Cutting through the noise: why the US responded slower to COVID-19

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Many Americans believe the national response to the coronavirus pandemic was too slow. If the topic is brought up in conversation, different feelings can be based on what side of the political spectrum one is on. Approximately 80 percent of left-leaning Americans feel the response was too slow at the federal level, while those who lean right are split down the middle, according to Pew Research.

Luke Bell, sophomore business administration major, said he agreed that having a responsive federal government is critical to society continuing to function, especially through recovery. Providing emergency funds to Americans is essential, “but there are still more needs that need to be met,” Bell said.

Earlier in the timeline of the virus, however, sentiments appeared to be different. A similar poll done in March reported that 61% of Americans believed strong enough measures were being taken to stop or slow the spread of the virus. The change is likely due to the staggering number of cases, deaths and hardships caused by the virus as time has gone on – even over just one month.

Mathematical models tracking and predicting COVID-19 have been developed by teams of researchers around the world to better understand its spread. Although not all parameters can be accounted for, their estimates have been proven reliable and are utilized in almost every scenario for state and federal leaders, often appearing in press briefings.

To better understand the toll of the virus, these models can give some answers to the frequently posed question: What if we acted sooner? After the current orders by the White House on March 16, an estimated 75.2 million Americans will contract coronavirus with about 721,000 fatalities through October, according to modeling.

At the most aggressive level, had those same restrictions been enacted a day before the first confirmed U.S. case, around 644,000 deaths were predicted in that timeline. That number jumps up by 44,000 if the orders were set after the first reported death.

Dr. Dennis Bideshi, professor of biology at CBU and virology expert, said he believes that the grim statistics of the virus can serve as a wake-up call on global preparedness for pandemics.

“The impact of COVID-19 should have been appreciated much earlier,” Bideshi said. “Mobilizing health care professionals to tackle this problem realistically and more rapidly could have been more appropriate.”

Even when healthcare systems begin to see fewer hospitalizations, medical experts caution a rapid return to normal. Guidelines continue to evolve on when the country will “re-open,” a term that has no specific definition given that rates of the infection vary in every region. Enforcing a re-opening would be even harder than declaring one, especially for an economy led by consumer-driven supply chains.

The Federal Reserve has indicated the cost of the coronavirus on the economy is about $25 billion each day. With the number of expected deaths from the virus, that puts the cost of each life lost at $7.5 million, according to the Reserve.

Dr. Bob Namvar, professor of economics at CBU, said a good recovery is still possible, but missteps along the way threaten future policies on reopening.

“The U.S. administration was slow in imposing restrictions on social events,” Namvar said. “Effective policies and restriction started about one month (after COVID-19 entered the U.S.).”

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