Opinion: How the world's sole superpower became the pandemic's epicenter

Source: Xinhua| 2020-05-06 15:30:24|Editor: huaxia

Photo taken on May 4, 2020 shows Times Square in New York, the United States. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

Three reasons for the United States to become the worst-hit country during a global pandemic:

- Negligence at the beginning of the outbreak by the decision-makers in Washington

- The fear in the White House that social-distancing actions could harm the economy, and in turn cost the presidential election in November

- The United States' public healthcare system is severely ill-funded and the administration only wants to spend less on it

by Xinhua writer Zhang Xin

BEIJING, May 6 (Xinhua) -- In a heart-wrenching move, the U.S. federal government recently ordered 100,000 new body bags for what it feared the "worst-case" scenario as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage through the United States.

The situation in what is now the world's epicenter for the pandemic has already become utterly calamitous, with over 1.2 million infections and more than 70,000 deaths so far. The latest body bag order suggests a possible turn for the worse.

Few across the globe could predict such chaos for the world's sole superpower. The word "botched" is widely used by western media in describing Washington's response to the pandemic.

Negligence in the nascent days of the outbreak by the decision-makers in Washington is considered one of the major causes.

Marine One carrying U.S. President Donald Trump takes off from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua)

There is now plenty of unambiguous evidence showing that the U.S. administration had been warned repeatedly about the virus since late last year by its own intelligence sources and cabinet officials, U.S. medical scientists working at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organization, and the Chinese government.

Unfortunately, it took several months for the White House to begin imposing rigorous federal measures after the country confirmed its first case in late January. During these long weeks in between, Washington not only pretended these red flags did not exist, but also tried to play down the severity of the pandemic and misinformed the American public that the disease was a "flu," and that everything was under control.

The fear in the White House that social-distancing actions could harm the economy, which in turn might cost the incumbent administration the coming presidential election in November, also played a crucial role in the government's botched approach to the disease, experts said.

The administration has seemingly set up a trap for itself. Since coming into power in 2017, it has been bragging about its successful economic policies and touting the country's solid stock market gains, thus promoting a tricky logic: since it takes the credit for a booming economy, it should naturally be held accountable if the economy goes south.

People have fun at Washington Square Park in New York, the United States, as the temperature rises on May 3, 2020. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Xinhua)

Facing a tanking, withering economy and skyrocketing jobless claims, the U.S. administration has grown increasingly restless, and is trying hard to push for reopening the economy though many scientists and medical experts have voiced their concerns over a hasty removal of social-distancing measures.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and key figure in the U.S. administration's coronavirus task force, cautioned last week that local leaders would be taking "a really significant risk" of prematurely loosening social distancing restrictions.

According to some internal documents obtained by the U.S. media outlet NBC News, the White House coronavirus task force members remain worried about insufficient coronavirus testing, and a possible "catastrophic resurgence" of the pathogen.

That brings us to a third and more deep-rooted cause for Washington's failure to limit the virus' spread: its ill-funded public healthcare system. The United States is the world's only developed economy without a universal healthcare system. In 2018, there were 27.9 million Americans without health insurance. And according to a new West Health and Gallup poll, one in seven Americans said they would not seek medical care even if they have key symptoms over concerns of high financial cost.

A man wearing a mask walks on the side walk near the White House in Washington D.C., the United States on April 30, 2020. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua)

What's worse is that the current U.S. administration has tried to further undermine the country's public health system. The White House has proposed in its budget for fiscal year 2021 to cut 850 billion U.S. dollars in Medicare and 920 billion in Medicaid over the next decade in the name of reducing its deficit, according to a report by the Washington Post. In 2018, it disbanded the National Security Council's pandemic response team.

According to a New York Times report last month, the White House allowed a contract with a firm maintaining the government's stockpile of emergency, life-saving medical devices to expire last summer, and a new firm did not begin taking form until late January because of a contracting dispute. All of this made the problem of insufficient medical equipment like ventilators even worse.

Taking a closer look at such deficiencies sets the record straight on why the United States has been so hard hit by the pandemic.

For decision-makers in the White House, they need to understand that their propensity to blame others for their own mistakes cannot make the virus miraculously disappear. They ought to face the facts and join others worldwide in good faith in this arduous fight against the deadly disease. The time has come to summon that courage.