USA Response to COVID-19

USA Response to COVID-19

The response by the United States to the outbreak of COVID-19 has been highly criticised for being too slow, at least at the White House level. A quick internet search and anyone can read what a range of commentators are saying, some with conflicting views as you would expect.

But from President Trump’s direct comments in his press conference, it was clear that he had a very different take on COVID-19 compared with say Australia. While the number of new cases in epi-centres such as New York continued to skyrocket with death rates quickly reaching the highest in the world, in mid-March, President Trump was talking about re-opening the economy by Easter – a few weeks away.

On many occasions, the President’s comments were in stark contrast to those of his chief medical advisors.

In economic terms, the White House set up a taskforce and economic support was announced to various sectors. It was announced that $1200 cheques would be sent out to millions of Americans. But because many of these people did not have bank accounts registered with authorities, it was rumoured that it could take months for some to receive this support.

By early April, unemployment reached 6.6 million, the highest ever rate.

In data sourced from the US Government website, government help to small businesses included:

  • Paycheck Protection Program which included $350 billion in forgivable loans to small business
  • Advances on SBA disaster loans – loans that do not have to be repaid
  • Non-disaster SBA loan payments forgiven for 6 months

The US health system is quite different from that in Australia, UK and some other countries and it was clearly under extreme pressure in even the very early stages of the outbreak.

With makeshift morgues set up and facilities in places such as Central Park, it was clear to the world via NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily press conferences, pleading for supplies and assistance, that the situation had reached critical levels very quickly.

As it does, the US stock market reacted quickly to the outbreak, and just about every tweet from President Trump, and sent global stocks into freefall. Into territory even worse than the GFC.

To its credit, US companies are working hard on developing vaccines and many are coordinating with international counterparts to share information to fast-track solutions. Though the fast spread of misinformation around some medications has created its own set of problems.

Complicating many issues across the US was the relationship between states and between individual state authorities and the federal government in relation to medical supplies. Bidding competitions were going on for much needed supplies of PPE with states competing against each for limited supplies.

With unemployment at unseen levels, a highly volatile stock market and at a time when some countries were already seeing a flattening of the curve yet many US states were only just beginning to see outbreaks, the US is likely to have a long road to recovery from COVID-19.