The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the United States may soon find itself as the epicenter of the Covid-19 global outbreak. Spokesperson Margaret Harris issued the warning alongside troubling statistics regarding the virus’ spread on Tuesday. Together, the US and Europe accounted for 85% of new cases worldwide on Monday, Reuters reported.
US Can’t Control The Spread
“We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the US. So it does have [the potential to become the new epicenter],” Harris said.
Both the size and intensity of the outbreak are increasing in the US with the infection count at nearly 55,000 as of Tuesday, according to BBC News. New York has been considerably blindsided by the disease and makes up nearly half of all American cases. The White House said the Covid-19 spread within New York City itself accounts for 60% of all new cases in the nation.
“The [infection] forecaster said to me, ‘We were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train,’” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
An outbreak in New York City — the nation’s most populous city — threatens the entirety of the country. Travelers to and from New York state as a whole have already been advised to self-quarantine for two weeks after returning from it. Those left within the state face dire circumstances unless it can get a grip on the virus spread.
Cuomo is desperately seeking more medical supplies from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but it risks running out of equipment soon. New York state has 7,000 ventilators on-hand currently, but it anticipates it will need 30,000 as the infection rate continues to climb.
Trump: We Must Be Open for Business By Easter
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has begun promoting the idea of reopening the US for business, possibly as early as Easter on April 12.
“Out country wasn’t built to be shut down. This is not a country that was built for this,” Trump declared at a Monday evening briefing. “America will again and soon be open for business. Very soon. A lot sooner than three for four months that somebody was suggesting.”
The Trump administration promoted a “15 Days to Slow the Spread” plan, in which America recently passed the halfway point. It was designed to slow the spread of Covid-19, but the numbers show it is not working. Trump, however, prefers to ease the guidelines after the 15 days to restart the economy regardless.
Reopening Before Virus has Peaked Could Be Dangerous and Useless
What would a reopened US economy look like if the virus persists and follows its current trajectory? Likely it would be far different than what Trump desires. The US economy is built on consumerism, but a disease spreading around does little to encourage a shopping spree. The aerospace industry — manufacturing and airlines — has been one of the hardest hit by the virus outbreak, but would it restart by April 12 if Trump gives the all clear? While domestic flights could conceivably resume, other nations across the globe will likely still be under lockdown, thus eliminating the possibility of international travel.
Furthermore, Trump’s idea of reopening the economy in two weeks — medical concerns aside — ignores the possibility of local governments and individual businesses refusing to reopen. Part of the reason why the virus is hitting the US so hard is because Trump refused to spearhead a shutdown from Washington. He did not call in the National Guard to enforce a curfew or run off beach-goers. He did not impose strict penalties for violating the shelter-in-place order like Saudi Arabia.
The Trump administration largely left it up to states and businesses to decide how to best handle the crisis. Consequently, they may decide to keep handling it even when Trump proclaims victory.
‘We Haven’t Even Reached the Peak of This Pandemic Yet’
If the economy were to gear up again by April 12, and business forced employees to return to work, the virus rate would undoubtedly skyrocket even further and risk overloading an already-crippled healthcare system. Doctors are understandably warning against the idea.
“We’re going to completely overwhelm the hospital system” unless the administration increases restrictions, said Dr. Tina Tan, board member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “Loosening restrictions makes absolutely no sense if you look at it from a health perspective. I really think now that people are worth more than actually trying to save the economy right now.”
Dr. Greg Poland, vaccine researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, said he expects infections to continue to rise, even with current restrictions in place.
“We haven’t even reached the peak of this pandemic yet,” Poland said.
Targeting At-Risk Demographics
Still, there are voices who agree with the president that the US must start to focus on how to resume the economy.
“You turned off the engine quickly,” Cuomo said. “How do you now start or begin to restart or plan the restart of that economic engine? Separate task, but something that we have to focus on.”
Lloyd Blankfein, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, proposed letting lower risk demographics — such as younger people — return to work. Could the US economy slowly come back to life by targeting at-risk demographics and allowing others to resume life as usual? Potentially, but there is the possibility of asymptomatic carriers returning to work then transporting the disease back to their older family members at home. Thus the disease would not die out, only slow down.
If the US is to beat coronavirus, it must do what the rest of the world is doing: remain shut down until new cases taper off. The strategy worked in China, which is reopening its economy. It’s a strategy Italy and the UK are also employing, and it’s what Trump should do as the leader of the nation that currently has the second-highest case count in the world.