an interminable and highly politicized pandemic in the United States

Thousands of flags, representing the 200,000 Americans who died from Covid-19, were planted on the lawn of the National Mall in Washington, September 22, 2020.

Admittedly, 20,000 flags representing 200,000 dead from Covid-19 have been planted on the lawn at the foot of the Washington Monument, the obelisk overlooking the National Mall in Washington. But the tribute paid from Monday September 21 to Wednesday September 23 to the American victims of the new coronavirus is not due to the authorities of the country; a group of citizens, anxious to recall the extent of the pandemic, is at the origin of the Covid Memorial Project. This private initiative speaks volumes about the different ways in which the United States is going through one of the greatest health crises of the century: between denial, fatalism and anger.

With nearly 205,000 victims and 7 million officially recorded cases, the world’s leading power is, in absolute numbers, the most affected nation in the world. Reported to the population, these data, nearly 600 deaths per million inhabitants, place it tenth among the countries most affected by the pandemic. With an average of 800 deaths and 40,000 new cases daily for several weeks as well as a recent upward trend observed in some twenty states and regions hitherto untouched, concern should be at its height.

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However, depending on the region and the population, the disease always seems to cover different realities. The lack of a national policy to fight the virus, the way in which the disease has hit territories and communities unevenly, and finally the politicization of the health crisis by President Donald Trump, inclined since February to downplay the scale of the pandemic, explain the differences in perceptions among the population. This particular context prevented the containment of the “first wave” and could worsen the rebound expected this fall.

Decisions in dispersed order

The fact that some communities are disproportionately affected has created a blind spot for less affected populations. For example, among people under 65, the death rate is twice as high among minorities (African-American, Hispanic, and Native American) than among white Americans. Moreover, scattered over a territory as large as Europe, the almost one thousand daily deaths do not overwhelm hospitals or morgues, as was the case at the start of the pandemic in New York – a dilution which, in some places, mitigates the reality of the disease. Finally, the figures listed every day, without any real trend reversal, now seem to be part of a “new normal”, comparable to the fatalism of a large part of the American population in the face of some 40,000 deaths by firearms (including two thirds of suicides) recorded each year in the country.

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