A black swan the US didn’t see coming

TClifford A Kiracofe

Will the coronavirus (COVID-19) become a “black swan” for the US economy and the November 2020 election? Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 broke out in China more than a month ago, the virus has become a rising challenge for many countries around the world, but the West and the US in particular appears ill prepared.
China’s timely and dramatic actions it has taken to deal with the coronavirus not only improved prospects within China but also gave some lead time for the rest of the world to respond. The World Health Organization (WHO) took note of the rapid and strenuous efforts by China’s central leadership to combat the health threat. The Chinese public appears to be meeting the emergency with resiliency and determination.
The WHO has actively engaged and rallied experts from around the world to address the COVID-19 threat. Meetings of its Emergency Committee have been convened and expressed appreciation for China’s timely and comprehensive actions.
But what about the US? Predictably, Washington immediately engaged in China bashing and Cold War style propaganda. The Secretary of Commerce, Wall Street magnate Wilbur Ross, went so far as to boast that the US would benefit from the virus hitting China because factories would relocate to the US. The Ross’s thought processes and mindset evidently leave something to be desired.
The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that since 2010 annual flu illnesses have ranged from 9 million to 45 million cases. Hospitalizations annually range from 140,000 to 810,000. Deaths annually have ranged from 12,000 to 61,000. The high numbers are from the 2017-18 flu season.
The US media rarely reports on these numbers, and the tens of thousands of American who die from the flu each year is generally accepted as “normal.” Suddenly the COVID-19 epidemic is being hyped as health threat caused by China with a noticeable racist undertone.
China began reporting COVID-19 cases popping up in Wuhan in December 2019, but it wasn’t until late January that the US assembled a coronavirus task force. President Donald Trump only in late February announced the task force would expand and fall under the direction of Vice President Mike Pence.
Critics of Trump’s slow reaction to the crisis point out that only four members of the task force have scientific or medical training. The administration already admits that a vaccine may not be affordable by many if not most Americans. This in itself raises questions about US public health policy and quality. The corruption and scandalous price gouging by the US pharmaceutical industry is well known.
US preparedness is seriously lagging behind, with the production of faulty test kits being a glaring example. US experts have said that the US is not remotely prepared for a serious outbreak of the disease.
As of February 24, only five state health departments – California, Illinois, Nebraska, Nevada, and Tennessee were able to test for the virus. The lack of test kits is so dire, US Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) was asking the CDC if Hawaii can get test kits from Japan, reported by Hawaii Public Radio in late February.As of March 1, it was reported that only 472 people had been tested in the US. On Monday the number of people reported tested for the novel coronavirus disappeared from the CDC website.
The impact of the corona virus on the global and US economies could be problematic for Trump. A sustained drop in the stock market, combined with the poor handling of the COVID-19 threat, could impact Trump’s election chances. It is high time Washington gets its act together and quit playing Cold War games and bashing China when urgent international cooperation in disease control is a necessity. -The Daily Mail-Global Times news exchange item