Clearly, covid-19 has inflicted terrible economic and health damage upon the US. So far, America has suffered 1.4 million infections, 85,843 deaths, 33.6 million jobless claims and an April unemployment rate of 14.7 percent, the worst rate since the Great Depression. Here are four reasons why the USA has suffered such a particularly devastating covid-19 crisis?
1. Lack of early covid-19 testing. The US failed to test large numbers of people early in the crisis when any contagious disease is best managed. On March 11th, the United States had only performed 23 tests per million people, in contrast to the U.K at 347 per million, Italy 826 per million, and South Korea 3,692 per million. Notably, South Korea on May 15th had a death rate of 1 in 198,597 in contrast to the US death rate of 1 in 3,802.
Due to the lack of early testing, the number of infections in the US appeared to be relatively low at first. As a result, some leaders didn’t take the crisis seriously. On February 24th, US President Donald Trump tweeted, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
2. Lack of universal health insurance. While the US spends far more on healthcare per capita than other developed nations, the US stands alone in not providing universal healthcare. Result: those without healthcare avoid going to the doctor at the first sign of disease, which, in the case of a pandemic, causes infections to become more severe and to spread to a wider group of people.
3. Lack of financial stability among the working class. Compared to the vast majority of the world, the US has extremely high wages. It has a large wealthy class balanced against an even larger poor, working class. The country’s high cost of living exacerbates this income inequality. A 2018 Federal Reserve study found that 40 percent of Americans would struggle to pay for a $400 dollar emergency. When a crisis hits, close to half of the US population has little financial flexibility to deal with it.
4. Lack of direct government payroll support. Germany recorded an April unemployment rate of 5.8 percent, far lower than America’s rate of 14.7 percent. Part of the reason for the difference is because Germany, along with many European countries, is paying a significant part worker salaries to keep them on private sector payrolls.