Timeline of The United States' Disastrous “Response” to COVID-19

By Adrian Grigorian

Edited by Kathleen Khorn


Cruel. Horrific. Inept. All of these words can easily be used to describe the United States’ lack of a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With over 4.7 million documented cases and over 157,000 deaths in under 5 months, the end is still absolutely nowhere in sight. This did not come out of nowhere - it came as a direct result of this country's actions throughout the pandemic. In order to truly understand the scale of the significant failure of the United States, we must first start at the beginning, and make our way through one disaster after the next.


February-March 2020

The very beginning of the year was already was setting the stage for COVID-19 to ravage through the United States. An article written by Vox analyses the Trump administration’s responses to the coronavirus in the early stages.


In late February, the first time an instance of community spread was confirmed by the CDC, the president infamously quoted in a press conference, “And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” Trump also directly claimed that the pandemic would "disappear like magic," and proceeded to call it a hoax at a rally the next day.


In the early stages of the virus the United States had a chance to begin mass production of ventilators, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), masks, etc. through the Defensive Production Act. While this act was utilized in later weeks, and proved to be helpful, it should have started much earlier to assist states such as New York and New Jersey at that time. They were hit the hardest first and the federal government did not provide them with much help.


A lot of the blame does fall on these states for not locking down early on. Multiple health experts reported to the New York Times that the amount of deaths in New York could have shrunk by 80 percent had Mayor De Blasio and Governor Cuomo shut down restaurants and bars and enforced strict social distancing guidelines during the early stages. California on the other hand, saved themselves from an early outbreak by mandating a stay-at-home order on March 19th, shutting down all non-essential services such as dine-in restaurants, bars, gyms, etc. This was a very ambitious move and it paid off at the time - New York hit over 5,500 deaths at the same time that California was only at 374 deaths, both with very similar timelines of the virus spreading.


Another downside to the federal government’s response to the virus was the way Washington D.C. handled the rapid unemployment and economic destruction that was being caused by COVID. According to the Washington Post, over 10 million people filed for unemployment benefits in March alone, with 6.6 million people filing in one week; a very grim record for the United States. This prompted Congress to pass a Stimulus package for the country, allotting $1200 dollar payments to people all over the country. However, this bill was nowhere near enough to keep the economy on its feet, as it continued to crash further to near Great Depression levels of unemployment in the following months.


April-May 2020

Many East Coast states began to hit the peak of the outbreak here, with New York suffering nearly 1,000 deaths a day for nearly a week straight. Meanwhile, West Coast states such as California, Washington, and Oregon were progressing through the pandemic better off than other states, due to strict social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders. The United States as a country also reached its peak in deaths, with approximately 2,313 people dying on April 16th.


The stimulus checks took an incredible amounts of time to arrive, with 35 million people still not getting theirs even as late as June, according to a House Committee estimate. With no nationwide eviction moratorium, suspension of rent, mortgage relief, and a general lack of any economic help on a national level, the crisis just got worse and worse. This was around the time when protests against lockdowns began in states such as Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia, and many southern states in particular. At these protests, the vast majority of people were not wearing masks and were definitely not social distancing. This did nothing to help contain the virus at all with Michigan, where most of the protests took place, hitting their peak of deaths in late April. Trump encouraged these protests, with tweets declaring “Liberate Michigan” and attacking Virginia and Minnesota for attempting to enforce their own COVID protocols.


Protests against the mandation of masks occurred nationwide.


From there, the economic fallout only got worse in April and May. By April 30, millions of people had filed for unemployment benefits and by the end of May, an astounding 40 million Americans had filed. With no consistent cash payments on a national level to all Americans throughout these months, and no national health service or single payer healthcare system, people’s COVID treatment bills were through the roof. Over 27 million people are uninsured in this country, largely due to the immense costs of healthcare nationwide. There are quite a few anecdotal stories of uninsured people owing incredible amounts of money as a result of needing medical care, (linked at the bottom). Tens of millions of people are currently in the same dire situation - if they or someone in their family gets COVID-19 and ends up having to go to the hospital, they will leave in massive amounts of medical debt and are at high risk of going bankrupt because of it.


On top of that, there still was still no national rent freeze/suspension, no national eviction moratorium (a temporary prohibition of an activity), and no mortgage payment suspensions to keep Americans in their homes and social distance. These all lead us into the summer, where it now seems like the United States as a whole has completely given up on containing the pandemic.


June-July 2020

Daily press briefings from the White House are a thing of the past. There is still no new testing infrastructure - people are still waiting over a week to get back test results. It seems the bad news gets worse: people are now flat-out ignoring social distancing guidelines in widespread numbers, there is an oncoming mass eviction crisis, and there still have not been regular cash payments made to Americans other than unemployment benefits, (which are being bumped down to $200 a week under the CARES act guidelines).


Larger states such as California, Texas, and Florida all have completely uncontained outbreaks, due to either attempting to reopen too early (California) or simply not enforcing social distancing guidelines and stay at home orders (Texas and Florida). Schools are now reopening in places like Texas and Florida to save face, putting their own students at risk. The blame is to be shared all around the country; this crisis doesn't just belong to D.C. or any one state.


Thus far, this is top-to-bottom a horrific “response” to COVID-19 from the United States. We are now dealing with a largely uncontrolled outbreak with daily records of death and infections being created. The exact outcome that this country "tried" to avoid is unfortunately our new reality. There does not seem to be an end in sight for the United States, while the rest of the world is successfully starting to get past the virus, all over Europe and much of the rest of the world. These are very unfortunate circumstances, but they are ones this country brought on itself. Until the state-level and federal governments throughout the country do more and care more about containing the outbreak, the situation simply cannot improve.


Sources Cited:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/07/19/coronavirus-us-failure/

https://www.vox.com/2020/6/8/21242003/trump-failed-coronavirus-response

https://t.co/dJ1To5Uv7w?amp=1

https://ny.eater.com/2020/4/8/21213598/nyc-coronavirus-warnings-deblasio-cuomo-nytimes

https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/27/politics/coronavirus-stimulus-house-vote/index.html

https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/wheres-my-stimulus-check-when-payments-are-coming-2020-4

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/breaking-down-this-miracle-covid-19-survivors-11-million-hospital-bill-2020-06-16

https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-covid-19-treatment-testing-costs-2020-3

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