Confirmed new cases of COVID-19 (Source: Johns Hopkins)

COVID-19, an infectious disease, started in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and arrived in the U.S. in January 2020. This virus has infected nearly eight million people in the United States and has claimed at least 214,000 lives over the course of just ten months. 

This has left many people with the question, “How could this happen to a place like America?” While there are many answers to this specific question, the one that answers it best is the delayed response to COVID-19 from the U.S. government. 

When COVID-19 was first acknowledged by the United States, President Donald Trump downplayed the severity of the virus and claimed the United States had this “under control.” Little did he know that ten months later, America would still be battling the hardships that COVID-19 has brought. 

One of the first actions President Trump took in response to the virus was restricting travel into the United States from China on most, but not all, groups entering. Even though he took this proactive action, the statements coming from the White House continued to downplay the severity of the virus.

Instead of addressing the situation realistically, they failed to consider its serious implications and effects. While thinking positively in most scenarios is ideal, when it comes to a new virus invading the nation, every possible outcome should be acknowledged and considered so that the nation can be prepared for the effects it might cause.

In February, President Trump requested funding from Congress for testing, vaccine development, personal protective equipment (PPE), and more. Shortly after, the first account of community spreading of the virus in the United States was confirmed.  Instead of immediately requiring that Americans practice social distancing, President Trump, once again, downplayed the virus and claimed that the numbers would decrease soon. By continuously downplaying the virus instead of acknowledging its severity, Trump continued to promote a false narrative to American citizens that COVID-19 is not as serious as medical officials reported it to be. This led to many Americans underestimating the virus and gaslighting the people who are taking the safety precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seriously. 

In March, President Trump finally encouraged social distancing guidelines given by the CDC. This included schooling at home, avoiding large gatherings that exceeded 10 people, avoiding going to bars, restaurants, and food courts, and lastly avoiding unnecessary travel. This was another proactive action, but the fact that it was implemented three months after the virus was first identified in America proves that the government’s delayed response to the virus is why the U.S. continues to lead the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

President Trump’s failure to acknowledge COVID-19 as a possible threat to America and its citizens is what ultimately led the U.S. to where it is today, with one of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases in the world. All the time that President Trump spent denying COVID-19 as a real threat could have been more efficiently used to find solutions to the problem.

We can never get back the lives that we lost due to COVID-19, but by taking precautions such as wearing a mask, consistently washing our hands, and social distancing, we can still save thousands of other lives and further prevent the virus from spreading within our communities. 

Lorena Bernal (she/her/hers)

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