Biden’s plan will hardly curb COVID-19 in US

By Shen Yi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/9 20:16:23

Joe Biden. Photo: VCG

US president-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday announced from Wilmington, Delaware that he wants to make "masking, vaccinations, opening schools" the three key goals of his first 100 days.

However, the three goals cannot effectively improve the US' novel coronavirus dilemma. 

Currently, many people infected with COVID-19 cannot be hospitalized in the US. They can only expect to survive by virtue of their own self-healing ability. The healthcare system in many US states is on the verge of collapse. Have US President Donald Trump's policies or Biden's three goals ever adequately addressed these fields? No, obviously not.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with CBS, "January is going to be terrible because you're going to have the Thanksgiving surge superimposed upon the Christmas surge." Yet mid-January is when Biden will take office.

When the epidemic in the US continues to rage, Biden's three soft goals signal that the US has no interest in combating the spread of the deadly disease. Many highly educated people in China are clearly aware that these three steps are essential to prevent and treat infectious diseases - controlling the source of infection, cutting off the route of transmission, and protecting vulnerable populations. Among Biden's three goals, masking can be roughly seen as trying to cut off the route of transmission. How about the others? To put it bluntly, Biden is betting on the COVID-19 vaccine supply.

But what is a vaccine? A vaccine is for people who are not infected. How many vaccines can be produced globally? US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has already announced that "scaling up the raw material supply chain took longer than expected, and it's important to highlight that the outcome of the clinical trial was somewhat later than the initial projection."

The World Health Organization has also warned that vaccine alone will not end the pandemic. 

For a situation as serious as that in the US, it especially requires treating every identified patient, setting up makeshift hospitals, and conducting massive and rapid COVID-19 tests. However, Biden did not mention any of the three things at all. Then how can vaccines alone solve the US situation?

Trump also held a vaccine summit on Tuesday, aiming to take credit for the "rapid development of coronavirus vaccines," according to the US media. Trump emphasized that he would issue an "America First" vaccine executive order. The whole thing is a complete political stunt. When Biden takes office, it is very likely that he will also require a domestic agenda akin to "America First" in terms of vaccines.

Biden's three public health goals seem to be fanciful dreams. It can be seen from the 2020 presidential election results that Trump still has many supporters. For many of them, concepts such as wearing masks or taking vaccines are useless. 

Trump has previously compared COVID-19 to the common flu. But now the coronavirus death toll in the US is almost at 300,000 people and mounting. If we simply define Trump's behavior as anti-intellectual, then we are missing a piece of the puzzle. 

The essence of such behavior is that some American politicians are unwilling to sacrifice short-term political interests for long-term public interests. To put it bluntly, they are afraid of offending certain groups of people and they have no political responsibility. Most American politicians are thinking about how to maximize their own benefits in the short run. They want to do their job in an easy way. Such a mind-set is already deeply ingrained in their logic.

If the US continues to develop in this way, it will face its darkest moment in its history. The so-called herd immunity is a nonexistent entity in face of the COVID-19's lethality. If the US wants to try herd immunity, then a sufficient percentage of the American population needs to be immune to the coronavirus through previous infections. But this is not the case at present. Herd immunity also requires that a great part or even all Americans are infected. If so, one will wonder how many American people will eventually die from COVID-19, considering the death rate of COVID-19 in this country. Can the US bear such a price? 

Biden's three public health goals did not touch on the essence of the COVID-19 fight that has worked in so many other countries. The American people's mind-set will also pose great challenges to the country's future fight against this ruthless killer. The prospects are not optimistic now.

The author is professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University.


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