Is the United States prepared for COVID-19? Researchers at Imperial College London have modelled how the coronavirus might spread in the (essentially impossible) event that no social distancing or other preventive measures are adopted. Their startling conclusion was that over 80% of the population could be infected and up to 2.2 million could die in the US alone.
The real numbers will almost certainly be lower than that. That modelling assumes no action is taken, and action is being taken. The situation in Italy has shocked the world into action. Lockdowns, social distancing, travel restrictions, testing, contact tracing – all of these will slow the spread of the virus and help ease pressure on healthcare systems.
Some have suggested that Italy might be particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, given its elderly population and its social model (which makes cohabitation between young and old more common). However, the truth is there is still so much we don’t know about the virus and about how it will impact different countries.
The United States has a much lower median age (38 in the USA versus roughly 46 in Italy). However, some analysts bemoan the slow response and often confusing messaging from the White House. Others have also criticised US President Donald Trump for “disbanding” his pandemic response team in 2018, though the former senior director for counterproliferation and biodefense on the National Security Council has pushed back against the way the restructuring of his former office has been framed.
Nevertheless, it seems certain that the slow US response has lost it the strategic advantage that China had, which was containing the outbreak in one region (Hubei province) and funneling in resources from other parts of the country so as to make the crisis management more effective. As testing becomes more widespread in the US, it appears the virus has now spread too widely, too quickly, to adopt that strategy.
The US has world-class healthcare. However, it is also very poorly-equipped to respond to a public health crisis, particularly on the likely scale of COVID-19. The crisis is almost certain to expose the deep inequities in America’s public health system.
Will coronavirus hit the US harder than Italy? Is the United States prepared for COVID-19? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!