A Covid-19 Forecast
Image Courtesy of NBC.
The current administration has been criticized endlessly for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic- even by some of its own supporters. It is certain that recent parties in Wuhan, China- otherwise known as the initial outbreak city of COVID-19- serves as a mockery to U.S. citizens, given the looming possibility of a second national lockdown. With the results of the U.S. 2020 election, it is safe to say that Americans are yearning for a change of pace with the handling of COVID-19. Many are optimistic about the future of COVID-19 in America because of the new vaccine and the coming Biden administration. In the coming months, the impact of COVID-19 on the country could possibly be minimalized, which raises the question: what is the forecast of COVID-19 moving forward in the U.S.?
First, it is important to understand the effectiveness of the current policies set in place by the Trump administration, which means one must take into account the rhetoric conveyed by Trump administration leaders. Despite being surrounded by secret service agents touting masks, President Trump has consistently failed to wear a mask. The President was first reported wearing a mask by the British Broadcast on July 12th of 2020- almost five months after the formal declaration by the World Health Organization that COVID-19 was a qualified pandemic. The sight contradicted countless examples of the President refusing to wear masks. In April, he stated: “"I don't think I'm going to be doing it. Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens - I just don't see it" (BBC). This rhetoric had a clear impact on the amount of people who refused to wear a mask, especially amongst his supporters. Pew Research surveyed Republicans and Democrats to understand the perspective of masks among both groups, with one Republican saying: “Being forced to wear a completely useless mask when going into businesses... I have bad allergies and can’t breathe well. The CDC has reported that the masks are useless, which to me indicates they are virtue signaling items and are being used to control people” (Pew Research). This individual does not cite any sources for their argument besides a brief reference to a fake CDC report shared throughout social media (Fact Check by Reuters). Despite indisputable evidence, the rhetoric leading up the photo in July did not align with CDC recommendations. Many were hopeful that following this event, the Trump administration would surrender its anti-mask rhetoric in favor of CDC supported guidelines, but this did not occur. The exact date of the President’s positive COVID-19 test is disputed, but he announced the results on October 2nd of 2020. After a “precautionary” visit to Walter Reed Medical Facility, the President returned to the White House on October 6th of 2020. Disregarding his positive test, President Trump stood on the porch of the White House, removed his mask, and walked into a room of video production workers (footage provided by The Telegraph). This event was used as a campaign tool following his return, with numerous angles of footage and a short speech. Some of the first words he spoke were: “Don’t let it dominate you.” Of course, this came on the same day that the U.S. reported around 43,000 new cases (The New York Times). Not all government agencies have supported this perspective, with the CDC constantly contradicting rhetoric from the Trump Administration.
Now that we understand the perspective of COVID-19 under the Trump administration, we can effectively compare that to the plan of the incoming Biden Administration. To begin, rhetoric has consistently been in favor of mask-wearing and social distancing. While President Trump held rallies with thousands of maskless supporters, Biden adapted to the pandemic by hosting virtual conferences, drive-in rallies, and rallies only attended by campaign staff and press. One policy supported by the Biden administration is a national mask mandate (The New York Times). Given that the Nature Medicine Journal predicted 130k lives being saved with a mask mandate in place, Biden’s policy proposal generated optimism and hope in many Americans. Furthermore, a Biden advisor also suggested a possible 2nd lockdown (CNBC). Many professionals argue that the stricter the lockdown, the more effective its results. However, this finding was based on the success of other countries, so we must be wary in applying its effectiveness and its economic implications to America. The U.S. has never implemented policies as strict as the examples provided. Culture is another factor that accounts for varying results of COVID-19 procedures, and our individualistic and freedom-orientated culture seems to be a key factor of why we are struggling. If Biden can pass and enforce another lockdown- perhaps this time being more strict- we could see record low numbers within weeks of his administration taking office.
The final tool that should be discussed in predicting the future of COVID-19 is a potential vaccine, with three being reported in just the past week. Experts are still wary of the Russian vaccine, which was developed and approved in August. Other vaccines leading the charge include the Moderna and Pfitzer vaccines, with a number of others just slightly behind (Healthline.com). A vaccine, which will be offered at little to no cost, would have a serious impact on U.S. reported cases. Although this is the final goal, Moderna currently reports that each dose of vaccine would be priced at $32-$37 (Healthline.com). The target price of each dose by the Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed ranged anywhere from $4-$20, meaning we will likely see the price per dose drop. Obviously, a lower price would allow for more Americans to be able to receive it. It is important to note that the supply of this vaccine will not meet demand, so healthcare workers, first-responders, and the elderly will be prioritized over younger individuals and those who are not high-risk.
In conclusion, the coming months are the most optimistic we have seen. Though we will have to wait until the vaccine is confirmed and able to be distributed, the end of a hypothetical second lockdown would likely come with access to a vaccine. Removing a vaccine from the equation, it is likely that a second lockdown would be a powerful tool to decrease the number of COVID-19 cases in America. Finally, a long-awaited change of rhetoric (and potentially a nationwide mask mandate) would have an unprecedented impact on daily cases. We have seen countless occasions of countries taking measures that have slowed the spread of COVID-19, and by implementing some of those measures in the U.S. we could see serious progress under the Biden administration. Of course, we will still need to wait until his formal inauguration, but given the factors presented here, a rejuvenated America could be on the horizon: one where we do not have thousands of deaths a day, our economy is no longer struggling exponentially, and we may finally be able to return to a sense of normalcy.
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