There is no clear and credible scientific data available yet to indicate when the coronavirus will end. There are some projections and more speculations about it. For some, it may wind down by the end of summer; for others it will end only to make a stronger comeback in fall. In the last two months, different people from the U.S. administration have provided a different set of projections. U.S. President Donald Trump, who once said, “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear” seems to have adopted a cautious perspective about a potential timeline. He now believes the crisis may continue until the end of summer.
After claiming that the coronavirus is under control in the U.S., only a few people got infected and the U.S. is doing a great job, the president is nowadays showing graphics which demonstrate that the situation is not under control. The graphs indicate that even if Americans do almost everything right in terms of personal hygiene and social distancing and follow CDC guidelines, there will be a lot more than few coronavirus patients in the U.S.
In fact, the most conservative projection estimates that the number of people who can lose their life to the virus maybe somewhere between 100,000 to 240,000. The wilder projections estimate that it can be more than a million. The media and observers of American politics have already started to discuss what went wrong in the U.S. And it looks like during this crisis and even in its aftermath we will continue to have these discussions about the U.S.’ handling of this crisis.
The last time Trump stated that it is under control and it will disappear was on Feb. 28. In less than a month the U.S. has become the epicenter of the coronavirus. The number of infected reached 250,000 and more than 6,000 died because of the pandemic.
Most of the states declared “stay at home” orders and the economy has come to a standstill in most sectors. In two weeks’ time, the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits reached 10 million. According to the estimates, at least 40 million people will lose their jobs during this crisis.
In the meantime, the states are facing critical shortages of medical equipment. The governor of New York has been organizing press conferences every day for the last few weeks to inform the public about the extent of the problem and stating the shortage of masks and ventilators needed to deal with the crisis.
There is a lack of tests in most states for the suspected coronavirus cases. There are long lines in front of hospitals in some critical states. In one of the financial capitals of the world, there are now makeshift tent hospitals and mobile morgues on the streets. And more importantly, nobody believes that the cases in the U.S. have reached their peak point.
The last time we saw the U.S. facing such a situation was during a natural disaster. During Hurricane Katrina, there were similar challenges in the handling of the crisis. However with the extent of the crisis today its repercussions can be more extensive than those experienced during the crisis caused by Hurricane Katrina. Till a few months ago nobody expected a virus to destabilize the life of people in the world to this extent. At the end of the day crises like SARS or MERS were brought under control.
It is also true that the World Health Organization (WHO) failed to warn the international community about the potential impacts of this epidemic and many believe that the number of cases and its spread is being significantly underreported. However, this does not lower the expectation from the U.S. around the world. The current crisis and the way the U.S. is handling it is not only important for the domestic politics of the U.S. but also for global politics.
Although almost every country around the world is suffering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic today, there is a lack of global coordination in dealing with it. The lack of leadership is a big part of the problem. Almost every expert is stating that closing borders will be not sustainable in the long-term, and more importantly, the virus may return next fall.
Scientists along with influential people like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are warning the international community that things may get worse before it gets better. In the meantime, there may be other viruses emerging in some parts of the world. Thus following the short-term crisis management of the current outbreak there should be a soul searching in the U.S. and international community about the coordination and leadership to deal with this problem. The current state of the crisis in the U.S. necessitates this debate for both the U.S. and the world.
[Daily Sabah, 2 April 2020]