By Julia Poole, Staff Writer
// As the Coronavirus spreads across the world, governments scramble to provide enough support for patients and fearful public. With the virus invading a total of 196 countries and affecting 416,200 people, many citizens want to prevent the spread from becoming a Bubonic Plague level disaster.
Like other coronaviruses, it originated from animals. The first cases of the virus originated in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the center of Wuhan, China. According to the New York Times, health officials discovered a total of 81,218 cases in China alone.
The symptoms of the Coronavirus mimic that of less-threatening illnesses: respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties, which is part of why so many people are mistaking the common cold for the Coronavirus. However, what makes this virus stand out is that it can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and, for about 18,903 people so far, death.
With roughly 44,000 cases and counting in the United States, the U.S. government failed in its first attempt to combat this pandemic. Many countries developed accurate test kits and mass-distributed them to locate those affected and prevent them from spreading it further.
According to BBC News, South Korea created a test and designed a network of 96 public and private laboratories in only 17 days. The South Koreans acted urgently so as not to repeat the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) experience in 2015. Because the South Korean government immediately allowed four private companies to develop their own test kits, they have the capacity to test 140,000 samples per week.
This approach has effectively kept the death rate very low in South Korea. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the fatality rate in South Korea is 0.7%, compared to a global fatality rate of 3.4%.
The U.S. reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Jan. 21. In the U.S., however, commercial or state labs only received the approval to use their own tests on Feb. 29, and until two weeks ago, the number of tests that could be run per day in the United States was limited to around 7,000.
According to ProPublica, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refused to use the WHO’s test kit and insisted that they develop a more complicated version themselves. In the first week of February, the CDC issued test kits that contained a faulty reagent, which provided unreliable test results. People who had the Coronavirus believed they were healthy, and vice-versa. As a result, local officials could not undergo “surveillance testing” of hundreds of people in contaminated areas and severely hindered the government’s ability to contain the virus.
According to Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in pandemics, the U.S. had hardly started testing anyone and was extremely behind as of Feb. 26, which means that we could not determine where the virus was spreading in underlying communities.
The President of the United States does not seem to understand the severity of the situation. According to CBS News, during a visit to the CDC, President Trump wrongly addressed the availability of test kits.
“Anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful,” said President Trump.
This spurred the nation’s top expert on infectious disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci, to say it is a “failing” that the U.S. is not in a position to “easily” provide testing for the novel Coronavirus.
When the United States declared the virus a public health emergency on Jan. 31, it required the FDA’s “emergency use approval” for any tests, which makes it more difficult for private labs to distribute their own test kits.
“The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that,” said Fauci.
And people are noticing the government’s failure to act. A growing number of Americans do not believe that the federal government is equipped to handle the coronavirus outbreak, according to a new Insider poll. 50% of Americans who were polled on Friday and Saturday said the federal government was not prepared for coronavirus cases in the U.S., which increased from the 40% two weeks ago. This poll indicates that Americans are losing confidence in our government’s ability to combat the virus, as President Trump only initiated measures when the number of cases in the United States surpassed 2,000.
According to Fact Check, Trump did attempt to combat the virus with a travel “ban” that prohibited non-U.S. citizens, other than the immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, who have traveled to China within the last two weeks from entering the U.S. However, the “ban” placed no restrictions on U.S. citizens coming back from China.
“There’s no reason to expect that allowing U.S. citizens to come in, as opposed to foreign nationals from China, would not bring the virus in. The virus doesn’t care what passport you’re carrying,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York City.
So what does the government need to do? The critical stages of containing the virus have passed, but there are still several things that we can do to stabilize the number of cases and alleviate the pressure off hospitals.
The government passed several measures since that have helped pick up the slack from the initial reaction. Testing has surged to about 8,200 per day, according to the Washington Post. The New York Times reports that states and cities ordered 158 million Americans to stay home during a nation-wide “social distancing” program.
But the government still needs to devote more resources towards producing enough health care equipment for hospitals and healthcare workers and converting other businesses to make the equipment. The government also needs to provide an economic stimulus for people who have no money or savings, as well as subsidies for small businesses to keep them afloat.
We need to invest more resources into finding a vaccine, which could take 18 months at the current speed. According to the New York Times, without government intervention and strict implementation of the “social-distancing” policy, there could be a total of 2.2 million U.S. deaths.
We need to mobilize resources to the hotspots for building temporary hospitals and expanding hospital beds. We need to utilize convention centers and hotels as makeshift hospitals. We need to treat every human life as our own and support others in this crisis. BBC News reports that in London, the government offered about 300 hotel rooms to the homeless, who are significantly more likely to have underlying health conditions or be able to follow Public Health England advice on self-isolation, social distancing, and handwashing.
Lastly, it is up to each and every one of us to ensure our safety and follow the guidelines put forth by healthcare professionals. Heed the orders to limit extensive travel and social contact, with extra care in preventing the spread of germs to the elderly. In this time of turmoil, do not despair. This is not the end of the world, but merely a test of the human character. As we all sit alone in our houses, we stand together.