In his interview with President Trump on Sunday, Chris Wallace asked about the increase in Coronavirus cases in the United States. President Trump responded by discussing various developments including increases in Coronavirus testing, ventilators, the age of the infected individuals, and the country's need to keep fighting the disease. Four other areas could also be considered in responding to the rise of Coronavirus cases in the United States.
First, it appears that the United States has, unfortunately, seen a decrease in social distancing. This trend has occurred even though the White House Coronavirus Task Force has stated for the past five months that social distancing is critical to the stop the spread of Coronavirus. After the tragic death of George Floyd on May 25, thousands of people protested throughout the country. They were in close proximity to each other, often yelled (thus expelling more saliva), and did not all have masks. The weekend of May 25 was Memorial Day weekend, and crowds flocked to the beaches. If the lack of social distancing leads to a rise in the virus, it is likely that these two events contributed to the increases in cases. One can argue whether the government should close certain businesses or areas, such as bars and beaches. Regardless of whether the government does so, Americans must take responsibility for themselves and their fellow citizens by social distancing.
The protests around George Floyd's death likely had another effect. Most of the media, in contrast to their commentary on other public gatherings, did not criticize the protesters for their lack of social distancing. It is possible that non-protesters saw this omission as a signal that they too could forgo social distancing in their activities. The lack of social distancing among non-protesters likely led to the increase in cases as well.
Second, the Task Force created the Guidelines for Opening Up America Again (Guidelines) on April 16, 2020. The Guidelines were a three-phase plan to reopen, and each phase was to be preceded by five gating criteria. It was up to each state to follow the Guidelines, but it is unclear if they did so. I argued in an April 20, 2020 blog post that states should have been transparent with their decisions to reopen and whether they satisfied the Guidelines. This approach would have allowed citizens to make a more informed decision regarding their actions and health.
Third, over the past five months, the United States has improved its ability of treating those with the disease. The country is producing more ventilators and PPE (although shortages of PPE may exist). The Trump Administration has purchased massive doses of Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine. The Army Corps of Engineers has done a great job of making temporary hospitals and has the ability to do so in the future.
Fourth, the increased testing is a positive development because it has been effective in identifying those with the disease. These individuals can get treated for the disease. They can also self-quarantine so as to prevent the spread of the disease. Last, the testing allows the government to target the areas with increased cases and take appropriate measures to control the outbreaks.
The United States, and the world, has a way to go in its fight against Coronavirus. America has made strides against the disease, though. At the same time, it is critical that individuals and states behave responsibly and act in the interest of others.