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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Is America Opening Up Too Soon Amidst Covid-19 Pandemic?

As the biggest economy in the world with the highest number of deaths (65,000+) and highest number of Covid-19 patients (11,00,000+) starts to open up, one can’t help asking whether America is committing harakiri by opening up too soon with over 2000 people still dying everyday? Dr. Christopher Murray, Director, Institute of Health, Metrics & Evaluation University of Washington, has projected 72000+ deaths by early August but the way people are dying that figure could be breached in the month of May, let alone August.

26% of all Covid-19 deaths are in America and nearly 33% of all infected persons are Americans. America has over one million coronavirus patients as the global figures cross 3 million. The president is keen on opening up America and the States have their own take on the whole issue depending on whether they are Democrats or Republicans.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases since 1984 and White house Coronavirus task force member sounded a word of caution, “if we prematurely open up the virus could rebound.” Dr Fauci further warned that the States are taking a “significant risk” by reopening too soon which was in stark contrast to the President’s take who said that “many states are moving to reopen safely and quickly.”

Georgia has opened and Florida with 21 million is on the verge of reopening. 31 States out of the 50 are scheduled to partially reopen within the coming days and relax stay at home orders.

Is America risking a second surge of infections by opening up too quickly? California beaches have opened amidst warning by governor Gavin Newsom that the “virus doesn’t take weekend off and does not go home.” People were seen thronging the new port beach throwing social distancing norms to the winds. The governor has since closed the beaches drawing widespread protests from the beach goers.

But amidst all the warnings most states in the US have decided to open up. Even masks are not mandatory in most States as they decide to open malls, restaurants, saloons and tattoo shops. Even the vice President did not wear a mask during a hospital visit to see Covid-19 patients. That in effect epitomizes the lackadaisical approach of the federal government where everything is optional and nothing is mandatory. The White House and the State governors are not on the same page and the President has left it to the states on opening up.

The economy seems to be the overriding factor in deciding to open up as 30 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits with 3.8 million applying in the last week. The president has signed on a massive 3 trillion dollar pandemic package .

Larry Summers former US treasury secretary says that if America reopens soon it could be “W” shape recovery with a double dip in the offing with a likelihood of a second wave of the virus which could lead to a second shut down.

The US GDP is shrinking by 4.8% which is the worst since 2008. With a 23 trillion dollar debt, the anxiousness of the Federal government to kickstart the biggest economy in the world is understandable.

Amongst all the talk about the vaccines and antibodies, Dr Fauci has advocated the use of “Remdesivir” as according to him, “Mortality rate trended better with Remdesivir.” According to Dr Fauci, while the patients had a 15 day recovery with Placebo, the recovery time was 11 days when Remdesivir was administered. He placed his argument on the basis of trials over 1000 people but another epidemiologist Larry Brilliant chose to be “cautiously optimistic” and said that “Covid-19 was an awful disease as we would realise.”

Dr Kathleen Neuzil, another vaccine researcher said that early Remdesivir trials show that the “drug can block this virus.” According to her, “this drug is not a cure but can make sick people better.” The FDA (Food & Drug Administration) has since then allowed the use of Remdesivir as Covid-19 treatment .

According to Dr Anthony Fauci, “testing is close to where it needs to be,” while her colleague and member of the White House Coronavirus task force Dr Deborah Birx emphasizes that it should be at least 30 per 1000. Amidst all these conflicting reports from the top medical experts the FDA has come in for criticism for allowing too many companies to test and their have been calls that the worst of the worst tests should be taken out of the market.

With top experts including Dr Anthony Fauci warning against opening up and the vaccine still at least 9 months away, Dr Fauci says it could be available by next spring. The federal government and the State’s could be taking a huge risk in opening up as a panel of experts from the University of California, San Francisco fear that 40 to 70 percent of the American population could be ultimately infected and one million could die if no cure was found. That scenario, if it unfolds, could be catastrophic for the US and the world .

The world needs America to bounce back from the pandemic sooner than later but a hurried and sudden opening up could a bring a second surge of the deadly virus which could engulf a larger population and put a spanner on the economic activity apart from sucking the people in quicksand of Covid-19.

In such a scenario, the American government would be more inward bound and preoccupied with fighting the pandemic, leaving China to dictate terms and create a world order of its own. Already the UN, WHO and the UNHRC are dancing to the tune of China and if the status quo is not restored, China would be calling the shots economically and politically.

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Aman Gupta
Aman Gupta
Political Editor, Samast Bharat magazine


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