COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China and spread rapidly. With strict quarantine measures China seems to have stemmed the growing tide of new cases, capping the overall impact to just over 82,000 known cases and 3,322 deaths. The US is now home to the largest number of Coronavirus cases, with over 234,000 confirmed cases and 5,607 deaths. What comes next is anyone’s guess.
A crisis of this nature, precisely because it is unprecedented and shared by all parts of the globe in its impact, will bring forth a reckoning in its aftermath. People across the world will now see how the politicians, system, technologies and values of the United States did in contrast to those of Germany, the U.K., China and elsewhere. Is the US still the leader? Do we have a science-minded government and society that is well positioned to deal not only with COVID-19, but also the general threat of fast-spreading future pandemics? Are we capable not only of controlling the crisis at home, but reaching out to those nations of the world who do not have intrinsic capacity and are likely to be overwhelmed? Will the scientific breakthroughs come from the US or from elsewhere?
So far, it does not appear that we have handled this crisis in anywhere near an exemplary manner. Our politicians continue trading barbs and the system has not proved itself one which enables all sides to come together quickly in the greatest public interest. As Ed Yong, writing for The Atlantic, puts it, “Rich, strong, developed, America is supposed to be the readiest of nations. That illusion has been shattered. Despite months of advance warning as the virus spread in other countries, when America was finally tested by COVID-19, it failed.”