TNFro Wants You To Read…A Reflection on the Pandemic Response

Written by Hashru of Sri Lanka

Heavily Edited by Ramsha The Great of Pakistan and Felicia M. Baxter MD MBA

The numbers of new infections and death from COVID-19 seem to have slightly dropped across the nation and even my state of Tennessee. Although some rural counties are seeing a surge as the weather gets colder and people move inside to close quarters and less ventilated areas. We have states again like Tennessee and now Georgia trying to dismantle COVID mandates in some misguided attempt to loosen restrictions to force normality while a killer, COVID, still stalks us.  Lurking to kill anyone of any political party. Have our leaders failed to review the dumpster fire we called 2020, not to repeat the insanity of that period? Let’s take a look at some of the history of the pandemic(which is still going on) shall we?

The World Health Organization finally declared the “COVID 19”  epidemic last year on 11 March 2020.  At that time, its nature and severity weren’t known and therefore open to contesting claims, especially in the United States. It wasn’t long before the entire country had to undergo a complete lockdown and borders had to be closed to control its spread. The administration gave stay-at-home orders and urged the masses to practice social distancing now all with mixed messages clouding a already mistrustful public.

Countries across the world were caught off guard by the exponential spread of the virus that first emerged in Wuhan, China, and struggled to manage the social and economic fallout of lockdowns and social distancing. The biggest losses, however, were indeed the hundreds of thousands of lives that were lost, vulnerable populations, especially the elderly were quick to succumb to the virus, once being infected.

Outside of Italy, Brazil and the former Eastern bloc countries,  the United States was hit hard in this regard by the spread of COVID-19. The number of cases across the nation sky-rocketed as well as the number of those who unfortunately perished.  As of date, nearly 50 million cases and over 760,000 COVID deaths have been recorded in the United States, dwarfing those of every other country in the world. Such a tragedy raised legitimate questions of crisis management and pandemic response, the answers to those lie in trying to understand what went wrong?  

Source (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-the-u-s-pandemic-response-went-wrong-and-what-went-right-during-a-year-of-covid/)

 The conservative challenge

Even as the pandemic was spreading like wildfires in California, conservative states like South Dakota were hesitant or defiant in imposing curbs on social distancing and mask-wearing. Sturgis, although a small town  with a population of just over 7000, decided to go ahead with the annual biker rally last August and again this year, welcoming more than 250,00 bikers from across the country, no social distancing and mask-wearing contributed to this rally being a super-spreader event. This is just one of the many examples that show how quickly the virus spread last year and then this year, and indeed, it was the cumulative effect of all of these incidents that led to the current situation. A number of these contributing factors are discussed below.

Source – https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3417

Negligence of the Previous Administration

In the early days of the pandemic, the Trump administration actively downplayed the severity of its threat to public healthcare by drawing false comparisons with a mere common cold and wrong predictions of when it would end. This negligence on the part of the government played a decisive role in the initial spread of the virus.

Misinformation and false hopes were also being disseminated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as it was downplaying the severity of the pandemic, under direction of the former administration and by the time the jig was up, the damage had already been done.

The hurdles in Covid testing

The CDC was successful in developing a test for determining Covid infections but it was initially rather slow and so Covid testing couldn’t keep with the rate at which the virus was spreading across the country.

However, tests weren’t the only thing lagging, so was the approval for testing given by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to private companies. Delays in testing combined with the continued spread of the virus made it difficult to isolate people and limit contact between them.

Furthermore, what made matters worse was the criteria set for being eligible for a test in the first place. One had to be either hospitalized after exhibiting severe symptoms or had recently traveled to a high-risk area. The delays in testing and the sluggish process of actually getting tested thus increased the difficulty of contact tracing and isolating infected people before they spread the virus to others they came in contact with.

Flawed system of isolation and quarantine

Isolating and quarantining people suspected or confirmed to be carriers of COVID-19 was certainly hard in the United States. Not only were there hurdles in contact tracing as mentioned above, but isolating confirmed cases was also difficult in the absence of dedicated isolation centers as in other countries due to how they were at odds with the fundamentals of personal freedom and choice, ideals the US public hold dear, to the extent of being willing to die for upholding them.

Reluctance in wearing masks

Masks were globally touted to be effective to an extent in controlling the spread of the virus by stopping its transmission from one person to the other. However, both the WHO and CDC revised their recommendations for mask-wearing several times, often contradicting their previous guidelines. And the former  administration, in particular, was adamant on denying the effectiveness of wearing masks in public and in doing so, it turned masks into a political symbol, one that served to highlight the split between the two parties and their supporters respectively.

I wear my mask to live

The decentralized response

 The political structure of the United States was also a hurdle in coordinating a uniform pandemic response strategy. Its inherent decentralization of power left the states and local governments to their own devices as they struggled to come up with policies that would be fruitful in curbing the spread of the virus. The situation in conservative states like South Dakota mentioned, in the beginning, is a good example in this regard to highlighting the difference in policies implemented in different states, particularly those ruled by different political parties, public attitudes towards observing social distancing and limiting contact similarly varies accordingly in democratic and republican states. This lack of consensus and coordination, both on the grass-root level and the at the level of local governments, cannot be overlooked while trying to determine what went wrong in America’s response to controlling the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If conservative politicians would review the tapes, so to speak, I would hope the result would be a coordinated and transparent response to the ongoing pandemic that would lead to real progress. But dismantling public health and state rebuffing federal authority only continues to do harm. This is obvious to me. It is human wanting things to go back to the way we were, to be free to move maskless and not get vaccinated. But we can’t until this epidemic is under control.

Expression of gratitude to readers of my blog in far away countries of India, Vietnam, and Russia! I hope the words bring clarity and allow you to make well informed decisions about your and your family’s health.

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