“Death comes at you fast. Just three weeks ago the official line at the White House and Fox News was that the coronavirus was no big deal, that claims to the contrary were a politically motivated hoax perpetrated by people out to get Donald Trump. Now we have a full-blown health crisis in New York, and all indications are that many other cities will soon find themselves in the same situation.
And it will almost certainly get much worse. The United States is on the worst trajectory of any advanced country — yes, worse than Italy at the same stage of the pandemic — with confirmed cases doubling every three days.
I’m not sure that people understand, even now, what that kind of exponential growth implies. But if cases kept growing at their current rate for a month, they would increase by a factor of a thousand, and almost half of Americans would be infected.
We hope that won’t happen. Many although not all states have gone into lockdown, and both epidemiological models and some early evidence suggest that this will “flatten the curve,” that is, substantially slow the virus’s spread. But as we wait to see just how bad our national nightmare will get, it’s worth stepping back for a few minutes to ask why America has handled this crisis so badly.
Incredibly bad leadership at the top is clearly an important factor. Thousands of Americans are dying, and the president is boasting about his TV ratings.
But this isn’t just about one man. Neither the scientific denial that crippled the initial response to this pandemic, nor the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths that now seem likely, are unique to Covid-19. Among advanced countries, the United States has long stood out as the land of denial and death. It’s just that we’re now seeing these national character flaws play out at a vastly accelerated rate.
About denial: Epidemiologists trying to get a handle on the coronavirus threat appear to have been caught off guard by the immediate politicization of their work, the claims that they were perpetrating a hoax designed to hurt Trump, or promote socialism, or something. But they should have expected that reaction, since climate scientists have faced the same accusations for years.”