Me, less than 24 hours ago:
I sorta feel like we’ve already passed the tipping point in containing the virus. It’s widespread enough that it is in so many places in people who do not know it. Next week is going to be wild.
— John Cole (@Johngcole) March 9, 2020
Surgeon General Jerome Adams: "Initially, we had a posture of containment, so that we could give people time to prepare for where we are right now. Now we're shifting into a mitigation phase."
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) March 8, 2020
It’s not that I am particularly bright and figured this out before anyone else, it’s that it should be obvious to everyone that we are just uniquely ill-prepared for just this sort of crisis. My first thought when I read that China was locking down entire cities and provinces was “Hope it works because if it gets here we’re screwed.” And that would be the case even if King Joffrey Baratheon wasn’t President and preoccupied with pulling the wings off butterflies and torturing small animals.
Most of the reasons are systemic, but there are some cultural ones, as well. The cultural ones are obvious- we pride ourselves on being “free,” regardless how true that is (we’re “free,” as long as you go to work, and pay the mortgage, and have health insurance, and on and on), so there is no Mayor, Governor, or elected official in America who is going to lock down a damned town, much less entire states. Not to mention, it’s debatable how effective that would be because viruses don’t respect borders, although it would not surprise me to see Trump use the virus as another excuse for his border wall.
Additionally, we also pride ourselves on being individuals, so the whole concept of collective action does not come easy to us. That’s not to say we don’t come together in the aftermath of a tragedy like a flood or hurricane, but that is AFTER the fact. Even then there are still more than enough jackasses who decide they can ride out the storm and those who are physically unable to leave, and that alone stresses the system. I often wonder if World War II happened today, would we be able to pull our shit together again and deal with rationing? I have my doubts.
BUT BUT INNOVATION, you say! Free markets! Innovation comes after the fact, and I hate to break it to you, but innovation doesn’t happen only here. In fact, with us moving towards the MBA model of short term profit, more often than not actual innovation is happening elsewhere in the world.
The structural reasons are all pretty obvious if you think about it, too. Medical care in the United States is a barely functional patchwork of different providers If you have money and insurance and until recently did not have a pre-existing condition, if you don’t have money, it isn’t functional at all. World’s best healthcare, my ass. So there is no centralized authority with a flat structure to administer health care, and even if there were, not everyone has access to health care to begin with.
On top of that, and due mostly to that, we are utter shit at preventative medicine. Having access to medical care for everyone in the population increases not only quality of life, but lifespans, because the citizenry and the medical professionals can focus on fixing people who are broken and then work to get them to stay that way. People live longer, healthier lives in countries with full coverage. It’s that simple. All countries are to some degree reactive, but we are particularly so, here. I mean, fer fuck’s sake, someone briefly mentioned discussing end of life care before you were one foot in the grave with the other on a banana peel and the country freaked the fuck out screaming about death panels for five years.
So you have a country which has medical care determined by profit, so there is no fat in the system to deal with a huge and immediate surge, an unhealthier population who even if they have medical coverage are loathe to use it because we are penalized for doing so (to keep costs down- *GIGGLE*), a sicker population more susceptible to severe consequences from something like coronavirus, a population less likely to work together to stop the spread, and,because there basically is no social safety net, unable to stay home from work because if they do they lose the house and the kids go hungry, and basically you have a 350 million man petri dish just waiting to explode. Once the virus got here, we were pretty much fucked regardless.
This differs from something like Ebola, btw, in that it is easy to contain people who might have been exposed to it than corona because the places you can get exposed are much broader, and you generally KNOW if you are exposed to Ebola early on. Corona was probably on its way around the globe as Asia was closing its doors.
I guess what waits to be seen is how we handle the mitigation. Probably our only chance is have a lot of luck and to throw money at it so that people are incentivized to provide the care or seek the care they need. Throw a dollar sign handling it, and we might make it.
Obviously I am not a professional, and these are just my thoughts, so if I am wrong, please fill me in. I know David probably has a lot to add that will clarify, correct, and/or expand on what I have written.
Bonus- read Shock Doctrine and keep your eye on what the fuckers are going to do during this crisis, because you know they will be up to something while we are distracted.