People walk along the Venice Beach Boardwalk on July 5, 2020. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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Opinion: American individualism is failing against COVID-19

COVID-19 is an infectious respiratory disease that is transmitted through droplets that are generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or exhales. According to abc7news, COVID-19 possibly originated from bats that people from Wuhan, China ate. This virus came from China and spread around the world and is affecting countless human beings. Many people are losing family members and jobs as a result of this disease, according to CNBC

The book “Exploring Lessons From A Century of Outbreaks states that there are many factors that can help flatten the curve of the pandemic, which means to slow or stop the pandemic from spreading. Of their many expert recommendations for how to deal with outbreaks, there are three that the United States is particularly failing at: global collaboration, taking non-pharmaceutical measures seriously and developing vaccines. 

Currently, the United States of America has a severe outbreak of the COVID-19 virus with 2.59 million cases and 126,140 deaths from the pandemic as of July 6, according to Our World in Data. In America, we are most known for our individualism, which,  according to CNN, is a national value of freedom in one’s personal freedom.

With American individualism comes many benefits, such as the gumption and grit to get things done and to be independent or the willingness to challenge authority, which is how this nation became an independent country in the first place. However, the spirit of individualism can go awry and is not without its negative consequences.

With COVID-19 spreading uncontrollably around America, American individualism is affecting how America is particularly failing in stopping the pandemic from spreading.

One reason that America is not doing well during this global pandemic is that some Americans choose not to take non-pharmaceutical measures seriously. Another reason is that once vaccines, which the US is doing well in developing, are fully developed, there are many Americans who are a part of the anti-vax community, who are against any vaccines. Lastly, global collaboration plays a big role in trying to control the pandemic, but it is hard for America to collaborate with other parts of the world.

American individualism is unfortunately making many of us unwilling to follow the advice of experts, such as wearing masks and getting vaccinated, as well as reducing our ability to work with the global community against this pandemic. 

There are many non-pharmaceutical measures, which are non-medical daily behavioral actions that people and communities can use to reduce or prevent the spread of an illness, that America is putting into place to try to stop COVID-19 from spreading even more. A few examples of such measures are staying at home, washing your hands often, social distancing and wearing masks. 

In addition to non-pharmaceutical measures flattening the curve, non-pharmaceutical measures can also buy time for vaccines to be developed. This is shown in Exploring Lessons From A Century of Outbreaks: “[v]arious studies conducted in isolation have shown reduced transmission from hand hygiene, respiratory protection, confinement at home, school closures, and other interventions.” 

American individualism is unfortunately translating into people being unwilling to follow non-pharmaceutical measures because of the freedom they have in choosing what they want to follow. Some states in America find it especially hard to follow these non-pharmaceutical measures. 

According to The Atlantic, many Americans do not follow non-pharmaceutical measures. For example, some Americans started going to bars, cupcake shops and many more even when cities released the non-pharmaceutical orders. Non-pharmaceutical measures can help to flatten the curve, but only if people follow the orders to carry them out.

Right now, unfortunately, America has more cases than any other country because the sense of individualism is causing citizens to choose perceived immediate personal freedom over the public health crisis following the non-pharmaceutical measures.

Right now in the United States, researchers and scientists are making progress in developing vaccines, but there is an anti-vaccine movement where many people believe that vaccines are not beneficial in stopping a virus, according to Nature. Vaccines help the human body produce antibodies that provide immunity or resistance to the virus, so people can get vaccinated to decrease their risk of getting a virus. 

According to the CDC, a vaccine is a “product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease.” 

As reported in “Century of Outbreaks,” Jacqueline Katz, who is deputy director of the Influenza Division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states that the “vaccination is the most effective method for preventing influenza-related complications.” This emphasizes that vaccination is the most efficient way to stop pandemics.

According to GatesNotes, in order for a pandemic to stop from spreading, the majority of the population needs to get vaccinated so that the virus is limited in who it can infect and spread to. Once every one or the majority of people are immune to the virus, the chances of somebody getting the virus will be much lower compared to if only half the population got the vaccine. 

Since vaccines are the most efficient way to stop a pandemic, once a vaccine for COVID-19 comes out, America will need almost everyone in the population to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, many anti-vaxxers are afraid of vaccines because of the few incidents in which vaccines do not work or even cause harm. 

In addition, according to Nature, there was a Youtube video that promoted conspiracy theories on how vaccines can “kill millions” of people. Because of the misinformation that spread, many Americans, with their individualistic American spirit, will refuse to get vaccinated to prevent COVID-19 from spreading even if trusted authority figures and health experts implore them to.

In short, misinformed and misguided Americans are being led to poor public health practices due to the stubbornness that comes with American individualism.

Currently, America is engaged in a lot of different feuds with other parts of the world, and this does not benefit the global collaboration we need in order to flatten the curve. According to “Century of Outbreaks,” the most important factor that will help flatten the curve of a pandemic is a global collaboration, which is where the whole world works together to solve a problem.

As cited in “Outbreaks,” Rick Bright, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, states that “global collaboration and knowledge sharing is likely to be the most important factor in the success of any pandemic outbreak response.”

Since “the most important factor” is global collaboration and COVID-19 is a worldwide pandemic, America needs to work with other parts of the world, such as China, to fight off COVID-19.

CFR reports on the feud between America and China, and COVID-19 has only made this feud worse. Right now America and China blame one another for causing this virus to become a global pandemic, which leads to difficulties when America is trying to work with China to stop this pandemic. America, with its habitually individualistic approach, is not communicating well with other parts of the world, making the pandemic worse.

Clearly, there are many different solutions that can help America stop COVID-19 from spreading. American individualism is unfortunately getting in the way of progress in the fight against this virus. 

Because of the individualism Americans have, many choose to not follow the important and effective advice of authorities and experts. Not only do many Americans choose not to follow recommended non-pharmaceutical measures, but many Americans are even against vaccines, which is the best way to prevent COVID-19 from spreading and truly stopping the pandemic.

The most important solution to a pandemic is global collaboration, and throughout history, America has always had many problems with other countries, and this does not benefit anyone when the world is trying to stop a pandemic from spreading. Without a doubt, America is failing in trying to stop COVID-19 from spreading. 

We can take pride in American individualism because it is a fundamental part of who we are and is a reason why Americans have preserved democracy and fought tyranny for our entire history. However, we must recognize when our greatest strength becomes our greatest weakness so that we don’t let it limit what we can do and who we can be.

COVID-19 can be defeated, but only if we can rise above our faults and do what needs to be done.