God Save America! Unrestrained spread of COVID-19 exposes its underbelly

Zeenath Khan

As the old adage goes: When America sneezes, the whole world gets a cold.  America’s problem is that it isn’t simply sniffling at the moment; the pandemic has left it gasping for breath. A result of the outgoing Trump’s administration’s disastrous handling of COVID-19 from the get-go. Not that Trump has conceded the election, but that doesn’t matter. Most US courts have dismissed his claims of election fraud on grounds of insubstantial evidence. Whether he likes it or not, Donald Trump must leave the White House on the 20th of January 2021. But seventy days remain until that date and unless Trump co-operates with Biden’s transition team regards the pandemic, God Save America.

On the 16th of November alone, the United States recorded 160,000 new cases. Eleven million cases since March, a death toll of close to 250,000. The death rate amongst Blacks and Hispanics is roughly double that of Whites. Poverty and crowded living quarters are the chief causes. In the case of undocumented workers, the situation is far more precarious: a lack of medical insurance compounded with the resistance to seek medical help for fear of deportation.

One in ten of Philadelphia’s residents has tested positive. With cases on the rise in states across the country, the Governors of Michigan, New York, and Illinois have announced the closure of schools, gyms, and restaurants.The Mayor of Chicago deemed only grocery shopping and getting a COVID test as essential outings. Trump has threatened to withhold the vaccine from New York State because of his ongoing animosity with Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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Cuomo, meanwhile, dismissed Trump to be a bully who lived in a bizarre world of his own and subjected his country to four years of malpractice.

In October 2020, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer received kidnapping threats which Democrats blamed on certain elements of the Republican Party. Her crime: the installation of stringent public safety measures as the pandemic raged. The misogynistic comments she has been subject to are outrageous—unimaginable in a so-called developed country.

The last week has seen Pfizer and Moderna declare their vaccines almost fool proof. Biden and Harris have an unenviable task at hand, on the surface at least they seem to be headed in the right direction.

‘A mask isn’t a political statement,’ said Joseph Biden, ‘wearing it can save your life.’ The President-Elect wasted no time in assembling a COVID task force chaired by an Indian American, Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General of the United States.  Murthy’s appointment hints to the Biden-Harris team’s vision of an inclusive administration. One that includes Americans of different races, faiths, sexual inclinations, and gender. The ideal behind this rationale is that a diverse Cabinet can offer different perspectives.

It is unfortunate that it took a pandemic to reveal America’s dark underbelly. Glaring income inequalities, racism, the political divide, and a shocking lack of respect for women in power. With a President in his advanced years, much depends on the vibrant Kamala who in the run up to the election promised to fight for America’s soul. Until then, let’s hope Mr Trump heeds Barack Obama’s advice and understands for the good of America that his time is up.

Zeenath Khan is a Mumbai-based writer and columnist

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