Letter to the Editor | United States must cooperate with others on coronavirus
March 17, 2020
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic and the University of Illinois released a Massmail, sending students scrambling to figure out emergency accommodations and say farewell to people they will not see for months. Friday, the United States declared a national emergency.
When the WHO declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern on Jan. 30, many in the West decided this did not apply to them. Meanwhile, South Korea and other East Asian nations were implementing widespread testing and quarantine regimes in response to the outbreak. Not until the day after the global pandemic was declared and Italy reported a sobering 200 deaths in a day from COVID-19 did the United States act with a flight ban on 26 European nations.
This was too little, too late.
Insufficient testing and quarantine potentially meant infectious individuals — who can spread SARS-CoV-2 up to a week before displaying symptoms — re-entered the United States. Once the number of sick and dying across the nation became clear, the United States, contrary to many other nations, left the question of social distancing up to private individuals and local government. This will exacerbate the outbreak, as we are now seeing with the staggered and uneven responses. The failure of the United States threatens the gains other nations made in containing the outbreak.
This crisis exposes a deep malaise in American society towards international affairs. While we actively engage in regime change, wars and the assassination of foreign officials, we remain sluggish in dealing with the spread of a global pandemic that harms all nations.
Individual governments cannot act alone. As a member of the international community, the United States must cooperate with other nations and empower international bodies, such as the WHO, to coordinate an international response to this outbreak.
Ethan Kuruc is a member of MCB leaders and a junior in LAS.