There are many things I miss about home — the family-run pizza joints on every corner, the famed New Jersey boardwalks, not having to pump my own petrol. But considering how the US is fumbling to manage the spread of coronavirus, I’m inclined to forgo the New Jersian luxuries and hunker down in the UK with a can of mushy peas.
I recently caught up with my good friend, who works as a nurse at a hospital neighbouring our hometown. There are at least 12 patients confirmed to have coronavirus in her building, and nurses outside of the quarantined ward are only given one surgical mask for the duration of their 12-hour shift.
Thousands of hospitals throughout the US face the same predicament of a severe equipment shortage. The lack of preparedness can be attributed to the government’s failure to restock supplies after deploying 100 million masks in 2009 to stave off the H1N1 flu pandemic.
As it stands, the US will need an estimated 3.5 billion face masks to fight Covid-19. Even with some corporations altruistically manufacturing masks, President Trump’s decision to avoid using emergency powers to compel production raises concerns about whether the country will acquire the supplies needed before hospitals are overwhelmed.
To complicate matters further, a lack of rigorous testing means that no one is sure just how many Americans have Covid-19. To give some perspective, the testing site nearest my hometown is meant to serve several counties containing tens of thousands of people, and only has the capacity to conduct 250 tests per day.
While I realise that the UK is similarly gridlocked for some supplies and tests, I see a clear difference in the level of cohesion and morale between the two countries.
My president is downplaying the timeline for this virus and entertaining the idea that America will get back to business by Easter. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has pragmatically announced that the lockdown is likely to extend into May or June, and the government has collaborated extensively with supermarkets to ensure the vulnerable get food and provisions during this period.
It has also been announced that, very soon, millions of home coronavirus tests will be available for those self-isolating, with the caveat that the tests pass one more quality check. The government has bought 3.5 million test kits so far and is ordering millions more.
Most heart-warming of all, in the last two days over half a million volunteers have pledged to help the NHS support the country’s most vulnerable. Starting from next week, volunteers will phone those in isolation, deliver food and medicines, and transport people home from the hospital.
The US ought to look closely at the way Britain has considered vulnerable people while handling this outbreak. Though Trump has announced a massive $2 trillion package to aid small firms and individuals, it’s going to take more than just money to tackle coronavirus. In these times of uncertainty and restriction, Americans will also need opportunities to demonstrate solidarity and benevolence.