A sluggish initial response and failure to ramp up testing let the virus spread far and wide in the U.S. And instead of coordinating a coherent and aggressive national response, President Donald Trump has consistently downplayed the threat of the infection and left decisions to insufficiently supported states. As a result, decisions over lockdowns and reopenings have been chaotic and have ignored the guidelines put forth by federal public health officials.
Amid all of this, one particular difference stands out between the American and European approaches. Many states were happy to reopen after simply “bending the curve” — that is, slowing upward growth and ensuring spare hospital capacity. These states went on to expand economic activity at an elevated plateau with lots of ongoing transmissions. In contrast, European countries mostly waited to reopen until they crushed the curve or reached its far slope, with substantially lower incidence or dramatic reductions in the viral spread. It’s not the only explanation for a growing gap, but it’s a compelling one. [Continue reading…]