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EDITORIAL: United States does not have infrastructure to combat coronavirus

Failure to provide adequate care will harm containment efforts

During the past couple of days, we have seen a scramble regarding coronavirus response in the United States. We, at Rutgers, have experienced that panic first-hand, as we remain at home until at least April 3.

Other countries are already further in the process of dealing with coronavirus, with China reporting that cases have gone down in the country. Its economy also looks as if it is getting back on track. 

“There is a ‘semblance that production capability is actually now coming back to the Chinese economy,’ (UBS Global Wealth Management Regional Chief Investment Officer Kelvin) Tay said, citing a decline in the number of reported infections in the country,” according to CNBC.

But America is not China, and we do not have as centralized of a government as they do. We do not have the capability, legislatively nor systematically, to enact harsh shut downs of society that could quell the virus.

Still, the government can help mitigate the spread of coronavirus without completely shutting down the way the nation functions. The issue? A lot of the institutions needed to quickly shoo away the impacts of the coronavirus — or any future pandemics — are not in place.

Foremost among those institutions is a strong healthcare system. The United States is known for its expensive healthcare with out-of-pocket costs and insurance prices gouging Americans day after day.

On top of that, American medical outcomes still lag behind other countries.

“Americans pay far more than other wealthy nations for health care — more than double per year than Canadians or Australians. And the bottom line? U.S. life expectancy ranks behind countries such as Japan, Israel and Spain,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Needless to say, this painful combination of high prices and mediocre care will not do us any good when combating the coronavirus. 

Many people will feel hesitant to go to the doctors if they are feeling ill due to the sad fact that they will not be able to pay their medical bills. As a result, people will unknowingly spread the virus and the mortality rate will be higher than it has to be.

“While countries around the globe are struggling to deal with the coronavirus, people in the U.S. must contend with a fragmented health system where just going to get tested can mean hundreds or thousands of dollars in medical bills — a risk those in other developed countries don't face,” according to CNN.

In a sense, this will lead to the United States doing exactly what many of its citizens accuse China of doing — fudging the numbers. Rather than the federal government directly censoring numbers, there will be soft censorship in the United States, caused by a lack of testing and a lack of people seeking medical treatment.

In addition to the fiscal problems involving the nations health system, it also has capacity issues. Hospitals simply will not keep up with the demand that they anticipate due to coronavirus.

“Another problem facing the U.S. health care system is its lack of reserve capacity to handle health care crises of the type that the country may now be experiencing … For example, the system’s supply of hospital beds has been declining for the past two decades (due to) hospital closures and mergers,” according to Harvard Business Review.

Unlike European countries with strong healthcare systems, the United States is trailing behind and the coronavirus is going to expose the gaping holes in our institutions. 

Our failure to centrally plan, coupled with the continual medical neglect espoused by the government of this nation, is going to cause this crisis to be far worse than it may have been in an idealistic world. 

The government’s failure to test and reform the health system in the United States is about to become abundantly clear to those ignorant of the fact now. That may be a good thing, in the long-run — if people realize how unstable the foundations of our systems are, they will vote in those who plan to fix it.

Universal healthcare, family leave and other policies that make transitioning out of the workplace and into the doctor’s office must be supported going forward.

When it is your time to vote, this coming November, vote out those who have inflamed this crisis.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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