Covid-19: Managing the Crisis: Wasted Lives & Wasted Money
Worldwide, there have been 25.8 million cases of Covid-19 and 859,000 deaths by the end of August 2020. Different countries have taken different approaches to managing Covid-19. For example, on January 31, 2020, President Trump announced a travel ban on people coming from China. Within ten days other nations imposed a similar ban. Those countries allowed their citizens to return home, but tested them at the airport and quarantined those who tested positive. The U.S. allowed 40,000 citizens and relatives to return to the U.S. from China during the two months after the ban, but did not test nor quarantine. The U.S. has 4% of the world population and 22% of the deaths from Covid-19 in the world.
A comparison of the U.S. to Germany reveals differences in approach and results. Germany is the largest country in the European Union and utilized approaches similar to other western democracies.
In 2015, Bill Gates predicted a pandemic like the 1918 Spanish flu that would spread very quickly. Germany was prepared for a pandemic with diagnostic testing, which produced same day results or next day results. They also implemented contact tracing. They had adequate personal protective gear, ventilators and other necessary medical devices. In the U.S., Obama established the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense to prepare for a pandemic. Trump dismissed this group, leaving his administration with no preparation nor strategy for managing a pandemic.
German GDP declined 10% in the second quarter.
U.S. GDP declined 33% in the second quarter.
German unemployment rate is 4.1%.
U.S. unemployment rate is 10.1%.
Germany’s public debt rose to 82% of GDP.
U.S. Government’s public debt rose to 120% of GDP.
U.S. death rate from Covid-19 is four times the German death rate.
Angela Merkel’s approval rating rose from 40% to 70%; Donald Trump’s fell.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated the cost of Covid-19 to be $8 trillion.
Germany is not the best performing country on Covid-19. The U.S. death rate from Covid-19 is more than 50 times the death rates in the east Asia countries – Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. Taiwan, with a population of 24 million, has seven deaths to date. Florida, with a population of 22 million, has 12,786 deaths to date. Taiwan had no shutdowns. Instead, they tested, tracked and quarantined
The United States
The U.S. has led the world in scientific expertise, biomedical knowledge and immense resources, but it failed to utilize them effectively. In no other industrialized country have political leaders departed from expert advice in this crisis as frequently and significantly as the U.S.
At the beginning, the seriousness of this pandemic in the U.S. was underestimated. Trump said on January 22, “We have it totally under control,” and on February 10, “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” On February 27, he said, “It’s going to disappear,” and on March 10, “We’re prepared. And we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm.”
The U.S. was slow to initiate diagnostic testing. When testing was ramped up, much of it was ineffective due to lengthy time periods to receive results. In addition, the U.S. lacked testing materials, personal protective gear, drugs, and devices. Efforts to track and trace infections have been largely ineffective.
Unlike other countries, the U.S. made Covid-19 a political issue. The U.S. is the only country where citizens divided over wearing masks based on political affiliation. President Trump tweeted, “Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all, but most that we are told to trust.” Public health officials have been threatened and harassed and some have resigned for personal safety reasons. This has not happened in other industrialized countries.
If the U.S. had adopted the procedures implemented by Germany and other countries, 140,000 American lives might have been saved to date, assuming the U.S. had the same death rate as Germany. In addition, the U.S. could have saved at least $2 trillion if it handled Covid-19 more effectively. That is as much as the cost of Social Security and Medicare combined in one year. In 2017, President Trump projected that the U.S. would have a balance budget by 2020. Instead, with Covid-19 and the related waste the deficit will exceed GDP. The ratio debt to GDP will be higher than levels during the World War II era. This ratio of debt to GDP will put the U.S. in the company of Greece, Italy and Japan