Doctors have released a damning new report on America’s “failures” during the COVID pandemic, revealing that keeping schools closed for longer than necessary and forcing people to mask outside led the country to experience “eye-wateringly high” death rates compared to other first-world nations.
Duke University professor Gavin Yamey and Drexel University professor Ana Roux said the pandemic “failures began at the top” with poor communication from the federal government, which demonstrated a “surprising inability to generate reliable information, communicate it in a timely and consistent manner and translate it into sound policy.”
“The absence of timely evidence and delayed or incomplete communication of what was known also led to overreach, which itself had harmful consequences,” the researchers wrote in the British Medical Journal, blaming the US’s division of state and federal government, which they said meant that Americans’ experience with the pandemic “depended on zip code.”
The experts cited mistakes such as keeping schools closed for a longer period of time than necessary, and forcing people to mask outside and keep six feet apart.
In some Democrat-run states, schools were closed even after research showed that they could reopen safely with the proper public health measures in place, like improved ventilation.
As a result, the study says, children missed out on learning and socialization — as well as the ability to gain natural immunity to other viruses by interacting with their peers.
Some liberal states also kept parks, playgrounds and beaches closed despite scientific research showing COVID was unlikely to spread outdoors or on surfaces — forcing people to remain indoors with little to no human interaction.
In the aftermath, the US has experienced record high levels of obesity and diabetes, as well as increases in high blood pressure and cholesterol, a Gallup poll that surveyed more than 5,000 adults in all 50 states found.
When Americans were let outside during the pandemic, they were often required to wear masks.
The guidance was finally dropped in April 2021, when the Centers for Disease Control acknowledged mounting evidence that outdoor transmission of COVID is exceedingly rare, and accounts for less than 10% of cases.
The authors also highlighted some of the nation’s pre-existing health care inequalities — including gaps in health care coverage and accessibility, the lack of certain social programs available in other countries and workplace protection.
Social inequalities and systemic racism made the pandemic worse for Americans, they argued.
Additionally, they said, “hollowed-out state and local health departments were poorly equipped to step into the breach” left by the Trump administration “bungling the federal response.”
Between 2010 and 2019, the federal government slashed the CDC’s budget and funding for public health emergency preparedness, and per-capita spending on state public health departments fell by 16% and for local health departments by 18%.
As a result of these factors, the US “stood out” among first-world nations.
“United States saw ‘eye wateringly high’ death rates compared with its peer nations. The 1.16 million Americans killed by covid-19 represent 16% of global deaths in a nation with 4% of the world’s population,” the report said.
“One in three Americans knows someone who died from covid-19, about 300,000 children are estimated to have lost one or both parents, and there is a substantial burden of long covid.”
Yamey and Roux are calling for the country to implement systemic reforms “that we believe should be central to the manifestos of the 2024 US presidential candidates.”
“The aim of the series is not to assign blame — there is plenty to go around — but to look to the future and lay out the critical steps to transform US public health and preparedness, and improve population health more broadly,” they write.