How the COVID-19 Pandemic Stripped the U.S. of the Title of World Leader

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When Ohio reported the first COVID-19 positive patient on January 7, the entire country focused on the impeachment process against Donald J. Trump.

As the House of Representatives introduced the impeachment articles to the Senate and began the trial, the WHO announced the possibility of human-to-human transmission of the now-called new coronavirus.

On January 22, Trump flaunted his “victory” in the Senate and dispatched questions regarding the disease by saying, “we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China… It’s going to be just fine.”

Seven months later, the United States is the country with the most chaotic response to the world’s public health crisis, with more than five million infections and 165,000 deaths.

American lives lost in recent months total more than deaths in the Korean, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars combined, according to The Washington Post, and government action remains insufficient.

As the Post explained in mid-April, even though the Trump administration banned travelers from two continents, shut down the economy, tried to manufacture emergency medical equipment, and managed to confine 230 million Americans, the United States “ended up catastrophically overmatched by the novel coronavirus.”

After the first pockets of contagion, such as Italy, Spain, and France, managed to flatten the curve and gradually reopen their economies, the whole world watched in disbelief as “the leader of the free world” was not prepared to protect its citizens.

“We Italians always saw America as a model,” said Massimo Franco, a columnist with daily Corriere Della Sera, to The Associated Press. “But with this virus, we’ve discovered a country that is very fragile, with bad infrastructure and a public health system that is nonexistent.”

In this way, the myth of the “model” country has fallen to pieces before the eyes of the world, not only because of the evidence of the profound social inequalities that exist but also because of the isolationism championed by the Trump Administration.

While the entire world was organizing behind the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and working collaboratively to control contagion and save as many lives as possible, the U.S. president signed the formal U.S. withdrawal from the organization, six months after the outbreak of the virus.

Before seeking solutions, President Trump was looking for culprits.

“The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government,” he said in a speech in the Rose Garden in late May. “Countless lives have been taken, and profound economic hardship has been inflicted all around the globe.”

But the responsibility for the impact of the virus was nobody else’s but his own administration’s.

“Had the medical professionals been allowed to operate in the States, you would have belatedly gotten to a point of getting to grips with this back in March,” said Scott Lucas, professor of international studies at the University of Birmingham, England, to the AP. “But of course, the medical and public health professionals were not allowed to proceed unchecked,” he said, referring to President Donald Trump’s constant undercutting of his own experts.

The media war declared by the U.S. president on scientific experts, including the nation’s leading epidemiologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, only added to the fire of misinformation, giving tools to those who don’t believe in the invisible enemy.

The same White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who is responsible for coordinating the administration’s response to the coronavirus, has made public his skepticism of Fauci and Deborah Birx, the doctors leading the anti-pandemic effort, according to The Washington Post.

Meadows has suspended daily meetings with health care professionals, who he has replaced with politically oriented assistants, “and when the virus comes up, their focus is more on how to convince the public that President Trump has the crisis under control, rather than on methodically planning ways to contain it,” the media explained.

Because, amid a global crisis that puts human lives at risk, the government’s priorities are clear: re-election comes before anything else.