July 28, 2020 / Source: The Bizz USA
By Isabelle Sitchon; Edited by Adya Kumar and Haarika Kalahasti
Over the past months, whether or not the U.S. has handled the coronavirus efficiently has been up to serious debate. According to the CDC, there have been over 3.5 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States thus far and over 145,000 people have lost their lives.
In Japan, a country with a population one-third of the United States, there have been about 27,000 cases of COVID-19, with the number of deaths below 1,000. In terms of handling the coronavirus, the U.S. pales in comparison to Asian countries. The question is:-- What exactly have these countries been doing to manage the pandemic?
“During the pandemic, the U.S. in particular hasn’t had the leadership messages or coordination that you would have expected,” Bill Gates said in an interview with CNN. “We’re not as tough on enforcing quarantine, and the compliance of mask-wearing in the U.S. is far less, particularly in countries in Asia.”
While no country has been perfect in their attempts to handle the pandemic, several governments established strict policies and took immediate action to diminish the spread rapidly. For instance, when Wuhan, China was first struck with COVID-19, the Chinese government immediately cut off transportation from the city and placed many security guards on local streets to enforce the “stay-at-home” order. Although these procedures may have appeared controversial and extreme at the time, Wuhan, a city with a population of 11 million, reopened in early April and is gradually returning to its original state. Despite the reopening of several cities, the Chinese government is still remaining cautious as cases decrease. For instance, as soon as more than 150 cases emerged in Beijing in late June, China sealed off neighborhoods, launched a massive testing campaign, and imposed restrictions on its citizens in order to detain the virus.
Ever since the pandemic spiked in the USA in mid-March, the issue of COVID-19 testing has sparked debate and caused conflict among the nation. “We test more than anybody,” President Donald Trump said in a White House Press Conference, “And when you test, you create cases… it’s a double-edged sword.” Despite Trump's statement, U.S. labs are overwhelmed with the demand for testing due to the recent influx of COVID-19 cases this past week, creating a delay on test results for potentially infected patients.
On the other hand, South Korea has made COVID-19 one of its top priorities. When pandemic encroached in South Korea, hundreds of testing centers were established and were able to screen up to 20,000 people a day. In order to supply tests, virus testing was very affordable, as some were given for free; South Korean citizens are able to access their nearest testing center with ease. If tested positive, patients with severe symptoms are immediately sent to a hospital, while those with mild cases are designated to a quarantine facility, where they are given personal care packages and non-perishable food items. With an efficient COVID-19 testing system in place, South Korea’s daily number of virus cases does not exceed double digits.
Setting aside government policies and virus testing standards, societal values may also be an important factor in why the U.S. has such an abundant number of COVID-19 cases. The United States bases its ideals around individualism, the idea that individual goals are prioritized over group goals. While this may encourage ambition and motivation among the people, it may also make it difficult for the population to comply and make sacrifices for the greater good of the country. For instance, anti-mask rallies have recently conspired across the United States, as many individuals have gathered to protest and speak out against the government’s mask guidelines.
“We are not going to be told that we have to wear a mask. Her executive order does not trump the Constitution of the United States," said Tex Christopher, a Houston protest organizer.
On the contrary, Asian culture centers its ideals among the idea of collectivism, in which the group is valued more than individual interests. In a collectivist society, people tend to make decisions based on what is best for the community and have strong relationships with family and friends. While these societies may “bandwagon” more often, these ideals are extremely beneficial to the COVID-19 situation. Many people from Asian countries believe that the public needs to come together and collectively take precautions in order to combat the coronavirus. As a result, being seen in public without a mask is considered unusual, and effectively, the norm of constant mask-wearing has significantly decreased the spread of the coronavirus in Asian countries.
The United States is currently the highest contender in COVID-19 related cases and deaths. A second-wave of the COVID-19 outbreak is expected to hit the nation this coming fall, stirring panic in the public. Will the U.S. implement more proficient policies and guidelines alike to these Asian countries, or will the country continue to lead as the most vulnerable to the pandemic? Will the American population comply with safety measures for America’s wellbeing, or will they continue to prioritize individual liberties? The fate of this pandemic lies in our hands, and it’s about time we choose wisely.