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How America Can Beat COVID-19

Compared to a world war, the COVID-19 epidemic is a fairly manageable problem, provided that the US government can rise to the challenge. But without a mass mobilization to secure critical supplies and prevent a panic, the crisis could easily spin out of control.

AUSTIN – When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States was surprised and unprepared, but it was quickly freed of its illusions. The same does not hold true for the COVID-19 epidemic. The attack is underway and our defenses are down – but so far our illusions remain intact.

That will soon change as the infection rate and death toll rise, while the stock market sinks. Global supply chains have been disrupted by events in China, and India has just banned the export of certain generic drugs. Medical masks are already in short supply, and everyday items such as hand sanitizer have become difficult to find. The heavily globalized, consumer- and finance-driven US economy was not designed for a pandemic.

The country’s medical system has it even worse. America has vast health-care capacity, but millions of people are uninsured, underinsured, undocumented, or simply reluctant to go to the doctor or emergency room, owing to the cost of co-payments, deductibles, and uncovered fees. In a pandemic – where every infected person is a threat to the entire population – this is a formula for disaster. Everyone must be able to come forward, get tested, and receive free treatment without fear of consequences – including the very poor, the homeless, and the undocumented.

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