Two distinct crises, one potential catastrophe 

By Fabian Sutch-Daggett - World Healthcare Journal

The past few days, weeks, and months, have been an intensely turbulent time for the world. The coronavirus pandemic has shaken nations to the core, killed hundreds of thousands of people, created economic turmoil, and brought health systems to their knees.

But no nation faces such a cataclysm as the United States. Currently, the US has more than 1.8m cases of Covid-19 - eclipsing the reported statistics of the second-worst affected nation by total confirmed cases, Brazil, which stand at 550,000.

Throughout the entirety of the Covid-19 outbreak in the US, a lack of cohesive strategy, rampant spread of misinformation, and wildly under-resourced health systems have allowed the coronavirus pandemic to run amok throughout US cities and states. New York City, in particular, has experienced by far the worst outbreak of any state, with more than 370,000 confirmed cases - which alone would be greater than the third worst-affected nation.

Many have perceived the White House to have continually downplayed the threat of Covid-19: statements and directives from public health officials were forced to be coordinated with the office of Vice President, Mike Pence, who has repeatedly underestimated the gravity of the situation.

Furthermore, on April 14, President Donald Trump announced he would be withdrawing funding from the WHO - stating that the organisation has mismanaged the pandemic and that the US would not participate in a global vaccine or drug development effort. President Trump has also announced he will be terminating the US relationship with the WHO - on the grounds that they have failed to hold China to account for “instigating” the pandemic.

But now, following the tragic and brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minnesotan police officer, protests, marches, boycotts, and riots have engulfed the US, demanding justice and reform. The Black Lives Matter movement, originally founded in 2013 following the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin, has resurged, bringing together millions across the world to decry systemic racism and the senseless and abhorrent killings of black citizens - not just within America.

However, this atrocity could not have occurred at a deadlier time. AP News reported that the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests within Minnesota coincided with “the very worst days of the pandemic so far,” according to Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. As of today, hospital admissions for Covid-19 are still on the increase in the state - and are not showing immediate signs of slowing.

And this is also not an issue solely linked to Minnesota. Protests have arisen all across the nation, chiefly in metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York, and Chicago - which have been hard-hit by coronavirus.

It is clear to see the dilemma. Widespread protesting, where thousands of people are densely packed together - even with the use of face masks - will pose an enormous risk in regards to Covid-19 transmission. As we know the infectivity of Covid-19 is very high in comparison to its coronavirus cousins, SARS and MERS, just a few carriers (police or protestors) could potentially infect hundreds within the crowds - and in turn, put an enormous strain onto an already crippled healthcare system.

Furthermore, these events have not only occurred at a time which is most critical to controlling the spread of the disease - but the decision by the government to reopen restaurants, gyms, and salons at this time is potentially dangerous. These moves have come despite the warnings from Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the NIAID, who warned that if caution was not exercised, infection rates could rebound. These warnings were publicly dismissed by President Trump, who regarded the statement as “not an acceptable answer”.

We could be witnessing a Covid-19 “perfect storm” - where the partial restart of the economy, transmission during protests, and unclear advice from the government leads to the one thing which public health experts have desperately tried to avoid: a second peak.

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