Since the spread of COVID-19 launched a global pandemic in 2020, over half a million Americans have been killed by the virus. And experts agree that the death and infection rates have been much worse in the West—mainly the United States and Europe—than many other places in the East. In other words, while other countries like China, Cambodia and New Zealand were able to tempur the spread, the U.S. had its ass handed back to it. There are a lot of reasons for this, says David Wallace-Wells, New York magazine writer and author of How the West Lost COVID. Factors like population age and geographic location played a role in these places’ ability to control the virus, but ultimately, one of the most “catastrophic” factors that played into the death roll, is something we very much had control over. And that is how our leaders responded and our collective culture, on both a federal and local level. “I think the toll of the disease really throughout all of Europe and all of the Americas shows you just how devastating cultural and political inaction is,” he said. “South Korea looked at what was happening in January. And they said, ‘Holy, this is really bad. Like if China is locking down an entire city of 10 or 11 million people for a period of months, like this must be really scary and we should get our act together in response.’ And in the West, we just didn't.” Host Molly Jong-Fast is adamant that having a person who wasn’t inept in office, aka someone other than Trump, would have made a huge difference in saving lives. Wallace-Wells agrees. He also thinks even the Democratic leaders and bipartisan health officials dropped the ball, too, though, at least in the beginning. “Gavin Newsom, Andrew Cuomo, and even Anthony Fauci, all of them were sort of saying to some degree the same thing, which was, ‘we don't want to disrupt things too dramatically unless we need to,” and that cost lives. “Our wealth, our medical capacity, our cultural capacity was gonna prevent us from being vulnerable in the way that these other countries elsewhere in the world were vulnerable,” he added. It’s also a scary indicator of Americans’ lack of ability to take immediate action if it’s uncomfortable for future crises, like climate change Molly points out. But there is some good news: “I think the cultural lesson of this pandemic is [that] we under reacted and it's likely that we're going to be much more aggressive in the future.”
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