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Opinion: Is there hope for USA’s international leadership after COVID-19?

Since December 31, 2019, COVID-19 has been raging throughout the world. Many causes have been attributed to its success in infecting millions of people, such as how it is an airborne-illness or how the disease can last long periods of time in cold weather. However, according to The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, one nation’s…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/zhury0223/" target="_self">Bobby Zhu</a>

Bobby Zhu

July 10, 2020

Since December 31, 2019, COVID-19 has been raging throughout the world. Many causes have been attributed to its success in infecting millions of people, such as how it is an airborne-illness or how the disease can last long periods of time in cold weather. However, according to The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicineone nation’s leadership can be a huge contributor to the prevention of global pandemics, such as the one that is currently happening. 

Undoubtedly, as the United States is the current most powerful country in the world, our nation should have stepped up to the task, but unfortunately, we didn’t. 

Thus, because the United States did not sufficiently grasp just how devastating this new disease would be, the US’s reaction to it was subpar. There needed to be a more coordinated approach on the national level. On the global level, there should have been more allocation of resources amongst different countries, with the US and other wealthy and powerful countries leading the path towards the response to COVID-19. 

As the world superpower, the US should not have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 and the reason it has suffered the worst outbreak in the world is due to the lack of effective responses.

After the terrible spreading of COVID-19 amongst the population in Wuhan, China, there has been a lot of commotion in that country to try to stop this novel infection from spreading rapidly. They erected hospitals in a matter of days and, according to the Deccan Herald and South China Morning Post, had many doctors from all over China rush to aid the coronavirus victims. 

After winter break, while the virus was spreading rapidly across Wuhan, I was in school, coming off a nice vacation snowboarding in Canada. Like many of my classmates and teachers, I was not as worried about the coronavirus as I should have been, as the disease was thousands of miles away from me overseas.

With this thought process, many Americans, including the US president, have disregarded the coronavirus disease until the last possible minute, when the US started reporting that there were outbreaks in many major cities. 

Back in February, as reported by FactCheck.org, President Trump had said in a speech that there was no need to worry about the coronavirus as the United States has the best doctors in the world and that he has the coronavirus “very much under control.” 

Although this reassurance may have helped boost the morale of US citizens in the short term, the long term effects were that the US was very dismissive about just how severe the coronavirus was. Even with travel bans in place, many US citizens started being diagnosed with coronavirus, eventually leading to lockdowns in many school districts and companies, possibly costing the US more than 2 trillion dollars, according to the New York Times.

Thus, due to the incorrect mindset and late actions of the US government, the United States’ reaction to the coronavirus was very unsatisfactory, to say the least.

Speaking of unsatisfactory, on the national level, the US could have dealt with the spread of the coronavirus in a much more efficient way by implementing more extreme measures. 

According to Vox, after learning from their mistakes during the MERS outbreak in 2015, South Korea passed an urgent law, effective only in pandemics, to start tracking individuals with the coronavirus, providing updates to their latest locations in order to prevent other civilians from crossing paths with the infected individuals. Although, to us Americans, this seems like a blatant intrusion of privacy, they only allow it in the case of a public health emergency. South Korea has been able to successfully contain the coronavirus to only a small percent of its population and has leveled off the curve and rate of infection. 

On the other hand, America is struggling to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, with over three million cases, as of July 10, according to the CDC. With the current technology and the money available at our disposal, the US should have implemented the measures that South Korea utilized: tracking the individuals who were infected.

Although many would argue against this severe approach, this would be the best method in preventing people from contacting others with the coronavirus as proven by the fact that South Korea is able to manage and control their outbreaks much better than the U.S., even after, as reported in The Diplomat, several outbreaks. 

In addition, in “Century of Outbreaks,” the authors quote Amanda McClelland, senior vice president of Prevent Epidemics at Resolve to Save Lives, that countries tend to fall into a  “cycle of panic and neglect” of pandemics, noting that once a horrible global pandemic has passed, many countries stop worrying and funding for the future pandemic preventative measures. 

With the 2009 influenza pandemic as the latest epidemic to hit the US, the US should have started preparing since then, but unfortunately, as the effects of the coronavirus display, we have not. I point this out, even though we cannot go back in time to fix this mistake, because the US should have focused more on planning for future pandemics and not thinking that in time, everything will sort itself out.

Although sometimes pandemics seem too far into the future, time is of the essence and there needs to be adequate planning, which the US did not have in fighting the coronavirus, but other countries, like South Korea, did. Therefore, there need to be more rigorous approaches in stopping COVID-19 today, as well as planning for the future.

On the global scale, coronavirus can be better treated with the US being the leader and working with other countries to prevent later outbreaks of the coronavirus or any future pandemic.

According to “Century of Outbreaks,” a huge factor in pandemic prevention is the collaboration of many countries, whether that be pooling resources such as funding or vaccine development or helping surveillance of the coronavirus. As of now, many countries are dealing with outbreaks independently and not as a global effort, especially with the US struggling to contain the coronavirus from spreading within its own borders. 

If the world wants to quell this COVID-19 pandemic, the US needs to step up alongside other developed countries to share resources and serve as role models to the world. 

Adding on, “Century of Outbreaks also mentions that developing countries, due to how severely pandemics impact their populations, can gather more data on outbreaks, and in doing so, contribute this vital information to the development of treatments and vaccines for the world community.

However, many developing countries usually get cheated despite their contributions due to other developed countries that have already bought most of the vaccines or health products needed to treat pandemics, leaving none for the developing countries. 

In the case of COVID-19, the US should enlist the help of these developing countries for their intel or research on this disease to better fight this pandemic. In turn, the US should sign contracts to ensure that these developing countries will be provided with assistance against future pandemics. Not only will we better contain the outbreaks that will affect us, but we will also build stronger international friendships and alliances. 

Although the US may be the most powerful country in the world, it is still beset with flaws, especially in the face of disastrous pandemics, as COVID-19 has revealed. The US’s response towards the coronavirus was disastrous.

Finally, on a global scale, the US should have been the leader in addressing the coronavirus and a role model to other countries as well. As it is our responsibility as a global leader, we can do better and we should do better, not just for ourselves, but for everyone. 

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