There’s no reason the wealthiest country in the world–the nation that re-built Europe, that went to the moon, that claims exceptionalism as its birthright–should have to choose between economic resilience and protecting the lives of its most vulnerable citizens. Countries that acted more quickly to curb the spread of the virus have limited the damage on both fronts. In the early days of their fight against COVID-19, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland tested their populations at nearly 40 times the U.S. rate, per capita, and now have one-fifth the death rate.
Having failed in its initial response, the U.S. now risks risks making matters worse. Despite roughly 1,800 deaths per day of late, and rising infection rates in parts of the country, at least 41 states are easing restrictions or preparing to do so. In many cases, governors are plunging ahead with reopening despite failing to meet key benchmarks established by public-health officials. As a result, draft projections provided to the Federal Emergency Management Agency included a revised forecast for the virus’s toll, estimating some 3,000 Americans could be dying per day by June 1–a 9/11 every day.
To avoid these shocking death rates, Americans should look at what has worked elsewhere. Industrialized nations in Europe and Asia have begun opening up their economies by relying on continued social distancing, widespread testing, and a network of contact tracing to identify and contain new outbreaks. South Korea built an innovative digital infrastructure to identify and track every new coronavirus case within its borders. Germany set the standard for preventative testing and an incremental, staged plan for reopening.