America’s Defeat: Covid-19 Analysis

Ed Yong is admirably frank in this Atlantic article, asserting that Covid-19 in the U.S. was an utter failure. Yong defends this argument with abundant statistics, stark comparisons to other nations, and historical parallels which make his case hard to contest. In practically every action taken (and lack thereof), the United States went wrong, and the consequences are extensive. Is the blame really on President Trump? Or is it on his supporters and other Americans who neglect the importance of public health? Both, it seems, went hand in hand.

I appreciate Yong’s claim that the “normal” life we were so used to is what actually led to this pandemic. In many ways, this global crisis is a wake-up call to fundamentally change lifestyle norms which are unnatural, especially in the United States. The elemental American belief that health is a matter of personal responsibility rather than a collective good was the first strike that led to our downfall. The capitalistic system contradicts many ethical pillars of allocation of healthcare in itself. In a pandemic, this exacerbates. Yong notes, “Black people have higher rates of chronic illnesses that predispose them to fatal cases of COVID‑19. When they go to hospitals, they’re less likely to be treated. The care they do receive tends to be poorer.” It’s hard not to think of Henrietta Lacks and the countless other people of color who have been mistreated from this affair. The selfish every-man-for-themself notion inevitably hurts certain groups who come from a nation built on specific oppression. Yong also flips the value of capitalism on its head. America may be the richest country in the world, “but dollar bills alone are no match against a virus.” In summation, our country has been deservedly humbled.

Americans are used to waking up to notifications with statistics on their phone. News headlines such as, “America tops 200,000 new cases” is now nothing unusual to us, but it’s important to think about the lives behind the numbers and the consequences of this normalization. In many ways, social media inflamed this pandemic, and it does not seem to be declining whatsoever in the near future. With evidence that media is impactful, it adds another layer of accountability for our leaders to handle their platforms maturely. If, say Hillary Clinton, had won the 2016 election and served as our president during this time, how different would the outcome have been? We can only wonder…

3 thoughts on “America’s Defeat: Covid-19 Analysis

  1. Jake Meyer

    This is a thoughtful and well-structured analysis of Ed Yong’s article. Iris debates where the true blame of the pandemic should fall: on President Trump, or on the established sociopolitical beliefs of the country. First, Iris focuses on the ‘American’ belief that health is a personal responsibility, and how the ‘every man for himself ‘ mindset undoubtedly harms systematically oppressed groups. Interestingly, Iris’s response discusses the impact of the media on leadership accountability, as well as whether social media and continued exposure of the pandemic truly provide utilitarian benefit for our society. I agree with Iris’s ideas that money does not equal preparedness, and believe that it raises critical ethical questions that our country must address, especially since COVID-190 has shed light on our system.

  2. Kris Chari

    In this cathartically expressive post, Iris conducts a tactful analysis of Ed Yong’s article by approaching it primarily from the lens of rightful admiration. While she puts forth numerous strains of ethical thought, I found her appeal to honesty the most compelling. She characterizes the article by specifically highlighting its frankness, which she suggests to be a contrast from the deceptive status quo surrounding information on the virus. I appreciated and understood Iris’s scrutiny of our capitalist system and our “normal life” which both have contributed not only to the virus itself, but also the extent to which it has harmed historically marginalized groups. This notion of community and the rejection of the “every man for himself” mentality raises some interesting ethical applications. I found it extremely relevant to John Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance, which I believe would force people today to act more in accordance with their true moral beliefs. She also strongly advocates for expedited accountability for our leaders, specifically in moments of dire crises such as this pandemic, and she specifically highlights social media as a catalyst for a lot of misinformation. I found this argument to be extremely powerful, perhaps because I have seen in a very personal and disorienting way how misinformation by leaders can harm families. A very close family friend of ours was adamant in not wearing a mask or taking precautions because she trusted the words of the administration, and she became very ill. I completely agree that leaders must act maturely on social media.

    Iris’s post provoked me to be more introspective about my own shortcomings in this area and allowed me to raise some moral questions within myself. I had to reconcile with the fact that I have not been as responsible as I should in this virus. I began to wonder how a generational gap in values and cultural norms can impact action in crises: young people seem to be so apathetic about the implications of this pandemic. I then began to investigate how to bridge this generational gap, or at least view it from a cohesive ethical angle.

  3. Leah Doubert

    In her response, Iris poses a great question as to who should be held responsible for the damage the pandemic has wreaked on our country. She makes an interesting point about the danger of Americans viewing healthcare as a personal responsibility, and notes the inequality minorities such as black Americans have faced in receiving treatment for COVID-19. The part of Iris’ post that intrigued me most was the question of how things would be different with a different administration in office.

    Given the results of this week’s election, it’s evident that come January, changes will be made to the way the virus is handled. Just today, President-elect Biden announced a plan for encouraging governors to impose mask mandates. It’s more than obvious that this sort of action is necessary, and should’ve been implemented months ago, but there’s a high chance Americans won’t react well to the seemingly paternalistic plan. To what extent would a mask mandate really impose on Americans’ autonomy? Is invasion of autonomy truly a valid claim to make when just this week we hit a new record for most daily new COVID cases in the US? Perhaps most importantly, how can the new administration respect the autonomy of its’ citizens while still protecting them from this deadly virus?


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