2020, Personal, Society

Journal of the Plague Year: Blood on Their Hands

If you had asked someone in Autumn 2019 which country would be best equipped to handle a pandemic, they might have answered “The United States”. They have the most resources of any country in the world.

Of course, given who is in power, they might have expressed doubt.

But ask the question in Autumn 2015, and the answer might be unequivocally “The United States.”

Not because of their inefficient health care system, but just because of their wealth, their resources, and their reputation as the technology centre of the world.

But the US has hit 100,000 deaths today. That is the most in the world and not by a little bit.

The UK has 35,000 ish. Italy is also over 30,000. So 3 times as many deaths as the next worst countries.

And these are just official numbers. Many people have suggested the deaths are under-counted.

In terms of cases, the numbers are even worse for the US: Just under 1.7 million cases.

The next worst countries? Brazil, which will hit 350,000 today and Russia, which will hit 350,000 tomorrow. So 5 times as many cases of the next worst countries.

“Wait!” you say, “what matters is the per capita numbers”.

Okay. They paint a less bad picture, for sure.

The United States is 11th in cases per million. (There are 195 countries in the world, remember. You don’t want to be 11th. That’s 185th best.) But 8 of those countries ahead of the US do not even have a million residents. And one of those 2 other countries has a population less than 6 million.

So if you qualify the list of cases with a base of, say, 10 million residents, the United States has the 2nd most cases per million in the world. (There are 91 countries in the world with a population of at least 10 million. That means the US is the 90th best country in the world in terms of cases per million).

“Wait!” you say, “what about deaths?”

The US is 12th in deaths per million. And things definitely look better here: only 3 of the countries ahead of the US on this list are tiny. So that would mean they are 9th in deaths per million, which looks much better than 1st.

If the population qualifier is 10 million residents, they are 8th in deaths per million.

But if you up the qualifier to 20 million residents, the United States is 5th in deaths per million. (There are 59 countries in the world with 20 million people. The US is 55th best.)

This would be less shocking if many Americans didn’t believe their country was the best country in the history of the world.

American exceptionalism, in this case, is that they are one of the worst countries in the world at handling a pandemic.

From an epidemiological perspective, the US is part of The Axis of Infection.

Their inability to handle this is both a medical issue for the world and and economic one.

And yet, 43% of Americans approve of Trump.

Trump really could shoot somebody and not lose very much support.

He and, particular, his enables in the Republican party, are killing Americans.

And their actions will have dire consequences for the rest of us.

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