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People's Daily Online

U.S. politicians keener on shifting blame as COVID-19 deaths top 150,000

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 09:01, July 31, 2020

Less than 100 days before the November election, unscrupulous U.S. politicians are keener on playing the blame game than forging a clear strategy to wrest control of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed over 150,000 Americans as of Wednesday.

TRAGIC MILESTONE

The United States has registered over 4.39 million coronavirus cases and 150,062 deaths, more than a fifth of the world's 662,000-plus recorded deaths, as of Wednesday afternoon, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The tragic milestone of 150,000 deaths came five months after the first reported virus death in the United States in February. The country hit the 50,000 mark on April 27 and 100,000 on May 27.

There are few signs the spread is slowing down in the United States.

According to the news website The Hill, two-thirds of the states have seen case counts increase over the last week. Florida identified more than 73,000 new cases over the past seven days, while California reported 67,000 new cases and Texas confirmed more than 57,000.

Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, South Carolina and Illinois all reported more than 10,000 cases in the last week, said The Hill, adding even some of the states like Alaska and Hawaii that have been spared the worst of the crisis are beginning to see case counts rise.

"The number of dead is likely to continue to rise as case counts increase, a lagging indicator as the COVID-19 disease runs its course over a long stretch of time," it said.

A woman walks past a notice of preventing COVID-19 spread in New York, the United States, July 29, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

The U.S. death toll from the virus will climb to just above 224,000 by Nov. 1, up 16,000 from an earlier forecast, due to rising infections and hospitalizations in many states, projects a University of Washington model.

The true number of COVID-19 cases in the United States may be 6 to 24 times higher than reported, according to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"By almost every measure, the U.S. is one of the worst and I think we can change that, but it's an ugly picture," said Microsoft founder Bill Gates in an interview with CBS on July 22.

COLOSSAL FAILURE

A recent ABC News/Ipsos poll found that only 33 percent of Americans approve of U.S. President Donald Trump's coronavirus response, while 67 percent disapprove.

"Per million population, the United States has lost 423.6, Germany 110 and South Korea 5.8. Behind these statistics lies the epic failure of President Trump and his administration to mount a national response in the face of catastrophe," said a Washington Post editorial on Monday.

Six months into the pandemic, America is "still struggling to stand up" testing, tracing and isolating -- these basic features of an effective public health response, said a report by news website Vox on Wednesday.

"It will require sustained investment and there will continue to be challenges as long as test results are delayed and Americans remain dubious about contact tracing," it said.

The U.S. botched response to the pandemic has much to do with "a catastrophic failure of national leadership," opined Peter Bergen in an article posted on Wednesday at www.cnn.com.

"The federal government abdicated its role by not issuing a national shutdown order and a mandate to wear masks," Bergen said. "By prioritizing 'reopening' over public health, the nation has chosen to accept that many hundreds of thousands of Americans will die of COVID-19."

After the expiration of the voluntary 45-day federal advisory to "slow the spread," the CDC guidance on how to reopen carefully in phases was ignored in many states, Bergen said.

"Other countries have successfully managed this pandemic. The one thing they have in common is a coordinated national response coming from the highest levels," wrote Judy Melinek in an op-ed -- The U.S. COVID-19 Failure is Federal -- on June 30 at MedPagetoday.com.

"Our local officials can't manage a pandemic, and there is only so much any governor can do to fight a nationwide disease outbreak ... Unless Washington listens, Americans who didn't need to die will keep right on dying," said Melinek.

Last week, more than 150 prominent U.S. medical experts and health professionals have signed an open letter, urging decision makers to shut down the country and start over to contain the surging COVID-19 pandemic.

"If the nation does not change its course -- and soon -- deaths in the United States could be well into the multiple hundreds of thousands," the Association of American Medical Colleges also warned on Wednesday.

"Decisive, coordinated action is urgently needed to save lives, end the pandemic, restore America's economy, and return our lives to normalcy. It is critical that the United States takes a united approach to the pandemic," said the medical education association in a statement.

DEFLECTING BLAME

However, instead of earnestly dealing with the grim reality of the pandemic, the Trump administration, labeling the virus "China virus," heaped blame on China, the World Health Organization (WHO) and even their own institutions and infectious disease experts, with an apparent aim of diverting Americans' attention away from the virus.

It was not rational for anyone to believe that China was complicit in the COVID-19 pandemic, a U.S. security magazine has said.

"Lost amid all this finger-pointing is a basic logic of agency; what would China hope to gain from using a viral weapon?" political scientist Erik Gartzke was quoted as saying in an opinion piece run by The National Interest on July 11.

In contrast to U.S. criticisms, prestigious scientific journal The Lancet noted in an editorial last week that Chinese scientists were quickly able to identify the virus and shared genomic sequencing data internationally shortly after COVID-19 emerged.

Tackling a global health emergency like a pandemic requires open collaboration, and when it comes to COVID-19, "scapegoating China for the pandemic is not a constructive response," said the editorial.

Moreover, to the astonishment of many American experts, the Trump administration has begun to withdraw from the WHO this month.

The United States "has in the past, and could in the future, shown tremendous leadership in health crises ... The fact that we couldn't do it in this case -- it is depressing, as a global health person," Jennifer Kates, senior vice president and director of Global Health and HIV Policy at the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation, told Politico recently.

The recent White House attack on America's top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci is also a microcosm of how some U.S. politicians tried every means to deflect responsibilities, as they pretended to be asleep confronting the deadly pandemic and comprehensively failed Americans in their response.

Polls have shown Fauci, a career health official who has served as director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, to be among the most trusted voices in the country on the pandemic.

Nearly 3,500 health experts have signed an open letter to Trump in support of Fauci, while calling on the president not to sideline science or scientists during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Attempting to marginalize highly respected researchers such as Dr. Fauci is a dangerous distraction at a time when we most need voices like his," said the letter.



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