several other prominent voices who tried to warn society of this unknown pathogen. Caixin Global, a Beijing based publication, detailed disturbing actions by the Chinese government in the early stages of the disease. Regional health officials in Wuhan ordered lab samples of the coronavirus and analysis of how the disease was mapped to be destroyed. In addition, Chinese officials denied in the first several weeks that the virus could be spread human to human even though doctors on the ground were warning the virus was spreading human to human rapidly.
As the disease spread like wildfire, the general public in China began criticizing the governments response and lack of transparency. Fearing his grip on power, President Xi Jinping and his communist government began silencing those who dared to speak out against the government. Chinese billionaire, Ren Zhiqiang disappeared after calling the President a "clown" and criticizing the governments inability to contain the virus. Two citizen journalists, Fang Bin and Chen Qiush, disappeared after they posted videos online detailing the carnage that was occurring in Wuhan.
China has no obligation to help Americans but they do have a moral and humanitarian duty to be transparent in a moment like this. The information the Chinese government gave to the world impacted the lack of response by most governments, China has continuously underreported their total cases and deaths. The United States, Italy and Spain shockingly have more confirmed cases than China. It simply does not make sense. Had the correct data been presented, many response teams across the world, including the United States, would have understood the magnitude of this virus. Many knew the situation was serious but they did not know the scale of what was happening. You can only respond and react to the data that you are provided and have.
The Chinese Government's obsession with holding on to power and to be a top geopolitical superpower caused them to lie to their people and the world. The reputation of the Chinese government and their economy was more important to them than to create a transparent and humanitarian response to this deadly unknown pathogen.
What is the World Health Organization (WHO)?
The WHO is an agency within the United Nations that is responsible for International health. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the WHO was founded in 1948. It's core missions include monitoring public health risks and coordinating responses to health emergencies.
The WHO is currently led by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian born microbiologist. In Ethiopia, Tedros was the Minister of Health from 2005-2012 and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2012-2016. He was elected Director-General of the WHO in 2017, garnering 133 out of the 185 votes.
How did the WHO fail Americans and for that matter, the world?
Throughout the entire ordeal, the WHO has been slow to respond. In addition, they have repeatedly let the Chinese government off the hook or gone along with their propaganda. The WHO's constant downplaying of the disease led to a false sense of security throughout the world.
January 8th, despite conducting no information on their own and hearing about conflicting reports on the ground from Chinese medical officials, the WHO released a statement that benefited the Chinese economy. Part of their statement read "WHO does not recommend any specific measures for travelers. WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on China based on the information currently available."
January 14th, the WHO tweeted there was no evidence of human to human transmission of the Coronavirus. This was the same narrative the Chinese government was touting in the first few days of the pandemic. What evidence did the WHO have? Did they conduct their own investigations? How could they have taken the word of President Xi Jinping's government after it had stifled the WHO's requests to send a team in on January 6th?
January 22nd, General-Director Tedros praised the Chinese governments response to the virus. This comment was made despite knowing the messaging coming out of China was not forthright, specifically on human to human transmission. The WHO decides to NOT declare this a public health emergency.
January 30, the WHO declares the events happening in China and throughout the world a Public Health Emergency, weeks after the disease had already spread to other countries.
January 31st, President Trump bans travel to and from China and all foreign nationals who had traveled to China within the past two weeks. Tedros, echoing Chinese authorities, denounced the decision, claiming it would “have the effect of increasing fear and stigma, with little public health benefit.” The Chinese government did not want this to affect their economy. Travel and trade restrictions would affect their economy, hence why they vehemently were against any restrictions. Speaking hand in hand with the WHO, Chinese officials speaking on the travel bans stated “all these measures are seriously against recommendation by the WHO.”
March 11th, the WHO finally declares COVID-19 a pandemic. A declaration made when they clearly saw China was not able to contain the virus within their borders despite imposing a lockdown of Hubei province on January 23rd.
You talk a lot. Please summarize briefly how the WHO's slow response led to an escalation of this pandemic
By downplaying the severity of the issue, the WHO gave a false sense of security to the world. In addition, they acted as PR of the Chinese government. They constantly re-iterated the talking points coming out of Beijing. From the denial of human to human transmissions to criticizing common sense travel restrictions. Not once has the WHO brought up China's incorrect reporting of their official cases and deaths.
It's been reported General-Director Tedros was the candidate China wanted to lead the WHO in 2017. This can't be verified so it won't be talked about at length but the biggest piece of evidence that shows the WHO is working hand in hand with the Chinese government is its treatment of Taiwan.
Taiwan as of this writing has only 388 cases of COVID-19 with only 6 deaths. An absolutely incredible number considering proximity and the interdependence with mainland China. They have successfully contained the disease from the lessons they learned from the SARS epidemic in 2003. Yet, at a WHO conference in January, Taiwan was banned from attending. This is after they notified the WHO about COVID-19 and the potential it had to be extremely dangerous. China is extremely hostile to Taiwan and does not recognize its elected officials. The WHO bent its will to the Chinese and barred Taiwan from participating in any conversations about COVID-19 even though they have demonstrated how to contain the virus and have had experience from the SARS epidemic in 2003.
Is the US Government excused for their response to the pandemic?
There is absolutely no excuse why nurses have to wear garbage bags to protect themselves as they try to save lives. There is no excuse why doctors are forced to buy PPE on the black market at 400% markups. There is no excuse why people making minimum wage stocking grocery shelves aren't afforded PPE as they go to work without healthcare trying to make sure the rest of Americans have food on the table. There is no excuse why every American can't be assured they will be able to get tested if they are sick or if they are forced to go back to work once all the lockdowns are lifted.
The response by the US Government started off as a total disaster.
How did the federal government respond?
As the coronavirus ravaged China and began taking a hold of countries in Europe such as Italy and Spain, President Trump continuously downplayed the threat. Despite briefings in January of a pending crisis, the President believed they had it under control. At a campaign rally in South Carolina in late February, the President now famously said the Democrats criticism of his response to the coronavirus was their new hoax. He did not call the coronavirus a hoax but their criticism of it a hoax. On March 9, four days before he declared a national emergency, the President tweeted about how the Coronavirus was similar to the flu, not understanding how the virus would inundate the healthcare system because of how contagious and lethal it was compared to the flu.
In 2018, President Trump disbanded the Pandemic Response Team which resided under the National Security Council. The team was set up by President Obama's administration back in 2015. It is true the team was disbanded but some of those officials were put onto other teams. John Bolton, the former National Security Advisor under President Trump, claims the team was disbanded and streamlined into other teams under the National Security Council.
The federal government initially had failed to come up with a centralized response to the pandemic. After downplaying the virus until it was too late, the Trump Administration created a Coronavirus Task Force led by Vice President Pence. The task force now includes the household names of Dr Fauci, Dr Birx and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, just to name a few people.
The federal government failed to replenish the national stockpile of basic personal protective equipment, including medical masks, face shields, aprons and ventilators. The coronavirus was first briefed to the President back in January but the government failed to coordinate a response then. The CDC failed to produce quality tests to detect the virus and didn't lift restrictions quick enough for private labs to create tests on their own. The federal government also delayed its power to enact the Defense Production Act which forces companies to create vital supplies during a time of war and make no mistake, this is a time of war. State governments requesting equipment were told to purchase on their own. The problem in the beginning was that states began bidding against each other only to be outbid by the federal government, the same entity that told them to go get equipment on their own. There are hundreds of examples of incompetence of the federal government but it would take a novel to write about them all.
Are state and local governments excused?
Just like the federal government, state and local governments deserve some blame too. From Mayor Bill De Blasio of New York telling New Yorkers to go about your lives as normal in early March to Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida refusing to close the beaches, state and local officials have their fair share of blame as well.
Is the world ending? Because if it is, no one told me
No, the world is not ending and soon, we will step out of our homes and be reminded how awesome the little things are, like the new Popeyes Chicken Sandwich or not beating the shit out of your neighbor for toilet paper (don't do that, its a joke).
But clearly, this pandemic has shown us how broken our government and healthcare system is. For a country that spends nearly ONE TRILLION dollars a year on defense, we sure do lack defense against a healthcare crisis. To fully blame President Trump and our government would be incorrect. The coronavirus is not their fault. Their lack of a more serious and urgent response can be partially attributed to the lack of correct data that was given by China and the WHO,
But make no mistake about it. We must hold our officials accountable, at the federal, state and local levels for the utter chaos that has ensued. Sixteen million have filed for unemployment and that will rise, the stock market has lost more than 20% of its value, and the psyche of this nation has been crushed. We must ask ourselves is this the best we and our government can do? With all the money that richest nation on Earth generates, is protecting our nurses with garbage bags the best we can do?