The unofficial start of the summer in the United States has set off some alarms.
The images of crowds on beaches and other outdoor spaces without a mask or the recommended social distancing against the covid-19 took over the country’s social networks and media this week.
The Monday Memorial Day holiday – which usually marks the beginning of the summer season in the US – coincided this year with the first phase of reopening after several months of restrictions and closings due to the coronavirus.
As of May 27, the 50 US states they had begun to reopen at least partially, amid warnings from the scientific community about the risk of “new spikes” and a number stuck in the minds of many: one00.000 dead, according to the Johns Hopkins count.
It is the number of victims that the country unfortunately reached this Wednesday due to the coronavirus crisis, the more altor attributeor to the covid-19 for a single countrys.
And surely the worst is that it will probably reach 110,000 in mid-June, according to projections by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Although 100,000 of more than 326 million represents a lower mortality rate than that of the United Kingdom, Spain or Italy, it is still an enormous tragedy for the country.
To put it in perspective, they are almost three times as many deaths in four months as in traffic accidents in one year.
- The emotional cover of The New York Times with the names of more than a thousand of the almost 100,000 victims of covid-19 in the United States.
Why, then, was it decided to restart the country’s economy?
An uneven situation
Nationally, the United States registers a general downward trend in new cases and deaths, but there are still large discrepancies between states.
“We are starting to see some positive changes in some places, but if there is one thing that has started to become clear it is that [el problema] it is not equally distributed throughout the United States, “Jeremy Youde, global health policy specialist and dean of the University of Minnesota School of Humanities, Duluth, tells BBC Mundo.
“It is difficult to have a general picture national of what happens, “he acknowledges.
The White House published a guide with basic points about the reopening, in which it recommends that a “downward trend” of cases for 14 days.
But several territories that decided to release the new normality did not comply.
President Donald Trump has insisted to the governors to start the reopening and went on to assure that he could disavow them if he needs it, without specifying what powers would I invoke to do it.
“Each state has its own criteria for making the decision despite the fact that the actions of one affect all the others (…) This has resulted in some states with an increasing number of cases and hospitalizations of covid-19 are opening”, says Amanda Glassman, Global Health Policy Specialist and Executive Vice President of the think tank Center for Global Development.
“That indicates that the transmission is not under control,” he added in conversation with BBC Mundo.
The role of the White House
The experts consulted mention multiple factors behind the reopening – from the pressure of the economy, the politicization of the response or even “the erroneous perception that the virus is an external threat” – but they especially emphasize the lack of political leadership and a clear national plan.
“Let’s say that many governors and their teams seem to lack capacity, especially when at the federal level not consistently supportedGlassman says.
In the world’s first economy, public health policies fall on states or localities, although the national government also plays a role in helping set the standards.
Trump has blamed China for the severity of the pandemic and has defended its management on numerous occasions: “Experts say that if we had not acted as we did … we would have between 10 and 25 times more deaths,” he said. Tuesday.
The president took his first weight measurement at the end of January, announcing the closure of the country to foreigners who had been in China in the previous 14 days.
However, it took the White House about six weeks to add other relevant actions, wasting the valuable time it had gained, according to experts.
To this and throughout the crisis have been added numerous confusing and contradictory messages coming from his administration, with the president leading them.
“We have it under control” (January 22); “It will go away in April with the heat” (February 10); “We will open the country for Easter” (March 25) … are some examples of the erratic declarations of the head of state, while the figures did not stop rising.
- How the USA became the new global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic
The images of the crowds last weekend were a new example of it: While one of the leaders of the White House working group against the pandemic, Dr. Deborah Birx, expressed her concern and asked for caution, Trump continued to press for the reopening of productive sectors or schools on Twitter.
“We should unite behind a common strategy, which should be led by a rational vision of risks and benefits promoted by the White House, so that we can all be on the same page and help as many people as possible, but not we have done, “regrets political analyst Leonard Steinhorn.
Steinhorn, professor of Communication and History at American University, cites surveys that show that most Americans are concerned about the health consequences of reopening and it weighs heavily against Trump’s attitude, “focused on reelection.”
And it is that to the difficult times of coronavirus is added the campaign towards the November elections, where Trump is risking his position and the Democrats the opportunity to take it from him.
In these circumstances, Steinhorn regrets that even putting on a mask in public -a measure recommended by experts to prevent infections and that Trump refuses to implement- has been politicized.
“Experts say that if we had not acted as we did … we would have between 10 and 25 times more deaths”
During the crisis, both Republicans and Democrats have launched harsh accusations, reflecting the high tension in the country.
The level of politicization of the virus response has reached a level “that we have not seen elsewhere, especially in those who have been very successful in mitigating the spread of covid-19, “says University of Minnesota specialist Duluth.
And when the fight against covid-19 becomes a “partisan issue, it is difficult to identify voices of public health officials who have credibility and authority to really provide guidance, “he adds.
Doubts about the figures
Added to all this is the uncertainty about the actual number of victims, given the lack of consensus on the registration of cases and controversies such as that of Florida, where the person in charge of monitor deceased statisticsRebekah Jones, was dismissed from office for – according to local press – refusing to manipulate data.
Anthony Fauci himself, one of the most respected doctors on the White House team against the pandemic, came to acknowledge last week in a Senate hearing that the actual number of deaths is “almost certainly higher” than the officer .
Some conservative circles, however, have propagated the idea that the numbers are being exaggerated by the inclusion of any deceased with covid-19 even though the cause of death was not this disease, an opinion that strongly refutes the scientific community and reflects , again, polarization.
- Why sectors of the US right distrust the official death toll from coronavirus
In any case, to understand the decisions made in the United States at this critical moment in its history, one must not lose sight of its character and culture, as the professor at the American University stresses:
“Even people who are cautious, who are worried, who think we should not rush, we all share in the sort of American concern: this is a country that rarely looks back, constantly looks forward”
“We are a constantly dynamic society with an economy of very few regulations (…) There is mistrust towards authority, among many experts. And we must add that to all this.”
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