Covid America

The U.S. Is Unprepared for the Coronavirus

In the United States the State of New York surpassed Washington State’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases, reaching 524 cases as of the morning of Saturday, March 14. New York City, which has the highest population density among the country’s major cities with a population of over 8 million people, confirmed its 213th case, with one death Friday night.

NY Governor Cuomo: ‘The Infection Rate Will Be Massive’

The Governor of New York State Andrew Cuomo said only 20 percent of those cases are hospitalized, as he said he expected thousands of additional cases statewide. “The infection rate will be massive,” he said. From Wednesday, March 11, to Friday, 13, the number of cases there had tripled. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio predicted that there would be over 1,000 cases in the city only by next week.

The state of New York has approximately 3,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds only, and Governor Cuomo said about 80% of them are already occupied. Those numbers may look relatively small compared to the swelling numbers in countries outside of China, such as Italy and South Korea. But a number of cases are yet to be confirmed — even yet to be tested. Numerous people who said they have the coronavirus symptoms are complaining of being rejected tests throughout the country.

The Nation Faces the Same Problem as NYC: Overwhelmed Facilities

New York City hospitals are considered as some of the world’s best, but their impotence in the face of an imminent outbreak reflects a nationwide challenge. Hospitals and other facilities are widely expected to be overwhelmed as infections are on the rise.

Various analysts say the whole American healthcare system is unprepared to deal with the abrupt surge of infections expected to occur within weeks, in a country that is home to over 327 million people. The outbreak has taken the lives of 50 Americans as of Saturday morning, with 2,443 confirmed cases nationwide. But officials still cite the unavailability of widespread tests.

The number of infected people, who are still likely to spread the virus as there has been no major lockdown or containment yet, remains unclear. Many fear the fate of the United States will be the same as that of Italy, where in a span of three weeks only the spread of the virus overloaded the health care system.

“This is where Italy got into trouble,” Governor Cuomo said on Friday. “They didn’t have enough ICU beds to handle the number of patients who needed intensive care. That is going to be a problem in this state and in this country.”

A Potential Nightmare Scenario for America

By late February, the lack of testing still posed a problem. The United States was testing very few people per capita compared to any developed country. Under federal rules, only the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a small government agency, could conduct approved tests. Private laboratories were in discussions with CDC about developing their own tests, but the CDC turned them down because of a lack in demand.

Although the outbreak occurred relatively late in the United States, US officials and particularly President Trump are accused of delaying their reaction to the virus and downplaying its perils. Critics said the White House should have taken action weeks earlier to secure emergency funding for public health agencies to manage the epidemic.

But it wasn’t until last Friday that President Donald Trump announced a national emergency. To him, the virus had been a far and overseas problem, not worthy of immediate action, whereas many people had already contracted the virus amid unavailable tests.

“We only have five people. Hopefully, everything’s going to be great,” he said on January 30.

Trump’s Statements About Coronavirus

Trump also made a series of statements that experts say highly affected public understanding in the United States, having even suggested using flu vaccine to counter the virus. Following the outbreak in Washington State that ensued a confirmed first case on January 21, Trump said the number of cases was declining in the country and, later in early March, that “anybody who needs a test gets a test.”

Yet none of these statements is true, not even the latest statement. Many people who are not able to prove that they had been in close contact with a confirmed case are still being denied the coronavirus test. Many have put themselves in isolation as they have noticed evident symptoms of the virus but were still denied access to hospitals and facilities for tests. Others still roam free and are expected to work and conduct their lives as per usual.

Following a meeting with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, President Trump still painted a positive picture on Saturday, saying the United States was “doing very good, when you compare this to what’s happening around the world.” He added that the national emergency had “opened up avenues we would never be able to open up without it.”

Congress Responds to Coronavirus

A bill that had been voted for after declaring the national emergency is set to provide paid sick leaves for workers affected by the virus and free tests for those who need it. Critics still say it is unclear how authorities will determine who qualify for free leaves and free tests.

Previously on Friday, the New York Times reported that the CDC was “considering some grim scenarios, including the possibility that some 2.4 million to 21 million people across the United States could require hospitalization.” This would potentially “crush the nation’s medical system, which has only about 925,000 staffed hospital beds.”

The CDC’s assumptions dated from last month and were yet to be made public, the New York Times also reported.

Worst-Case Scenario in the USA

The worst-case scenario, one of the governmental agency’s four projections, predicts that between 160 million and 214 million people in the United States could be infected during the contagion that could last months or even over a year. 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die. But experts also say those projections date too far ahead and that many developments could drastically change those numbers. Other commentators said the CDC’s assumptions remain accurate for the most part, blaming current officials and the Trump Administrations’ incompetence in dealing with the epidemic.

So far, 49 states and the District of Columbia have confirmed cases.