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The grim milestone was reached as new cases in the United States stood at around 54,000 a day. Although this is down from a high of more than 70,000 in the second half of July, cases are increasing in nearly 20 states and deaths are increasing in most. Many Americans have resisted wearing masks and social distancing.
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Perhaps nowhere outside of the United States is the failed viral response of the United States viewed with more dismay than in Italy, which was the zero point of the European epidemic. Italians were unprepared when the epidemic exploded in February, and the country still has one of the highest official death rates in the world with 35,000 dead.
But after a strict 10-week nationwide lockdown, vigilant tracing of new clusters and widespread acceptance of mask warrants and social distancing, Italy has emerged as a model for containing the virus.
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“Don’t they care about their health?” Masked Patrizia Antonini asked about people in the United States as she walked with friends along the shores of Lake Bracciano, north of Rome. “They have to take our precautions. … They need a real lockdown.
Much of the disbelief in Europe stems from the fact that America benefited from the time, European experience, and medical know-how to deal with the virus that the continent itself did not have when the first patients COVID-19 have started to fill intensive care units.
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Yet, more than four months after the start of a sustained epidemic, the United States has passed an astonishing milestone of 5 million confirmed infections, by far the highest in the world, according to the current tally kept by Johns University Hopkins. Health officials estimate the real number may be 10 times higher, or closer to 50 million, given the limitations of the tests and the fact that up to 40% of all those infected have no symptom.
“We Italians have always seen America as a model,” said Massimo Franco, columnist for the daily Corriere della Sera. “But with this virus, we discovered a very fragile country, with poor infrastructure and a non-existent public health system.”
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Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza did not hesitate to criticize the United States, officially condemning Washington’s decision to deny funding to the World Health Organization as “bad” and expressing his amazement at President Donald Trump’s viral response.
After Trump finally donned a mask last month, Speranza told La7 television, “I’m not surprised by Trump’s behavior now; I am deeply surprised by his behavior before.
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With 160,000 dead, politicized resistance to masks, and the growing number of cases in America, European countries have banned American tourists and visitors from other countries with growing cases from free travel in the bloc.
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France and Germany now require arrival tests for travelers from “at risk” countries, including the United States.
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“I am fully aware that this infringes on individual freedoms, but I think it is a justifiable intervention,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said last week.
Mistakes have also been made in Europe, ranging from delayed lockdowns to insufficient protections for elderly people in nursing homes and critical shortages of tests and protective equipment for medical staff.
The virus is still raging in some Balkan countries, and thousands of maskless protesters called for an end to viral restrictions in Berlin earlier this month. Hard-hit Spain, France and Germany saw the infection rebound with new cases surpassing 1,000 per day, and cases in Italy edged up to more than 500 on Friday. Britain is still experiencing around 3,700 new infections a day, and some scientists say beloved pubs across the country may have to close again if schools are to reopen in September without causing another wave.
Europe as a whole has seen more than 207,000 confirmed virus deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins tally.
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In the United States, new cases are around 54,000 per day, an extremely high number even when taking into account the country’s larger population. And while that number is down from a high of more than 70,000 last month, cases are increasing in nearly 20 states and deaths are increasing in most.
On the other hand, at least for the moment, Europe seems to have the virus a little under control.
“If medical professionals had been allowed to operate in the United States, you would have been late doing it in March,” said Scott Lucas, professor of international studies at the University of Birmingham in England. “But of course, medical and public health professionals have not been allowed to act without control,” he said, referring to Trump’s frequent cutbacks of his own experts.
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When the virus first emerged in the United States, Trump and his supporters quickly called it a “hoax” or a virus that would quickly go away once warmer weather arrived. At one point, Trump suggested that ultraviolet light or the injection of disinfectants would kill the virus. (He later said he was facetious).
Trump’s frequent complaints against Dr Anthony Fauci have regularly made headlines in Europe, where the US infectious disease expert is a respected figure. Italy’s main COVID-19 hospital has offered Fauci a job if Trump fires him.
Trump has defended the US response, blaming China, where the virus was first detected, of US problems and saying the US numbers are so high because there are so many tests. Trump supporters and Americans who have refused to wear masks against medical advice support this line.
“There is no reason to fear an illness that exists,” said Julia Ferjo, a mother of three in Alpine, Texas, who is “vehemently” against wearing a mask. Ferjo, 35, teaches fitness classes in a large open-door gym. It does not allow participants to wear masks.
“When you breathe so hard, I would pass out,” she said. “I don’t want people to drop like flies.”
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And health officials watched with concern as thousands of bikers gathered in the small town of Sturgis in South Dakota on Friday for an annual 10-day motorcycle rally. The state does not have a mask mandate and many bikers have expressed contempt for measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
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Dr David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, who heads a team seeking treatments for COVID-19, has denounced such behavior, as well as the country’s handling of the virus.
“There is no national strategy, no national leadership and there is no incentive for the public to act in unison and implement the measures together,” he said. . “That’s what it takes, and we’ve completely given up on that as a nation.”
When receiving Zoom calls with counterparts around the world, “Not everyone can believe what they see in the United States and they cannot believe the words that come out of management,” he said. he declares.
Even the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, took the unusual step of criticizing the United States when she urged Washington to reconsider its decision to sever ties with the WHO. She also issued veiled criticisms of the United States’ efforts to purchase stocks of any vaccine that may prove effective, promising that the EU will strive to provide access to all “regardless of where they live”.
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Many Europeans proudly point to their national health care systems which not only test but treat COVID-19 for free, unlike the US system, where the virus crisis has only exacerbated income and racial inequalities in the world. obtaining health care.
“The coronavirus has brutally exposed the vulnerability of a country that has been slipping for years,” wrote Italian author Massimo Gaggi in his new book “Crack America” (Broken America), on the American problems that long preceded COVID-19.
Gaggi said he started writing the book last year and then believed the title would be seen as a provocative wake-up call. Then the virus hit.
“In March, the title was no longer a provocation,” he said. ” It was evident. ”
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