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COVID-19 Gave Us a Lecture: Here’s What We Learned

Authors: Simon Cui, James Dong, Hill Huang, Katelyn Ma, Sophia Xu

Editors: Tiffany Chen, Joyce Hai, Demi Leng, Shannon Tan, Cynthia Zhang, Molly Zhao, Leon Zhou

Artist: Tiffany Chen

When COVID-19 emerged in December of 2019 and proceeded to escalate on a worldwide scale, several governments began to enforce policies upon their population, in an effort to contain the disease. As a result, most of society has conformed to a new normal of facial coverings, social distancing, and mass business closures. To a certain extent, these efforts have improved the outlook of the coronavirus. However, with the number of global cases in the millions, the response to COVID-19 arouses multiple questions. What could have been done differently? Did governments take the correct steps? How can we improve in the future? With this novel virus being the foremost pandemic in the modern-day, the world’s leaders and all of society can undoubtedly gain knowledge from this experience and learn how to react in future instances.

At the origin and epicenter of COVID-19, in Wuhan, China, the spread of the disease was seemingly uncontrollable at first. Arguably, a consequential mistake of the region was that they waited to report their cases. It was not until December 31st, 2019 when the virus had already had a month’s time to spread, that the first coronavirus case was officially reported by the Chinese authorities.

Had they quickly reported the health concerns, the country would have been able to better contain the spread, since their citizens would have been more aware and taken action in distancing themselves. With quick reporting, China would have also been able to implement widespread testing and sanitary measures throughout the city at an earlier date. According to researchers from a study conducted by the University of Southampton in March of 2020, if the action in China was taken 1, 2, or 3 weeks prior, the number of cases could have been reduced by 66%, 86%, or 95% less respectively. However, after recognizing the true issue of the disease, China did act swiftly in locking down Wuhan and manufacturing and distributing widespread testing. Their efforts post-reporting the coronavirus was effective in containing the virus later on. In future instances of health crises, China can learn from its COVID-19 experience by performing these actions sooner.

In other countries, the majority of governments imposed lockdowns in an attempt to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus once it had spread to their territory. However, in order for the lockdown strategy to be effective, the cooperation of the people is vital. A key factor of success is a strong sense of social responsibility within the citizens of a country. With its millions of cases, the United States is an example of a country that can greatly improve on this aspect for future widespread contagious diseases. Beginning in March and April of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended staying six feet away from others and that all people should wear a cloth face covering if leaving their homes. Even with state lockdowns and these mitigation measures, many citizens in America did not grasp the importance of the CDC’s guidance and continued to participate in social gatherings, with or without a mask. In certain states, people also took to the streets to protest their local government’s lockdown procedures whilst disregarding all social distancing guidelines.

American protesters held signs reading “Set us free!” and “We will not comply!” as they sought for state governors to reopen their communities. Coronavirus-positive people have been linked to these protests and, using cellular device data, several anti-lockdown protestors were found to have traveled across state lines to participate—further spreading the virus. This refusal to follow guidelines overturns the work of millions of Americans who are compliant with mitigation measures and brings the country backward in the progression of oppressing the disease. In the month of April alone, the lack of citizen cooperation caused the number of U.S. cases to jump from 200,000 to 1 million, proving that it is critical for the American society to learn from their COVID-19 mistakes. In the event of future viral diseases, abiding by professional recommendations during a pandemic is the solution to successfully containing a disease.

Aside from citizen mistakes, the United States government also mismanaged the response to COVID-19 in a variety of ways. The delaying of extensive testing is a major reason that the country was unable to contain the spread of the virus. Adequate testing was not widely accessible until later months after the first coronavirus case in America was identified on January 20th, 2020. The result of slow testing was the inability of health officials to isolate infected individuals, trace their contacts, and gauge the spread of the coronavirus—all crucial components to beating a contagious disease. If compared to South Korea’s coronavirus response which included immediate testing of over 10,000 individuals per day, a quicker mass output of COVID-19 testing would have greatly benefited conditions in America. The prompt South Korean response to the disease proved to be successful when the country reported no new cases on April 30th, 2020, only 3 months after the first case arrived on their territory.

A lack of essential supplies and equipment in the United States further harmed the coronavirus response by putting a substantial strain on hospitals and workers treating patients. For decades prior to the coronavirus, public health leaders warned that the U.S. National Stockpile was deficient in vital pandemic-fighting gear such as ventilators and masks, but few efforts were made by the government to address these concerns. When the coronavirus outbreak first began, the federal government should have taken immediate action to obtain supplies as opposed to waiting until the disease became a more apparent issue. A surplus of supplies like respirators and masks would have eased the jobs of thousands of frontline healthcare workers who were working overtime to treat the infected. Ultimately, a sufficient policy of preparing pandemic supplies would have saved more lives.

As a society, it is important that all people remember what was done during COVID-19 and improve upon mistakes for any future contagious diseases. From acknowledging the problem early on to faster widespread governmental testing policies and wearing masks, the world can prevent a deadly disease like the coronavirus from reaching this extent ever again.

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