U.S. COVID-19 response lags behind other countries

New+Zealand%27s+stealthy+response+to+COVID-19+has+been+praised%2C+only+having+25+deaths+due+to+the+pandemic.+In+comparison%2C+the+U.S.+has+just+reached+the+400%2C000+death+toll.

Photo by Sol Schindler

New Zealand’s stealthy response to COVID-19 has been praised, only having 25 deaths due to the pandemic. In comparison, the U.S. has just reached the 400,000 death toll.

While some countries are relaxing restrictions and government mandates (within reason), the United States is still falling victim to COVID-19, despite the urgent reminders of COVID protocol. Out-and-about are those without masks, those who attend gatherings with high amounts of people and those who simply do not care for the pandemic and thus are going about their lives as if there is no cause for concern. This is a problem that America needs to address, as one, and we need to address it now.

With each passing day, COVID-19 related cases and deaths rise in the United States. That is not surprising, considering the U.S is sitting on the throne for most cases and deaths. According to NPR, many states are currently at the highest COVID-risk level; with their COVID responses largely left up to each governor to decide, the surge seen in certain states heavily relies on the opinion of one person. There are over 16 million cases in the U.S alone and that number is only rising, with an average of 64 thousand daily cases, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Just about three months ago, the U.S. was doing well enough to see a downward trend in COVID cases. However, now that the holiday season has passed, we are seeing nearly six times as many cases. Poor response to the pandemic is what likely led the country to a surge in cases and deaths. 

Things must change if the U.S. is to survive this pandemic, especially considering the slow rollout of the vaccine. Take New Zealand, for example. Just a month after the first reported case in February, New Zealand went into an Alert Level 4 country-wide lockdown. The country then moved into another lockdown, an Alert Level 3, for an additional two weeks, which resulted in a total of seven weeks of self-isolating. With the country’s last identified case in early May of last year, and the COVID patient put in isolation, they had declared the pandemic over about a month afterwards. Now, the country continues to have a tight watch on border control, as most of the identified cases were from international travelers. Though the post-pandemic state of the country is not completely safe, many areas of the country operate how they used to pre-pandemic, and have been for quite a while now. 

Taiwan is just another prime example of doing what is right and necessary to contain and eliminate the virus. Just after the outbreak of the pandemic in January, the country closed its borders and has kept them under strict watch ever since. Not only that, but the country is also diligent with the contact tracing method, averaging 20 to 30 contacts to a case wherein contacts must quarantine at home for at least 14 days. On top of all of that, the government has been stockpiling and mass distributing masks to its residents, leaving no reason for a person to not wear a mask. With the immediate action on closing borders and tightly regulating travel, Taiwan has seenand will continue to seea huge success in containing the virus.

Okay, so Taiwan and New Zealand are small, island countries; of course they’ve been more successful at recovering from the pandemic compared to the United States. Let’s look at a country in Europe that borders other nations as another example. Despite the recent spikes of cases in Turkey, for instance, they are still doing better than the U.S. Former exchange student at Heights Elçin Ay had to cut her visit to the U.S. short due to the virus and is now back in Turkey, providing some insight into how COVID has affected the country. 

“The government is taking many actions to prevent the spread of the virus,” Ay said. “Restaurants, cafes, bars, hair salons, schools and more are all closed. People under the age of 20 and [over] 65 are not allowed to go out except during certain time periods each day.” 

In addition to the age-restricted curfew, there is also a curfew on the weekends that runs from Friday at 9 p.m. until Monday at 5 a.m. Those who break the rules by being outside when not allowed or by not wearing a mask are fined. 

“Although it has been hard isolating, we learned to appreciate many things such as our families, health, human interactions and even breathing,” said Ay. “When COVID is over, I would like to meet with my family and friends and hug them tightly.”

America currently presents itself as a laughing-stock when compared to the aforementioned countries. As one united nation, we need to comply with the strict regulations and protocols that are enforced within each state if we want to see an effective impact in combating this pandemic. If anything, we need to have stricter consequences for breaking regulations and protocols, since peoples’ lives are at stake. 

Wearing a mask in combination with other safety and hygienic measures, such as washing your hands and socially distancing, is the key to fighting the virus. Most importantly, try to avoid areas or events with high groupings of people. Attending such places may cause a lot of trouble down the line later, which would just increase the duration of this pandemic. Simply put: make educated and safe decisions. It’s just not worth it if you or a loved one catches the virus. Times are certainly uncertain, and one person’s uncertainty may lead to the downfall of others. 

The U.S. urgently needs to work together to combat this pandemic. Without following the strict guidelines and protocols, we may be in this situation for the long run. Seasonal events such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and others were already limited and will continue to be limited little-by-little until we take action. Secondary schools may also not open up on a large scale if we do not start taking these necessary precautions seriously, leaving many more online classes in the future, which some students absolutely despise. 

Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing. America needs to step up its game and live up to its reputation as a global superpower built on the slogan “the land of the free”—a slogan too many Americans are taking too literally and causing obscene amounts of harm. In reality, with how things are currently going, Americans will not truly be free if they are suffocated by this miasma of ignorance and incompetence.