How Prepared is the U.S. to Face the Growing Coronavirus Pandemic?

More Americans are saying they don’t think the U.S. government is prepared to handle the coronavirus pandemic as the outbreak continues to spread. According to a new Business Insider poll, 50 percent of Americans said the federal government was not prepared for the number of coronavirus cases. Doubt among Americans rises as the virus rapidly spreads across the country. President Donald Trump is facing criticism from all sides for downplaying the severity of the pandemic and failing to act quickly enough. Here is what we know. 

What we know about the coronavirus pandemic

In March, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and President Trump declared a national state of emergency. 

As of Tuesday, April 7, there are at least 374,329 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., and at least 12,064 patients with the virus had died. Making the U.S. the leading country in the number of COVID-19 cases.  

New York has had by far the largest outbreak in the country, with at least 138,836 confirmed cases and 5,489 deaths as of Tuesday, April 7.

The country is also undergoing a serious economic crisis with a record 6.6. million Americans filing for unemployment during the last week in March, and the Labor Department reporting the loss of 10 million jobs.

Globally, more than 1.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in 175 countries, with at least 78,000 deaths so far.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, advocated last week for every state to issue a stay-at-home order.

Dr. Fauci also estimated that between 25 and 50 percent of those infected with the virus may not experience any symptoms.

Trump COVID-19 response timeline

In February, President Donald Trump put Vice-President Mike Pence in charge of the coronavirus response, and assured the public that the White House is “very, very ready for this.”

In March, President Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic. A record $50 billion in federal funds was put towards aiding the country to fight the spread of the virus. 

Despite the immense funding, there have been many issues with the availability of the coronavirus test. People have reported being denied testing, and even though Vice President Pence announced on March 3 that anyone in the country can be tested for coronavirus, subject to doctor’s orders, the rate of testing still varies widely from state to state. In most states, if you are not experiencing significant COVID-19 symptoms, you are not eligible for testing. 

On March 19, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. would close its borders with Canada and Mexico, barring entry to all nonessential travelers. Trump has also barred entry of all foreign nationals who have been in high-risk countries, including China, Iran, and much of Europe, within the last 14 days. The CDC has advised against all nonessential travel. 

CARES Act

On March 27, the Senate agreed on a $2 trillion stimulus plan, the largest in modern American history. The plan will send direct payments of around $1,200 to millions of Americans who earn less than $99,000, along with an additional $500 per child. The plan will also substantially expand unemployment benefits, including extending eligibility to freelance and gig workers, and provide aid to businesses and companies in distress. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has also extended the tax-filing deadline to July 15 in response to the U.S. economic crisis.

A relief package, the CARES Act, has been established to pay emergency leave for some American workers, expand food assistance, medical aid, unemployment benefits, and offer free coronavirus testing. The U.S. House and Senate reached a deal last month to provide $8.3 billion in emergency funding to stop the spread of the coronavirus. According to the Washington Post, the money will go toward the development of a vaccine, public-health funding, medical supplies, and research of coronavirus in other countries. 

Dr. Fauci has made it very clear that the pandemic may never end or slow down until the vaccine is developed. 

On March 24, Trump triggered the defense production act for the first time, kickstarting the emergency manufacture of test kits and masks. And on April 6, Trump announced that the administration had reached an agreement with 3M. The company, 3M, has said, “We are committed to doing everything we can to fight COVID-19 and support healthcare workers globally.” They will begin production of 166.5 million masks, almost all of them N95 respirators.

What healthcare professionals are saying

“Even during mild flu pandemics, most of our I.C.U.s are filled to the brim with severely ill patients on mechanical ventilation,” said Dr. Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “I hope and pray COVID-19 turns out to be a moderate pandemic, but if not, we’re in serious trouble,” he said.

Experts are also saying that resources are concentrated in the most populous and wealthiest cities, leaving rural areas and other neglected communities exposed to greater risk. The worry is that efforts to contain an outbreak could be hamstrung by budget cuts that have weakened state health departments.

Health officials are working to confine outbreaks in these smaller geographic clusters, which would limit the impact on the nation’s health care system. This would buy time for the development of a vaccine, which the World Health Organization has said it would take around 18 months to develop. 

Action plan

On April 3, Trump said that the CDC is now recommending that Americans wear masks when they are out in public, though he stressed that the guidelines were voluntary, and said he would not wear a mask himself.

If you have symptoms associated with coronavirus, such as coughing, fever, or respiratory issues, call your doctor before showing up at their office. The virus is highly contagious and you want to limit the possibility of spreading it.

If you are sick, the CDC recommends that you stay home and self-isolate, confining yourself to one room as much as possible and wearing a face mask when you have to interact with others.

Regardless whether  you are showing signs of COVID-19, wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds of scrubbing. Avoid touching shared household items, and clean “high-touch” surfaces (like your phone) regularly.


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