Another year, another surge. Facing a fresh wave of the highly contagious Omicron variant, countries are grappling to safeguard their citizens against infection—each in their own way. There are nations that have stuck to the Zero-COVID strategy in a bid to minimize transmission. There are countries that have rushed to boost their public with a view to reaching an optimal state of herd immunity.
Then there is the American strategy, a hotchpotch of inaction and counteraction that has plunged the nation into a public health anarchy. The COVID-19 map says it all. Zooming in on any coronavirus hot spot graphics, and you will find that, for most of the past two years, the American part dyed in ominous burgundy. With an appalling daily tally of some 800 thousand cases (nearly 140,000 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized every single day), the US is marching at an alarming pace toward establishing its own model of herd immunity—not by vaccination but through mass infection.
America's COVID-19 fiasco, a slow-motion tragedy where everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, has been jointly inflicted by its incompetent and irresolute politicians, the divisions among centrifugal states, as well as the misleading and conflicting media and so-called pundits.
It is a self-fulfilling prophecy when dereliction of duty goes unchecked and apathy to human life and science is tolerated or even applauded.
Back in early 2020, former US President Donald Trump eagerly dismissed the infectious disease as a hoax hatched by the Democrats and a "Kung Flu," having opted instead to throw more energy behind his own reelection bid than to urge the public to wear masks and get vaccinated. Under his watch, the US lost over 400,000 lives to the disease, of which at least 130,000 people died unnecessarily, according to Deborah Birx, Trump's former coronavirus response coordinator.
But has former US President Trump been held to account for his mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis? Not in the slightest. He was in fact been impeached twice and is still in the crosshairs for his role in the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Yet he escaped scot-free from the public health disaster he left behind.
The former New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has also taken his spot in the long line of politicians who have not been held accountable for their negligence in bungling the COVID-19 response. Last year, the star governor resigned in disgrace. His undoing? Harassment allegations, rather than the fact that he ordered nursing homes to take back infected residents, letting the virus loose in those most vulnerable places in his state. Unlike Trump, he was subject to an investigation for his role in the state's nursing home horror. But the result that came out earlier this month found that he was not liable for any criminal charges.
Also, the same goes for Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who himself was infected with the virus last August and yet has still spared in no effort to block every vaccine or mask mandate. Not to mention Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who let almost a million rapid COVID-19 tests expire as they sat idly in a warehouse. And congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who recently received what has been her only dose of punishment—permanently suspension from Twitter—after waging her misinformation frenzy on the social media platform (including concocting a falsehood that there has been "extremely high amounts" of COVID-vaccine-related deaths)…
Do these politicians really have grave doubts over vaccine efficacy? Clearly not. Greg Abbott received his booster and Ron DeSantis has gotten at least two shots (he refused to clarify whether he is boosted). Yet they would rather shirk their responsibility to nudge the public to follow suit, which will have ZERO consequences other than offending anti-vaccination voters, which would otherwise taint their political future.
When politicians refuse or fail to devise and implement a clear roadmap, then chances are that baffled and worn-out citizens will make selfish decisions in the name of freedom. Meanwhile, the media will feed the furor and profit from this costly freedom under the banner of "freedom of speech"—when no one, in the end, is to be held responsible for spewing out misinformation.
Just take a look at the star-struck Fox News channel, a petri dish of COVID-related "alternative facts," where masks, vaccine mandates, social distancing rules, and school closures taken as preemptive measures are often the subject of censuring in shows hosted by celebrity anchors. For Fox News hosts, facts appear to matter far less than political grandstanding. When they constantly churn out conspiracy theories or anti-science rhetoric that clearly go against CDC guidelines and even common sense, their staunch viewers ultimately bear the brunt—a Kaiser Family Foundation study has found 36% of surveyed Fox News views either believed in or were unsure about four or more false statements, one of the highest. Still, there is zero accountability.
Voters and viewers take sides, but the virus respects no party affiliations. It feeds on misinformation and it flourishes when politicians are unaccountable and the media and so-called pundits trade in science-based facts for ratings. When politicians and celebrity hosts have nothing to lose, they of course won't prioritize people's lives in the first place.
On January 3, the US logged a horrific record of one million cases, an astronomical number compared to most countries' case counts. As of January 16, over 850,000 lives have been lost to COVID-19 in America. It's tragic, it's alarming and it's above all sickening. With the US keen on slamming China's Zero-COVID strategy and playing with its living-with-COVID plan, why not save some energy to reexamine its own laissez-faire and zero-accountability approach first?