By Zhong Sheng, People’s Daily
The U.S. boasts the world’s richest medical resources and best healthcare capacity, yet it has seen one million Americans lose their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic within 27 months. The failure of the U.S. policy responses to COVID-19 has revealed the hypocrisy of the human rights in the U.S.
“Today, we mark a tragic milestone: one million American lives lost to COVID-19,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a prerecorded video speech delivered to the Global COVID-19 Summit on May 12.
As the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. reached one million, all sectors of society have expressed grief over the loss of lives in the pandemic in various ways. The Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. rang its bell 1,000 times for 90 minutes in the twilight, once for every 1,000 people who have died from the virus. The toll should also be a reminder to the U.S. government.
When faced with a pandemic unseen in a century, only by putting people and their lives first and truly respecting every life can countries respect and protect human rights to the greatest extent.
However, American politicians didn’t take effective countermeasures, which caused the country’s COVID-19 cases and deaths to rank first in the world for a long period of time.
What American people remember about the epidemic in the past over two years is grief from not being able to say goodbyes to their beloved ones for one last time, fear when nursing homes reported a huge amount of COVID-19 deaths, and sadness when over 200,000 children were orphaned because of the pandemic.
COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have almost doubled the country’s death tolls from World War I and World War II combined, and are equivalent to the population of San Jose, California, the tenth largest U.S. city.
“Each one of those numbers represents a grandparent or a spouse or someone with their own unique story that we’ve lost”, according to an article published on ABC News.
“This unthinkable tragedy will forever appear in the history books,” the article quoted John Brownstein, Ph.D. an epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Looking back at how the U.S. has ended up a loser in the fight against COVID-19, people can see clearly that a major reason is that American politicians stubbornly prioritize their political interests. To guarantee their votes, American politicians deliberately downplayed the risk of the virus.
Their remarks, such as Omicron variant is just a big flu, and COVID-19 mortality rate is very low, and the virus will miraculously disappear, will always remind American people just how indifferent the politicians have been to life amid the epidemic.
From nucleic acid testing, wearing masks to maintaining social distance, from the allocation of medical strategic reserves, the formulation of emergency relief bills to the promotion of vaccination, the two major political parties in the U.S. have been criticizing, vetoing, and confronting each other, and the federal and local governments have been acting in their own ways and restraining each other. The overall situation of America’s anti-pandemic response has been messed up by the political calculations of various parties.
The so-called human rights preached by some American politicians are nothing more than a mirage to the American people trapped in the epidemic.
Another major reason why the U.S. failed to contain the epidemic is it has put short-term economic interests and capital interests above public health security and people’s life and health.
It was reported that the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the U.S. National Security Council prepared an anti-epidemic response memo in February 2020, which clearly recommended a series of strict measures to control the spread of the virus.
But U.S. policymakers immediately rejected the memo after learning that relevant measures could cause the U.S. stock market to crash.
In the eyes of some American politicians, the interests of capital are placed at a much higher position than the people’s right to life and health. No wonder they made such a ridiculous remark that old people “should volunteer to die to save the economy.”
Deborah Birx, former coordinator with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, confessed in her new book that the U.S. could have drastically reduced the death toll with better leadership, but the opposite has happened.
People’s right to life and health differs because of their skin color, age and wealth—this is the truth about U.S. style human rights exposed by the epidemic.
A research conducted by an American university showed that the epidemic has caused the average life expectancy of African Americans and Latinos in the U.S. to drop by 2.1 years and 3.05 years, respectively, much higher than the 0.68-year decline in the average life expectancy of the white people.
A reporter with the Associated Press found, after analyzing data, that among the one million deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S., three out of every four deaths were people 65 and older.
COVID-19 death rates in poor counties in the U.S. were almost double those in rich counties; the 300 counties with the highest death rates have a poverty rate of 45 percent on average, pointed out A Poor People’s Pandemic Report released by the Poor People’s Campaign.
When asked about a clear lack of fairness in U.S. epidemic prevention and control, then U.S. President Donald Trump said “Perhaps that’s the story of life,” which reflects social Darwinism deeply rooted in American values.
In a society with a hierarchical concept of the value of human life, it is easy to accept the loss of groups such as the elderly and ethnic minorities, said Debra Furr-Holden, an epidemiologist at the Michigan State University.
Protection of human rights shouldn’t be a slogan, but should be reflected in concrete actions.
Recently, the numbers of new infections and hospitalizations in the U.S. have risen again. In the face of the still severe epidemic situation, if American politicians really care about human rights, they should earnestly learn from the painful lessons of the one million deaths and safeguard the people’s right to life and health.
(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy and international affairs.)