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article imageOp-Ed: America has lost global credibility over COVID-19 response

By Karen Graham     Aug 9, 2020 in Politics
With confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. reaching 5 million Sunday, by far the highest of any country, the failure of the most powerful nation in the world to contain the scourge has been met with astonishment and alarm in Europe.
Nowhere in the world is America's response to the COVID-19 pandemic seen with consternation than in Italy, which became Europe's ground-zero for the pandemic back in February.
The Italian government was not prepared for the explosion of cases when the virus hit full-force in February this year, and it still has one of the world's highest death tolls at 35,000, according to CTV News Canada.
However, after a ten-week lockdown was initiated, along with strict protocols for the tracing of new clusters and general acceptance of mask mandates and social distancing, Italy has now become a model for how to contain the virus, according to the Associated Press.
An elderly couple wearing face masks and holding hands walk in a street in the upper city of Bergamo...
An elderly couple wearing face masks and holding hands walk in a street in the upper city of Bergamo, as Italy eases lockdown measures
"Don't they care about their health?" a mask-clad Patrizia Antonini asked about people in the United States as she walked with friends along the banks of Lake Bracciano, north of Rome. "They need to take our precautions. ... They need a real lockdown."
So how did America manage to screw up so royally? After all, we had the benefit of time, as well as Europe's earlier experience with the virus, and we definitely have the medical knowhow to treat the virus.
Amazingly, more than four months into a sustained outbreak, the U.S. has reached the 5 million mark in confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the running count kept by Johns Hopkins University. Health officials
'It's sobering to think that six months ago  when you recommended I declare a(n emergency)...
'It's sobering to think that six months ago, when you recommended I declare a(n emergency), there were less than 100 cases and no deaths outside China,' said WHO chief Tedros
Health officials believe the actual number of coronavirus cases in the U.S,. is closer to 50 million - given the testing limitations and the fact that close to 40 percent of all those infected are asymtomatic.
“We Italians always saw America as a model,” said Massimo Franco, a columnist with daily Corriere della Sera. “But with this virus we’ve discovered a country that is very fragile, with bad infrastructure and a public health system that is nonexistent.”
The Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza hasn’t shied away from criticizing the U.S. He criticized the U.S. when President Donald Trump stopped funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), and has expressed "amazement" at Trump's response to the coronavirus crisis.
After Trump finally donned a mask last month, Speranza told La7 television: "I'm not surprised by Trump's behaviour now; I'm profoundly surprised by his behaviour before."
A health care worker administers a COVID-19 test at United Memorial Medical Center testing site in H...
A health care worker administers a COVID-19 test at United Memorial Medical Center testing site in Houston, Texas -- now only the third state to register more than 10,000 virus cases in a 24-hour period
Mark Felix, AFP/File
With America having the world's highest death toll from the virus, at over162,000, along with the politicized resistance to the wearing of face masks, Europe has barred Americans and visitors from other countries with growing cases from entering their borders.
In what is now a famous and wide-ranging interview with Axios reporter Jonathan Swan on HBO, Trump claimed that U.S. deaths from the COVID-19 virus are "lower" than anywhere in the world.
"Lower than the world? In what?" Swan asked. Trump whipped out a chart that supposedly showed that a smaller number of Americans had died of the virus than any other place in the world. Of course, for many months, Trump has insisted the "fake media's" numbers have been false, to begin with.
And don't forget that Trump has claimed in many interviews that if the United States didn't do so much testing, we wouldn't have so many sick people.
Artists at London's Madame Tussauds check the masks on the wax figures of British PM Boris John...
Artists at London's Madame Tussauds check the masks on the wax figures of British PM Boris Johnson and US President Donald Trump
Tolga Akmen, AFP
In any case, Swan objected. "I'm talking about death as a proportion of population," he said. "That's where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc."
"You can't do that," Trump sputtered. He implied that South Korea (300 deaths in a population of 51 million) has faked its statistics. Yes, the U.S. is doing much better than Europe, he said. Trump even claimed that in Florida and Texas, deaths were dropping sharply (a falsehood).
Gee, do you think our great leader has somehow hindered the response the U.S. could have made to the coronavirus? People may remember when the virus first appeared in the United States, Trump and his supporters quickly dismissed it as either a “hoax” or a virus that would quickly disappear once warmer weather arrived.
And is it any wonder that many of our allies are nor as quick to back many of Trump's actions? Yes, I believe our credibility as a world leader is now in question, and that is really sad.
“Had the medical professionals been allowed to operate in the States, you would have belatedly gotten to a point of getting to grips with this back in March,” said Scott Lucas, professor of international studies at the University of Birmingham, England. “But of course, the medical and public health professionals were not allowed to proceed unchecked,” he said, referring to Trump’s frequent undercutting of his own experts.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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