Is the Government Handling COVID-19 Properly? (FACEOFF)

Jack Meyer and Katriona Page

NO (K.P.)

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is, without a doubt, a huge challenge for all governments; however, our federal government has distinguished themselves with a particularly ineffective response. By some measures, the U.S. has handled the virus the worst of any government in the world  we now have more confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths than anywhere else in the world, making up a third of the total number of cases worldwide. Our government’s handling —  including the president’s initially-flippant attitude towards the virus — has led to mass confusion and the spread of misinformation, supply shortages, unreliable statistics and unnecessary deaths.

The first misstep came early, before the coronavirus pandemic even began, when the Trump administration ignored warnings that said the United States was severely underprepared to handle a pandemic similar to COVID-19. In 2019, his administration’s Department of Health and Human Services ran a stimulation from January to August imagining a theoretical influenza pandemic that originated in China and spread to the U.S. The results of the exercise, which were never supposed to be released to the public, said that the U.S. was completely unequipped to deal with a pandemic, and the lack of resources, funds and coordination would result in many lost lives if nothing changed. Nothing changed. So, when Trump says in news briefings that “Nobody ever thought of numbers like this,” it is not the case; his administration received a forewarning that went unheeded.

The second misstep was the testing fiasco. By the time the U.S. developed a reliable, efficient test, the coronavirus had already spread and infected thousands. While other countries such as South Korea started doing mass testing, testing upwards of 15,000 people per day, the U.S. still is not testing as many people as it needs to, with drive-through testing only just becoming available. Excessive government oversight and control over the development of tests serves as one of the main reasons for this debacle the U.S. did not allow any private laboratories or states to develop their own tests, slowing down the process, in addition to making the criteria to qualify for testing too tight. If testing had been made more widespread and available sooner, it likely would have slowed down the spread of the disease and reduced deaths, because testing makes it possible to track carriers, quarantine them and identify “hot spots” that can then be locked down.

The third misstep was the overall attitude of the government toward the virus. In multiple tweets, Trump made it clear he did not think the virus was serious or an issue. Instead of taking preventative measures early on, he sent out reassuring messages, including this one from Feb. 24, when there were already 35 confirmed cases in the U.S.: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” These messages mitigated fears and signaled to the American public that despite the growing number of cases, they should not be concerned, and citizens should proceed with daily life as normal. If the government had enacted social distancing restrictions and other preventative measures earlier on, there would likely be fewer cases and deaths now.


YES (J.M.)

These are truly novel times in American history. The last time a disease had an effect like this on the country and the world, World War I had just ended and the “Roaring Twenties” had yet to occur. As such, it was hard to predict that in the span of two months, the coronavirus would go from being centralized in the city of Wuhan, China, to shutting down several American industries thousands of miles away. While experts made several projections and predictions, the government has had to find a way to balance fighting the disease with the everyday activities of the country. While the government did initially fumble with their efforts to prevent the disease from spreading, they have quickly gotten their act together, and appear determined to eradicate the spread of COVID-19 as soon as possible. 

During his first term as president, some have criticized Donald Trump for not taking advice from others. At times, it seemed that if someone disagreed with Trump, he either fired them or they resigned within the next couple of weeks. When the coronavirus reached the United States, and Dr. Anthony Fauci began leading a White House Coronavirus Task Force, it initially seemed that Fauci would follow the fate of Trump’s previous advisors that contradicted him. However — once the urgency of dealing with the coronavirus became more clear — Trump began to take Dr. Fauci’s advice seriously. Initially pushing for the country to be open by Easter, Trump has extended social distancing guidelines to at least Apr. 30 and has continued working closely with both Dr. Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx. While it initially appeared Trump was leading the country down a troubled path for our COVID-19 response, Trump has worked closely with the right people and has made the right moves to ensure this goes away as quickly as possible while ensuring safety for the American people. 

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has closely followed the lead of President Trump and the federal government. While he did hesitate to close the beaches, which some saw as controversial, DeSantis has done a solid job leading Florida through the crisis. In March, DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order for several areas in South Florida, which restricts people from leaving their home for non-essential reasons, but allowed certain areas across the state to remain open. The areas that stayed open were mostly rural; they did not have as many cases as more urban areas and were less likely to suffer an outbreak. DeSantis let these areas stay open in order to maintain agricultural flexibility; otherwise, the order would have severely affected these areas economically and would not have done much to prevent the spread. While DeSantis’s response to the virus has received a divided response, he has looked out for the best interest of the whole state and proven himself as a strong leader in a daunting time. 

These past few weeks have been difficult for all of us. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have contracted the virus, which in turn has directly affected their friends and families. The challenge of responding to this crisis has proven to be no easy task, but our elected officials have been doing their best to protect the American people. While the United States does lead the world in new cases, that can be attributed to the country’s large population; the United States has less deaths per capita than several notable large countries, including Spain, Italy, France, Iran and the United Kingdom. In a time with plenty of fear mongering being spread by the media, we must keep our heads above the water and take reasonable measures to prevent the spread, but also keep in mind that we will get through this together. We are all in this together, from the United States to the United Kingdom to Spain to China. If we want to beat coronavirus, we must put our differences aside and, rather than remaining divided, come together so we can end this once and for all.