The United States of America has surpassed over 10 million COVID-19 cases, leading health professionals to announce the situation as a humanitarian crisis. Nearly one year has passed since the first case of the virus in the US, and the country and its leaders have done a poor job at keeping the spread to a minimum, resulting in the death of over 250,000 citizens. There must be a detailed analysis on the course of action that was taken, and why it has led to the proclamation of a humanitarian crisis.
One of the biggest issues at the root of this problem is the uncertainty and confusion instilled within the country in the early stages of the pandemic. President Donald Trump initially treated the virus with very little concern in public addresses. From January until March, the connotation of his language suggested that the problem was insignificant and very much under control, all while cases grew. On February 27th, he claimed, “It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” On March 4th, with 217 confirmed cases, Trump stated, “It’s safe to fly. And large portions of the world are very safe to fly.” By March 13th, there was finally a declaration of national emergency at 2200 confirmed cases. As cases grew to the thousands, the president continued to avoid addressing the dire state of the situation and instead focused on highlighting how well the US was faring in comparison to other nations, for example praising the country for only having forty cases.
The refusal to address the public and acknowledge the dangers of the virus ahead of time, in conjunction with his own personal opinion that safety precautions like masks are not useful, led to a deep rift amongst the people of the country. Back in February, he stated that the coronavirus was a hoax created by the democratic party to use as a political advantage. Now one year later, the anti-mask movement has widely spread throughout the GOP and its followers. By ingraining this doubt of science within half the country, President Trump ensured that overcoming the pandemic will be a very difficult struggle, as anti-maskers consistently pulled back any progress that was made in the fight to flatten the curve. Therefore, not only does the existing rift between Democrats and Republicans deepen, it serves as a means for the virus to spread even more rapidly.
In this regard, the correct course of action would have been for the President to take into deep consideration the council of trained health professionals and experienced scientists rather than use the virus as a way to gain political popularity within his party. President Trump also should have acknowledged the dangerous nature of the virus much sooner than his announcement in March, but he was more concerned with what would happen to the American economy.
When American leaders kept silent until the last minute regarding the possibility of a lockdown, another major problem arose, which involved a lack of access to basic products and food. Most dried foods and basic necessities – like baby formula – disappeared from aisles at an alarmingly rapid pace. Especially for families coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, this proved to be a dire situation, as people were forced to ration their food. If the US government had addressed the possibilities sooner, citizens would have had ample time to begin drawing out a plan in which they could protect their livelihoods. Stores would also have properly stocked up on necessary items and there would not have been such a race to grab everything in sight. This barrier to food and basic necessities ended up worsening conditions for people who were already struggling to make ends meet, especially those who had multiple other individuals relying on them.
When the leaders of the United States saw that Americans would be unable to leave their house to work, the stimulus relief check was proposed. Donald Trump signed the CARES act, standing for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act which devoted nearly $2.2 trillion. Although it was a very smart idea, the execution was very poorly done. First of all, the stimulus check was only a one-time deal. That meant that people were meant to survive on a measly $1200 for the duration of lockdown, potentially even those with large families. For low-income families, this was an absolute nightmare. In addition, there were millions who either had a delay in receiving their funding or did not receive it at all.
Due to the lack of sufficient financial assistance, people were forced to continue going to work once restrictions were lifted, even though it was not safe to do so. Few could afford to stay home and there were reports of people showing up to work despite feeling ill, in order to avoid losing their jobs. Grocery stores and restaurants continued to operate, labourers essentially keeping the country together all while risking their own lives. After providing these workers with hazard pay for several weeks, many ended that policy around May. One worker from Whole Foods said anonymously in an interview, “If we are still required temperature checks and to wear face masks, why aren’t we still getting hazard?” The same employee complained that they received shirts labelled with ‘Heroes’, and that the corporation should just take the money they devoted to the shirts and give it to the workers instead. “I don’t want to be a hero, I want to be able to pay my bills.” Indeed, it feels as though these massive companies are engaging in performative acts by putting more energy into displaying to the public that they care about their workers rather than actually providing them with services that would help.
The lack of sufficient medical equipment provided to health care workers to use when treating patients was another significant dilemma. The situation worsened when citizens were informed that their taxpayer dollars that was meant to fuel the CARES act were actually funnelled into the military. The money – an approximate $1 billion – was designed to aid with existing problems like increasing the N-95 mask supply, and instead it was slipped to defense contracters to provide for body armour and jet engine parts. It is these kinds of acts commited by the U.S. leadership that has led many to believe that the number one priority is not in fact purging the country of the virus and freeing its people. The country’s primary concern is money, even at the cost of public safety. This same theme was emphasized when President Trump chose not to warn the country about the severity of the virus in an attempt to placate the people and preserve the economy.
Overall, the US leadership’s dedication to protect this sector has been weak and hesitant and it has led people like Dr. Sanjay Gupta to declare a humanitarian crisis. As the country is observing a spike of new cases, many have predicted that another lockdown is imminent while others complain that they cannot bear it. American needs its leaders to step up and take some responsibility. A second lockdown in conjunction with a realistic and sufficient stimulus check is necessary for the country to heal. Funding must be drawn from less essential sectors to allow for the health care system to properly cope with the large influx of patients. Massive corporations must experience cuts in funding and face much higher taxes in order to allow for all citizens to receive adequate financial assistance. This is about helping smaller businesses survive at the cost of shaving off the profit of larger companies. It is time for the leaders of the United States of America to shift their priorities.
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