The pandemic has revealed an uncomfortable truth about America.
We are horribly ill-prepared in a crisis. We are disgustingly self-serving. And we are bitterly divided.
Unfortunately, our continuous descent into obscurity is no fault but our own.
Here are 10 ways the United States has completely failed in its response to the pandemic.
Senators Prioritizing Stocks Over Human Lives
In late January to early February, four U.S. senators were involved in significant stock sales ahead of the stock market dive.
The unusual sales happened within days after they have received sensitive briefings regarding the threat of the coronavirus outbreak, most of which were non-public information.
Senators Feinstein and Inhofe are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, with Senator Burr as chairman. Furthermore, Senator Loeffler is married to the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.
This deeply concerning behavior from public servants highlights capitalistic greed in America.
They have held briefings as early as January, and these senators knew the gravity of the situation.
Their mandate is to protect the public’s health and interests. But instead, they prioritized their interests ahead of their people.
It is argued that many lives could’ve been saved if the threat of the coronavirus wasn’t initially downplayed by the Trump administration.
BBC News reported a study that estimated 36,000 fewer coronavirus-related deaths had the U.S. entered lockdown a week earlier in March.
Moreover, Columbia University also estimated that around 83% of deaths could have been avoided if measures had been taken two weeks earlier.
The Hoarding of Essential Necessities
After the first reported cases of the coronavirus, the U.S. government started implementing restrictions nationwide. This caused Americans to plunge into a deep frenzied state of panic-buying necessities, most of which was toilet paper.
The mass panic can be attributed not only to the lack of governance by the U.S. officials but also most notably, the lack of consideration by the American people.
“It just felt so strange for shelves to be empty and people fighting over food. People were grabbing food out of people’s hands at the frozen section.”
— Ruth Hrubala, from an article on the Washington Post
When supermarkets and supply stores descend into a free-for-all, Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” emerges. Therefore, the hoarding phenomenon became a testament to people’s inability to think of others.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be able to care and protect for your own, but it also shouldn’t be at the expense of people who have less than you.
The pandemic threatened across-the-board. The least we could do is make necessities accessible for everyone.
Price Gouging From Coronavirus Opportunists
Two brothers made headlines after The New York Times reported their stockpile of 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer. They were notorious for selling their supply at $70, a price significantly higher than what they had originally bought them for.
Price-gouging, or the charging of unreasonable prices for essential goods or services in direct response to a disaster, is prohibited in Tennessee, the state where the brothers reside.
“Disrupting necessary supplies during an unprecedented pandemic is a serious offense. It became clear during our investigation that the Colvins realized this, and their prompt cooperation and donation led to an outcome that actually benefited some consumers.”
— Herbert H. Slatery III, Tennessee’s Attorney General
Under the terms of their settlement, they have avoided prosecution and a fine, but they will remain unreimbursed for the thousands of dollars they spent on hoarding.
Instead, the brothers have agreed to donate the supplies for distribution to local emergency responders.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first incident on price-gouging during the pandemic.
A month before the brothers’ offense, a man from Brooklyn reportedly stockpiled 192,000 N95 respirators, 130,000 surgical masks, and nearly 600,000 medical-grade gloves — enough to supply an entire hospital.
Incidents such as these pose a serious threat to a society that is attempting to combat a major health disaster.
These are clear examples of greed and self-service that benefit no one else other than its perpetrators. Acts like these are deplorable, especially in the context of a pandemic.
Spring Breakers Failing to Understand the Severity of the Pandemic
“If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not gonna let it stop me from partying.”
— Brady Sluder, a spring breaker in Miami
This infamous statement went viral after Florida was left open during the spring break season amidst coronavirus threats.
He was only one out of the thousands of people who flocked to Florida last March.
“The coronavirus was definitely on everybody’s mind but at the time, we thought, ‘Let’s not lose all this money.’”
— David Anzarouth, another spring breaker
Others have stated the same reasons for refusing to halt their vacation plans, some even citing that it was because they were looking forward to it.
There is a danger that inhibits this type of mentality. It reeks of ignorance that can only be brought by the lack of empathy for others.
It is one thing to be reckless about your own well-being. But it is another thing when you are also being reckless about the lives of others.
Your selfishness is not only a threat to yourself but especially to the ones who are vulnerable.
Consequently, spring breakers have expressed regret for their actions, with Brady Sluder posting a lengthy apology on his Instagram.
But it came belatedly with the virus already widespread.
The New York Times reports that “the exact number of people who returned from leisure trips to Florida with the coronavirus may never be known.”
Doctors Hoarding Potential Treatments for COVID-19
After Donald Trump endorsed chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as potential treatments for COVID-19, doctors reportedly hoarded the medication.
This endorsement only came from information on a limited study that involved anti-malaria drugs and antibiotics.
However, according to North Carolina’s Board of Pharmacy, “Prescriptions were being issued by prescribers for themselves and family members, and for persons who have not been exposed to or infected by the Covid-19 virus.”
As a consequence, the claim posed problems for Americans suffering from lupus. Hydroxychloroquine is used by lupus patients to treat joint inflammation.
But because of the rapid shortages, patients were unable to pick-up their supplies.
“There is no evidence yet to suggest that hydroxychloroquine or anti-malarials are protective or prevent against Covid-19 infections, so people who are not already taking this medication do not need to start on it now.”
— Dr. Saira Sheikh, director of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Rheumatology Lupus Clinic
Dr. Barnett, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, points out that it is a powerful medicine that has serious side effects.
Caution should be exercised in any drug unless there’s already a known benefit. Otherwise, it is best to leave it for those who are in dire need of it.
At a time of crisis, there is no room for unwarranted and baseless proclamations. More than ever, the country needs facts and evidence and should encourage deep analysis rather than limited findings.
Furthermore, should the drugs prove their merit, a doctor’s instinct shouldn’t involve taking away from those in need but instead render their service to others.
Companies Neglecting Their Essential Workers
“I’m really afraid because I am 62 years old, I have problem with asthma and if I get the virus I don’t think my body will receive it because I am old, I really don’t want to die. I’m not ready to die.”
— Maria Chavez, “essential worker”
The coronavirus outbreak has also revealed the mistreatment and underappreciation of our “essential workers.”
In the current context, essential work is considered “necessary to meet the basic needs of human survival — food, health, safety, and cleaning.”
Unlike the traditional essential workers, such as first responders who have access to personal protective equipment, these workers are forced to face the public without any protective gear from their respective companies.
These are typically the low-wage workers with no paid sick leave, and inaccessibility to health insurance. These are our food deliverers, mail carriers, and grocery cashiers.
According to ABC News, “Nationally, there have been more than two dozen grocery workers who have died of the novel coronavirus.”
It is ironic how the lowest-paid workers in society are the ones doing the most during this time of crisis.
These people in the front lines work to sustain the rest of society. This means providing equal access to compensation and protection.
When they are labeled as essential workers, they should also be treated as such.
People Refusing to Wear a Face Mask Because It Is Their “Right”
“I don’t wear a mask for the same reason I don’t wear underwear, things gotta breathe.”
— unidentified Florida woman during a meeting at the Palm Beach County Commissioners
This is just one sentiment from the many people who vehemently believe that wearing a mask “encroaches on their civil liberties.”
There are two types of people that have emerged after the spread of the coronavirus — the mask-wearers who value the lives of others, and the non-mask wearers who don’t.
Numerous studies have shown that wearing masks are effective in preventing the spread of the virus.
Furthermore, government authorities have released a mandate on the requirement of masks while healthcare professionals have continuously squashed the beliefs that masks obstruct our breathing.
But there is no amount of data-backed claims and figures of authority that could sway people who simply have no regard for others but themselves.
They cry foul and claim that it is within their rights not to wear one. However, it shouldn’t be considered a right when it endangers and snatches other people’s right to live.
Simply put, there exists no justification whatsoever for any of their refusal. It’s time to call them for what they are — murderers.
International Students Facing Unfair Deportation
On July 6, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforced a new mandate concerning international students as a response to the pandemic.
The rules stated that international students on F-1 and M-1 visas who are currently in their home countries will be denied entry into the U.S. if their universities go online in the fall semester.
Furthermore, students already inside the U.S. whose universities go online will also lose their immigration status unless they can immediately secure admission at another program with in-person instruction.
They also provide diversity, and bridge gaps between nations.
However, their contributions are met with disregard by ICE’s new rules. With no fault of their own, their respective futures are now at stake.
When the world is simultaneously facing a health crisis, the Trump administration has effectively exploited the pandemic as a means to forward his political agenda on immigration.
School Districts Suspending Students for Showcasing How Poorly Prepared They Are
“There was no social distancing, a 10% mask use rate, it was chaos!”
— Hannah Watters, student at North Paulding High School
Hannah Watters and another student were suspended after posting images of North Paulding High School’s packed hallway.
Students were visibly seen without masks and refused to practice social distancing.
This came from a district that reportedly called mask-wearing a “personal choice” and that social distancing “will not be possible to enforce” in most cases.
However, it turns out that nine people have been infected after the reopening of the school.
This highlights the local government’s failure to respond accordingly. They improperly prioritized by taking action on the students rather than suspending classes altogether in favor of their safety and protection.
When the president attempts a sense of normalcy by forcing schools to reopen, he is essentially giving precedence to the stability of anything else but the lives of his people.
Congress and Their Slow Response to a Second Stimulus Bill
The second stimulus bill offers, more than anything else, relief to many Americans during this time of crisis.
However, this extremely polarizing bill has had the Democrats and the Republicans at an impasse.
In a time where unemployment is rife, and more Americans are facing the threat of homelessness, politicians are more interested in playing politics, and therefore, gambling the lives of their constituents.
It is also becoming increasingly apparent that many Americans have come to lose hope. Many people believe that politicians are using the stimulus bill as leverage for their reelection bid.
This is a shame because, ideally, politicians ultimately have the power to affect change. Unfortunately, if an agreement is not met, there is no resolution and security for the people who desperately need it.
As of writing, more than 190,000 American lives have perished because of the virus. While the number of cases seems overwhelming, our refuge rests in our very hands.
Now more than ever, we need to learn from our mistakes. We need to value the lives of our neighbors. And we need to stand united.
As Barack Obama once elegantly said,
Change is never easy, but always possible