Covid-19 crisis: who to blame and how we responded?

What we have known so far about the dynamics of the Covid-19 is the following: it is a novel virus for which little information is known so far as to the dynamics and characteristics of it, some medications for Malaria were used in countries like China, the growth in number of cases seems to be […]

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What we have known so far about the dynamics of the Covid-19 is the following: it is a novel virus for which little information is known so far as to the dynamics and characteristics of it, some medications for Malaria were used in countries like China, the growth in number of cases seems to be exponential without social distancing and movement restriction measures, and vaccines are being worked on. These are known facts so far. Aside from the personal hygiene and the general guidelines that anyone should follow under normal circumstances to minimize the possibilities of catching any virus of any sort, nothing else we know as facts so far. Countries that have caught the virus after China tried to follow the Chinese model of managing the crises, however, institutional and cultural differences have significantly contributed to the variation in those countries’ abilities to control the growth of the cases and Italy, Spain, and France as well as the USA could be the perfect examples. This doesn’t change the fact that China downplayed the crisis early on which may have caused many other countries not to take early measures to control the spread such as halting flights to and from China and neighboring countries that were likely largely affected due to their locational proximity to China. Therefore, there is a reasonable evidence which suggests that China is to be at least partially blamed for downplaying the crisis early on and also withholding information.

In the US, the decision to close the country for flights coming from China was the right decision and could have been made earlier had China shared more information with the US and the rest of the world. Nonetheless, the US response so far, although being largely made to the best of the government capabilities, has shown that the healthcare system and other crisis-related systems and structures are flawed. The limited number of tests, limited number of beds in ICU units, limited number of ventilators and respirators, masks, and other critical medical supplies that are much needed in times of pandemics have shown that the preparedness of the healthcare system is fundamentally flawed and lacking in many regards for the Covid-19 like crises. This points to the urgent need to restructure the healthcare system as a whole and make it more agile, prepared, and sophisticated quantitatively and qualitatively. This matter will likely be a major point of discussions for months and years to come as the greatest nation on earth continues to revise and re-evaluate its preparedness for similar future crises. 

Additionally, whether the institutional structure of the government and the states are orienting the US response to the corona virus crisis, and whether there are many holes that have hindered a faster response remain legitimate questions and should be further explored by the federal government and states’ governments, as well as policy makers. The confusion that seems to have dominated the scene and the contradictory narratives from major institutional players such as the various media outlets, the political players, and the massive inaccurate information that flooded social media have all contributed to the misunderstanding of the dynamics of the crisis we are facing early on, but again we shout note that all of this could have been avoided had China been forthcoming earlier. The political divide in the nation seems to have played a major role in driving at least part of the narrative being fed to the public, but all of us must always remember that America as a nation always rose above political differences in times of crisis and so we should now.  

As far as the dynamics of our response at the macro-level, two things seem to be of particular importance: you can’t prioritize testing based upon the so-called “hot spots” because there’s so much confounding effects here! When more tests are equally available to all states, you may find that what’s regarded as hot spot now may not actually be a hot spot when controlling for more tests being conducted in all other states. What’s even more important is the decisions that are made based upon this imprecise assumption such as allocating federal resources, which may be -according to the current prioritization- directed to some states that have larger number of cases right now just because more tests were being conducted there. Allocating federal resources is critical in controlling the crisis but you can’t make such decisions based upon an unproven assumption due to the variance in availability of tests early when the crisis started in the US. This reminds me of the first mover advantage and in this case, it may do injustice to other states. The second issue is the stimulus package, over the many previous crises we have had , stimulus is meant to encourage people to go out and spend money so the economy is moving and more jobs are created, but in this novel crisis what we want is for people to stay home as much as possible so we can linearize the growth of number of cases and then be able manage it in accordance with our health system capacity. Therefore, what we need is out of the box solution where the government money can go to small and medium businesses and demand them to keep their employees and pay them. Then, Americans can be asked to conduct their purchase transactions online and minimize their personal or physical shopping as much as they can so we can continue to control the spread.  Economists and policy makers should work hand in hand to develop a comprehensive plan that takes into account not only the economic considerations but also the precautions that should accompany those economic measures to continue to control the spread of the virus and be able to get the country back to a normal life. This requires creative and novel solutions that are customized based upon the characteristics of the crisis we are facing and that every element of this crisis should be controlled for if we want to have as little complicated aftermath as possible. 

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