US owes world an explanation on COVID-19

By Chen Qingqing and Leng Shumei Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/6 22:03:40

Washington's deadly errors led to wasted time, delayed responses, dragging globe into longer pandemic war

A man wearing a mask walks past the US Federal Reserve building in Washington D.C., the United States, on April 29, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

The Trump administration owes the world an explanation regarding its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and should be held responsible for many of its missteps. This includes its slow response, inefficient testing, not being able to offer a clear timeline on COVID-19, spreading rumors about the virus' origin and muzzling scientists that have led to surging cases which now account for a third of known cases worldwide in the worst global crisis since World War II, analysts said. 

With more suspected cases discovered, suggesting that the virus might have existed in the US as early as November or December 2019, the US government is obligated to offer clear responses to some crucial questions over the outbreak, as it's not only relevant to Americans, but also to the global fight against the deadly disease, some analysts say, noting that the time has arrived to launch a thorough investigation led by the World Health Organization (WHO) into such matters. 

With more than a million COVID-19 cases in the US, Washington is widely believed to have failed its own people and the world as the country has about 4 percent of the global population, but now accounts for one-third of all cases worldwide and nearly 30 percent of the overall death toll. 

While some critics claim that the White House's serious missteps throughout the COVID-19 outbreak have cost innocent American lives and left millions unemployed, some suggest that US President Donald Trump's handling of the crisis could be the worst mistake of his term. Experts in both China and the US came up with a series of insights on how the US government missed the window of opportunity from January to March to contain the virus, wasting energy on politicizing the virus while engaging in blame games against China, constantly playing down the impact of the disease and taking irresponsible actions such as insisting on business reopening despite risks of more American deaths.

Probe necessary 

Commentators, analysts and medical experts voiced strong opposition toward Trump's handling of the crisis, especially when an internal Trump administration memo forecasted 200,000 daily cases by June, according to media reports, while a sharp rise in deaths would also be in sight as the daily death toll is expected to reach about 3,000 on June 1 as more states lift restrictions. 

Trump advised in an interview on Tuesday that the American people should begin returning to normality even if it leads to more confirmed cases and deaths from coronavirus. Some critics meanwhile slammed such a decision as the US president has seemingly given up on the viral fight and abandoned public health strategy, which is "a clear willingness to trade lives for the Dow Jones," some critics were quoted as saying in media reports.

Besides massive failures in strategic judgment, and deadly errors in its pandemic response and preparation, the US government is also urged to respond to swarms of unanswered questions about how the pandemic has unfolded in the country, especially when latest reports suggest the virus might have been circulating in the US before health authorities officially announced the first confirmed case that may potentially lead to a revision of the pandemic timeline and the US response. 

People wait in line to receive free face masks at the Prospect Park in the Brooklyn borough of New York, the United States, May 3, 2020. New York City (NYC) will be distributing over 100,000 face coverings in parks across the city free of charge from May 2 to 5. According to the guidance from the NYC Health Department, all New Yorkers are required to wear a mask or face covering in public and in situations where a 6-foot distance from others cannot be maintained. (Photo: Xinhua)

Belleville Mayor Michael Melham tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies and believes he contracted the virus in November, well over one month before China first reported its initial case, according to US media.

Melham said he was sick in late November after he attended the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City, suffering from symptoms such as chills, hallucinations and a "skyrocketing temperature," reported on April 30.

It has become the latest new evidence suggesting the virus might have been circulating in the US earlier than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported after two US residents with no "significant travel history" died of COVID-19 in early and mid-February weeks before the initially known first US death from the virus, sparking suspicion about the US government's cover-up of an earlier outbreak. 

Chinese experts called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to launch a thorough investigation into the outbreak with the joint efforts of all engaged countries and regions, especially the US, which has shown an uncooperative attitude throughout the pandemic.  

The US' anti-pandemic measures have undoubtedly failed, noted Yuan Zheng, director and senior fellow of the Division of American Diplomacy Studies, Institute of American Studies and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 

Many questions possibly related to the origin of COVID-19 have been raised by netizens toward the US government, including the shutdown of a military biological lab in Frederick, Maryland; the flu outbreak in late 2019; and the large number of deaths in September 2019 that showed similar respiratory symptoms to COVID-19 victims, but the US government has not yet responded to these concerns, Yuan told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Deadly errors

The US CDC analyzed in a recent report about how the pandemic accelerated over the past three months in the US and indicated that by mid-March, transmission had become widespread and the acceleration of dissemination in March included continued importation of the virus by travelers, social events and gatherings, lack of testing, influenza and pneumonia hospitalizations and so on. 

The US CDC reported the first confirmed case on January 21 and the White House established a task force on January 27, but the test kits developed by the CDC turned out to be faulty in early February while other countries have taken aggressive measures to contain the spread of the disease. 

Medical workers carry a patient into an ambulance in New York, the US, April 6, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

The second phase - nearly throughout February - is also considered as a lost month as it was critical to take control of transmission, but only until late February, US authorities such as the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration demonstrated a clear shift in a sense of urgency, according to a report by Brookings in March. 

Meanwhile, Trump did not impose a travel ban on travelers from Europe until mid-March, and an analysis article published on travel industry site Skift on Sunday said the European travel ban to the US came at least five weeks too late. 

There are usually about 400 flights a day from Europe to the US, the Voice of America said on March 12, citing the flight tracker FlightAware. And about 72.4 million passengers flew from the US to Europe in the financial year ending last June, making it the most popular international destination. Growing infection cases in the US has also lead to dim prospects for the world in fighting this battle, analysts said.  

Other missteps of the Trump administration include ignoring early warnings on the disease, spreading lies about the origin of the virus and misleading domestic and international audiences while politicizing an issue that should be handled by scientists, according to analysts. 

The government also needs to answer questions regarding reported influenza deaths in the US:  how many of those were infected with COVID-19? Did the US government cover up the spread of coronavirus using the "flu?" Will the US government make public the samples of the US influenza virus and its genetic sequence, or allow experts from the WHO or the United Nations to sample and analyze them? 

Such questions came up at the House of Representatives. Robert Redfield, the director of the US CDC, admitted on March 11 that some in the US who were previously thought to have been killed from the flu may have been infected with coronavirus.

Some netizens called for Trump to resign for total failure in handling the crisis, and Jeremy Konyndyk, an expert in disease outbreak preparation at the Center for Global Development, said in a recent tweet that April is another wasted month in response to the outbreak, urging to scale up testing and tracking down suspected patients, isolate infected cases and protect others. However, states could not achieve these goals without functioning federal leadership in terms of resource allocation, guidance, technical advice and operational support.

The Trump administration has even been trying to silence experts who gave professional advice on the matter, for example, it reportedly blocked Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, from testifying before the House in the coming days, who has been in conflict with Trump and doesn't believe in any viral conspiracy theory. 

Enough is enough, Chinese analysts said while commenting on such a political farce staged by US politicians. And being the world's foremost superpower, it should be held responsible for the global pandemic response as the government has failed to keep the situation under control, hurt international cooperation and misled the public, dragging the world into a longer-than-expected war against the pandemic, analysts said. 


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