The US has had the worst response to Covid-19 of any major country, Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Institute of Health, said Monday.
“I think it’s pretty fair to say we may have the worst response of any major country,” Jha said during a Center for American Progress webinar. While he said that it could be argued that Brazil’s response has been as bad or worse, competing with Brazil for that title is “not where you want to be.”
“We didn’t get here overnight. This has really been one mishap after another,” Jha said. “The single factor that really differentiates us from everybody else is denialism that has pervaded our entire approach.”
Jha said that the US has gone from believing that coronavirus was a hoax, to believing it was the flu, to now thinking the pandemic is nearly over because a vaccine is two months away.
“One message,” he said. “The vaccine is not two months away and we are nowhere near done with this pandemic.”
In January, the federal government and others denied the existence and importance of the virus, Jha said. In February, the country “largely flew blind,” with no testing capacity and no idea about the spread across the country. March brought awareness of how bad the situation was, but a response that was far too slow, costing lives.
In April and May, when the country was supposedly shut down, he said, large parts of the country still allowed much activity and the White House was sending mixed messages about what needed to be done. June brought reopening “way too soon, in way too many places, and way too aggressively,” he said.
“I think really by the end of July, the data were so overwhelmingly clear that we had messed up as a nation, once again, that there really have been some changes,” he said.
Looking at the country today, while what Jha called the “super hot zones,” like Texas, Florida and Arizona, are starting to cool down. But too many cases are still being generated, he said.
Jha sees more challenges and “muddling along” in the coming weeks and months, with the pandemic being fought on a state-by-state basis. “What I’m worried about is that there will continue to be no real national strategy,” he said. “When things are bad in Florida, you can’t really protect New York or New Jersey or Washington state. We are all in this together.”