Medical doctor at UC Irvine Health Jose Mayorga, right, gives a thumbs up after receiving a Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinations began for the highest-risk front-line clinicians at the UCI Medical Center on Wednesday, according to the L.A. Times. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Los Altos High School

Opinion: Time is of the essence — fighting COVID-19

Prevention of COVID-19

The United States is the most powerful country in the world, yet it is inferior when compared to others in combating the coronavirus. The mysterious and dangerous coronavirus pandemic brought confusion and chaos to many people. The outbreak not only shows how dangerous the virus is, but it also highlights how many governments have reacted when faced with it within their borders.

Countries from around the globe have reacted differently. A huge factor that comes into play is leadership. This is one quality the United States government seems to not have during the global coronavirus pandemic. The United States discovered its first coronavirus case on January 20 and it only took them 97 days to reach a high peak of confirmed cases. The United States did not take advantage of the time they were initially given when China reported the first coronavirus cases.

The United States government needs to take further measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 since there is currently no cure or proven treatments to stop the disease; the best treatment at this time is prevention to keep more people from falling sick and spreading the disease further triggering another wave of deaths.

 

No cure

The United States government needs to actively prevent the spread of COVID-19 for the simple fact: there is no cure. For this public health emergency, it is best to assume there is no cure and plan for the worst — this mindset will save lives.

According to a 2018 study of chronic diseases in the United States by Wullianallur Raghupathi and Viju Raghupathi, “[C]hronic diseases are responsible for seven out of 10 deaths in the U.S., killing more than 1.7 million Americans each year.”

The main reason that many people die from chronic diseases is from the lack of prevention. Preventive medicine in this case is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Statistics show a relationship between chronic disease and unhealthy lifestyles — emphasizing the need for preventive medicine.

The goal of preventive medicine is to “promote and maintain health and well-being and prevent disease, disability and death,” according to nonprofit corporation About Preventive Medicine‘s website.

Prevention is the most important medical approach when it comes to health. If individuals have a healthy lifestyle, this in turn will lower their chances of susceptibility of getting sick. This idea of preventive medicine should also be applied to COVID-19. The United States government needs to recognize prevention is the most important priority when there is no cure.

Enforcing and encouraging face masks and staying at home are some of the ways people can lower their chances of contracting the virus. Those who contracted the virus may have a long road to recovery and long-term health effects. Preventive measures decrease the chances and burdens of a disease and the associated risk factors involved. The promotion of a healthy lifestyle is needed during the coronavirus virus to potentially save many lives.

Besides the need for preventive medicine, COVID-19 shares similar traits to the previous HIV epidemic. HIV has no cure, yet its epidemic was successfully managed by health care professionals and people in leadership.

In an Editorial published in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Myron Cohen and Lawrence Corey write that HIV “taught us that multiple concomitant prevention strategies are essential” in virus prevention.

“The COVID-19 toolbox must include safe and effective interventions … Ongoing research in each prevention domain must be sustained. We simply cannot depend on any single ‘magic bullet,'”

HIV is analogous to the current circumstance. HIV has no cure, yet its epidemic has died down with the help of prevention. The United States government needs to step in to prevent COVID-19 before too much time has passed.

 

A vaccine on the way 

Although vaccine distribution has began, prevention methods still need to be utilized to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Healthcare workers are the first to begin receiving the vaccine, and it’s not expected to be available to everyone who wants it until at least the spring, according to the L.A. Times.

The continued rising rates of COVID-19 cases and 0% ICU availability in Southern California should encourage people to be more careful and most importantly, encourage the United States government to prevent the virus from spreading any further.

Vaccines and medicine also have a history that people cannot ignore; vaccines are not cure-alls. This can be seen with the seasonal influenza. Although there is a flu shot, federal health officials estimated that as many as 16,000 people died of flu in 2019, according to the Washington Post.

People sick with COVID-19 experience similar symptoms to the common flu, except oftentimes worse. Prevention methods utilized by the United States government will save lives if the political leaders take actions now, rather than later.

Other countries in the beginning of the coronavirus have had high levels of success. One in particular is Taiwan. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, Taiwan’s “infection rates for five selected diseases were lower in 2020 than in previous seasons. This observation correlates with implementation of actions and policies against COVID-19, such as early vigilance and taking proactive measures to prevent droplet and contact transmission in public and at schools.”

Taiwan instantly recognized there is no guaranteed cure. Taiwan shows the world how efficient and proactive they are in handling the pandemic. They set a great example for struggling countries who did not proactively implement safety measures in the initial stages of the virus. Even when there was no known cure, they clearly showed prevention is most important. The United States government needs to follow Taiwan’s handling of the virus.

There are lessons and tactics that will benefit the United States — a valuable mindset that there is no guaranteed cure. Without them, the United States cases will continue to rise. The virus must be slowed sooner than later as people are still getting sick.

 

Growing cases

Prevention methods need to be used by the United States government as the number of cases are still growing. The United States holds the most cases in the world because of its slow response to the outbreak. Even after recognizing that people were dying, a laissez-faire attitude across the country continues to exist.

According to the Texas Tribune, a University of Texas at Austin student said his peers “are pretending the virus doesn’t exist,” and that there have been “80, 90 kids in one room and no masks.”

At a micro-level scale in an area of Texas, people are not taking the virus seriously. This attitude is similarly found in the United States government as they continue to haphazardly enforce health regulations and bans to prevent the spread of the virus. If the United States government stepped in earlier, this ignorance of the people and the growing spread of the virus would not have happened. Taking this event into account, the United States government needs to proactively stop the spread.

Across the United States, school campuses reopening have led to rises in COVID-19 cases. The University of Alabama system reported 846 positive cases between August 28 and September 3, according to Alabama news outlet WBRC.

This is yet another example of preventable infections caused by passive leadership. Prevention methods of the United States could have prevented many people from attending events that are potential hotspots of the virus. This second location reinforces how the virus can quickly pop up and infect Americas. Due to the regular occurrences of people still getting sick, there is potential for the numbers to grow and fluctuate. Slow the spread now to prevent worse situations from happening in the near future.

Coronavirus cases in other countries are significant to the United States. In the United Kingdom, new restrictions were imposed for England in September, after virus infections nearly doubled, mostly in young adults, according to the Associated Press.

Since cases are still growing elsewhere, the cases show how persistent the virus is. These cases represent that even young normally healthy individuals can get sick and spread the virus — officials need to recognize that other countries also have cases with younger people. Prevention plans are needed to lower infection rates of all citizens. The United States needs to recognize the virus is not going to die on its own. Prevention is needed in all circumstances.

 

Misinterpretation of Self-Evident Rights

The United States government’s active participation is highly warranted to stop the spread, as its presence ensures some level of uniform safety standards despite the absence of a cure or proven treatments to stop the disease. However, there are still some who oppose the United States government’s and local state governments’ need to be involved in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

According to NPR, Newsom’s mandate led to “pushback from both residents and local officials, who argued that the governor doesn’t have the legal authority to make masks a requirement.”

Although both residents and local officials state a fact that American citizens in the United States are entitled to their rights to wear a mask or not, this fact misinterprets the purpose of the United States government and their self-evident rights. Their argument goes against public safety, common decency, and morality. In other words, people who do not believe in the enforcement of wearing face masks in public settings misunderstand that their personal decisions infringe on other people’s rights of a healthy life (i.e. the Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness enshrined in the “Declaration of Independence”).

To wear a mask or not should not be considered a form of political speech. The United States government’s health guidance and mandatory orders do not infringe on citizen’s rights as their acts of prevention supports the national health emergency.

 

Time is now

Prevention is the only treatment when there is no cure.

The government needs to take further measures such as implementing and enforcing regulations to protect American citizens and prevent the spread of COVID-19 since there is currently no cure. The best treatment at this time is prevention to keep more people from falling sick and spreading the disease that may further trigger another wave of deaths.

The virus is on both a micro- and macro-scale that still puzzles scientists and researchers. Many health care professionals researching the disease have come to various conclusions — mutations, second waves, and various strains of the virus. The ambiguity needs to be addressed by the United States government through proactive leadership. Leaders of America need to quickly and effectively model countries that successfully fought against COVID-19 and listen to health care professionals rather than politicians when making decisions about the health of their citizens.

The United States government needs to rethink their priorities on not only how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but also gear up for the future pandemics, and to administer the vaccine to all who want it. There may be a point of no return if the United States government continues to have passive leadership during a time of life or death. Time is of the essence.