How the U.S. and Italy traded places on coronavirus

But Italy announced just 264 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday — the same day that the United States reported nearly 32,000. The European nation opened its restaurants and stores a month ago, albeit under new, national safety measures, even as U.S. states wrestled with inconsistent, hasty reopening efforts that have been blamed for new virus spikes. And Italy’s outbreak has dramatically ebbed from its mid-March peak, while America’s new per capita cases remain on par with Italy’s worst day — and show signs of rising further, with record hospitalizations in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas last week…

Jha and other public health experts say that America’s piecemeal, politicized approach to fighting coronavirus has left the United States ever-further behind the Western European nations that were similarly threatened by the virus but moved more judiciously to fend it off. They also say that Western Europe is a better comparison point for the United States than nations like South Korea and Singapore, which had been scarred by previous viral outbreaks and were more prepared to handle the arrival of Covid-19. After the damaging initial spike in cases, European Union members’ total daily case count is now about one-eighth of the U.S. daily cases — despite having roughly the same population…

Public health experts cited multiple factors for why the fortunes of the United States have differed from Western Europe — starting with the intense politicization that worked against a disciplined response, and the federal government’s decision to let individual states take the lead in reopening. The decisions of some states to end their lockdowns as early as possible — at levels of infection considerably higher than those that triggered reopening in Western Europe — appear to have consigned the United States to a far longer battle with the virus.