The world is putting America in quarantine

The United States is in the midst of a full-blown second wave of coronavirus. According to Worldometers, Tuesday had 36,015 new cases — the highest number since May 1, and the third-highest ever. Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, California, and Texas are headed for a dire emergency fast. So far deaths have thankfully not returned to their previous highs, probably in part because the new surge appears to be hitting younger patients. But deaths are also a lagging indicator, and they are highly likely to start increasing soon.

Europe, where most countries have largely contained the virus (after initial screw-ups), is looking at America with slackjawed horror. The European Union is likely to close its borders to American travelers when it restores some international travel on July 1. Canada will most likely keep its U.S. border mostly closed when the current agreement expires on July 21.

Around the world, it is beginning to sink in how profoundly rotten the United States is. Unless America manages to turn things around, it will slide from the center of the international order to a peripheral, mistrusted basketcase, and it will deserve it.

It is plainly obvious why the U.S. is experiencing a second wave. The point of coronavirus lockdowns, as I and dozens of others explained months ago, was to buy time for the government to set up more fine-grained containment protocols that could contain the virus more effectively. With transmission reduced to a manageable rate and a test-trace-isolate system in place, countries can return to something like normal life, and an increasing number are doing so. It’s a tricky business and renewed lockdowns may be necessary, as fresh outbreaks in China and elsewhere have shown, but it can be done.

But the Trump administration did not even try this on a national level, or do anything of significance. Indeed, American politics is so broken that we couldn’t even manage the simplest common-sense containment strategy of mandating universal mask-wearing in any indoor space. American public health experts spent weeks on a bizarre and scientifically illiterate crusade against masks — a study years ago found that even cheap homemade masks significantly reduce droplet-based infection — but even after plenty of new evidence has come in, Trump and most Republicans keep insisting a mask is a matter of personal choice. Instead masks got sucked into the conservative grievance industrial complex, becoming another postmodern cultural signifier for right-wingers trying to own the libs.

Trump simply cannot grasp what the pandemic is, because in his mind nobody save himself is a real person. Appearances are all that matter — he is plainly most upset about the Bad Numbers of infections and deaths, and continues to suggest in public that the U.S. should be testing less so he looks less bad. He promises there will be no more lockdowns even as cases spike, and recently held a huge indoor rally in Tulsa — perhaps the worst possible thing he could do, especially because his followers mostly refused to wear the free provided masks. Despite being poorly attended, that rally still could easily turn out to be a mega-spreader event.

It is no doubt extremely alarming for people around the world coming to really grasp the fact that the world’s most powerful country is being run by an incompetent buffoon who could not be trusted with a lemonade stand yet still commands the lockstep loyalty of one of two major political parties. “I can’t imagine what it must be like having to go to work knowing it’s unsafe,” Siouxsie Wiles, a New Zealand disease scientist, told The Washington Post. “There are just going to be more and more people infected, and more and more deaths. It’s heartbreaking.” Indeed, American political reporters have struggled to grasp the reality of Trump as well, though the ongoing catastrophe seems to have finally beaten it into their heads.

Source: The Week