In US, pandemic exposes lack of trust in government

By Susana Samhan

Washington, Mar 11 (EFE).- The United States, which leads the world in Covid-19 deaths with more than 965,000, is returning to an approximation of normality despite a comparably low vaccination rate of around 65 percent that reflects citizens’ lack of confidence in the messages they receive from the government.

The clearest sign of normalization is the end of indoor mask mandates in many states without significant pushback from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This despite figures from the CDC showing that while fatalities are declining, coronavirus continues to claim more than 1,000 lives a day.

In a study released in 2019, the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health ranked the US first among 195 nations in terms of pandemic preparedness, a conclusion that has not aged well.

Seeking to offer perspective on the 2019 finding, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement at Hopkins Bloomberg, said that researchers’ focus then was on “capacity in the medical system.”

“Our medical system is pretty big and we have a lot of hospital beds. And there are a lot of people whose lives have been saved by some very heroic nurses and doctors during the pandemic, but a hospital system alone doesn’t make a country strong for a pandemic,” he told Efe.

He identified politics as a factor in preventing the US from responding more effectively to Covid-19.

The pandemic struck at a moment of extreme polarization between supporters and opponents of then-President Donald Trump, who disparaged the use of masks even as he launched “Operation Warp Speed” to expedite the development of vaccines.

People whose reason for refusing the vaccine is political “don’t trust the government,” Sharfstein said. “They’ve been told not to trust the government. They’re receiving messages on the their TV and their phone not to trust the government.”

Even Trump, who remains the most popular figure in the Republican party, has heard boos at rallies when urging people to get vaccinated.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told Efe that the government failed to persuade people to take steps to protect themselves. EFE ssa/dr

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