COVID infection is far from peaking in US

Let’s take the corona map of the United States. See the much larger circles on the coasts than in the countryside. See the huge ring around New York, where 1 in 1,000 residents is infected. The circles on the west coast, where the virus first gained foothold on American soil. Circles around Chicago and Detroit, and crowded airports like Denver and Atlanta. Compare that to the speckles in rural states such as Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota. The map appears to be a true representation of epidemic logic: the greater the population density, the faster a virus spreads.

Yet America’s preeminent virologist Anthony Fauci said at a White House news conference this week: It’s time to turn the spotlight on the countryside. Do those speckles really express relative safety on the spot, or have we simply not tested enough?

Fauci’s concerns are real. The Americans are still largely in the dark. Weeks after the epidemic reached the country have muddled with the approach. The federal health service CDC insisted on developing its own test for the Covid-19 virus. It turned out to be wrong. After weeks, commercial laboratories were also allowed to perform tests. At the moment testing is in full, but the backlog is huge. In the US, only 1 in 612 residents have been tested for the virus. In Italy it is 1 in 161, in South Korea 1 in 148, in the latter country the epidemic is under control.

That is what makes President Trump’s impatience so tricky. On Thursday, he announced a three-degree severity system to determine whether an area has low, medium or high risk. He has made it known once more that he wants the US to “reopen” before Easter.

“This land was not built to be closed.”

Trump faces the tradeoff weighing on leaders around the world: How long do you freeze the country’s economy to fight a health crisis? He also pointed to public health. “If the country goes into recession, more people will commit suicide.” It’s a valid argument, especially in a week when 3.3 million Americans had to claim unemployment benefits.

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