The 1918 flu pandemic most likely originated in the U.S but was referred to as the “Spanish flu” due to Spain getting hit hard and having the highest mortality rate compared to the rest of the world. Therefore, using the same logic, “Sars-CoV-2”, or “COVID-19”, should also be known as the “American flu” since the U.S has the highest number of cases and deaths worldwide. As of December 19, 2020, the United States has had 7,246,199 active cases, with California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois being the most impacted states; Their ICU (intensive care unit) beds are becoming full with little room left for more patients with COVID-19. Americans are in a state of crisis where anyone who gets the coronavirus has the potential to die. Another huge factor Americans faced during the COVID-19 pandemic was racism; contributing into a duel pandemic as black and brown communities were most impacted by the virus.
Despite a continued rise in cases throughout 2020, several American states have already started to reopen, causing cases to skyrocket upwards rapidly through time. They have gained between 40,000 – 280,000 COVID-19 cases per day throughout the year. For consecutive days, the U.S gained 1000 deaths, or more, due to COVID-19. The United States projects more than 410,000 deaths by early 2021.
Donald Trump, president from January 20, 2017, to January 20, 2021, announced a state of emergency on March 13, 2020, asking every state to set up emergency operation centers to inform the greatest companies, retailers, and medical institutions. Trump and his government also made an emergency preparedness plan to meet the needs of Americans in every hospital across the nation. His plan was to close small businesses, expand testing, telehealth, and hospital capacity to deal with the flood of new patients. Trump signed the “Limited Emergency Declaration” to provide billions of dollars of loans to small businesses and cover missed paychecks for hourly employees.
Alternatively, that was most of what Trump did to combat the virus. In January 2020, he was provided with the intel that the virus was airborne, however, he didn’t share this critical knowledge with his citizens. Donald Trump was more invested in keeping the economy afloat, fearing an economic catastrophe ahead of the presidential election in November. In late March 2020, Donald Trump decided to give up on stopping the spread of COVID-19 and instead prioritized fixing the economy. He confused citizens by stating things like, “America will reopen” and “Corona will go away soon.”
During election season, President Trump conducted in-person rallies where supporters did not physically distance themselves and some didn’t wear masks. Trump went as far as to mock Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate at the time, and now the President, for wearing a mask. To make matters worse, Trump himself tested positive for coronavirus on October 2nd, and later his wife, Melania Trump, did too due to contact with Hope Hicks, a White House Senior Advisor. Trump then spread the virus to five others at the White House Supreme Court nomination event. Trump downplayed the gravity of his diagnosis, returning to the White House only three days after his hospitalization.
Trump’s behaviour and rhetoric potentiated some American citizens’ belief that the coronavirus is a hoax created by the government. These conspiracy theorists refuse to wear masks, and are not following safety precautions; they ignore physical distancing recommendations and meet with people outside their social circles. As well, many of Trump’s followers contributed to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the US. Trump supporters caught COVID-19 during his re-election rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Phoenix, Arizona; Old Forge, Pennsylvania; Bemidji and Mankato in Minnesota; and Oshkosh and Weston in Wisconsin. There were 24 cases of COVID-19 reported among individuals who attended Trump’s campaign. As the election date came closer, nationwide cases reached new peaks around 80,000 – 99,751 cases per day. While the votes counted from November 3rd – 7th, cases peaked at 90,000 – 132,797 per day.
Apart from this and amidst the pandemic, on May 25, 2020, an African-American man named George Floyd was killed by a police officer, Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis, the U.S. As video footage of this murder went viral, this was the last straw for people around the world, as Black men and women have been killed or brutalized by police for centuries in the U.S, Canada, France and other nations. Countries including the U.K, U.S, Canada, Australia, France and New Zealand started protests to stop racism worldwide; and give justice to George Floyd and other victims including Breana Taylor, Eric Garner, Micheal Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Stephan Clark, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, and Stephen Lawrence. The World Health Organization respected the protests as long as people wore a mask, stayed at least one metre apart, washed their hands afterwards, and stayed home if they had symptoms.
This situation presented itself as a double pandemic since racism is also a contagious sickness and has been ongoing for centuries, particularly in the United States towards Indigenous, Black, Asian, Jewish, Muslim, and Latinx people. George Clooney, an actor and film director, wrote an essay stating that racism is a global pandemic that infects everyone and it’ll take 400 years yet to find a vaccine to cure racism. Even after protesting for justice for George Floyd for weeks, racism still occurs throughout the nation. On August 23, 2020, Jacob S. Blake, an African-American man, was shot by a white police officer named Rusten Sheshky. Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S protested for Black Lives Matter and North American sport teams boycotted their scheduled games to protest for equality.
In addition, more Black and Brown people have suffered from COVID-19 and they have less access to healthcare in the U.S due to racial inequality. Hispanics and some Asian populations, appear to have lower health insurance coverage compared to the white community. Racial and ethnic minorities will most likely face challenges in having access to the vaccine due to a lack of resources to receive and store shipments in their neighbourhoods. Coincidently, George Floyd tested positive for COVID-19 on April 3, 2020
Minority groups are also hit the hardest by the pandemic, as they have higher likelihoods of getting the virus due to working on the frontline, needing to take public transit, lacking access to masks and sanitizers, being less likely to have work that can be done at home, and having higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, which can cause complications and higher death rates in those who catch the coronavirus. All of these factors are compounded by systemic racism, especially in a country such as the US where the virus is running rampid due to the lack of leadership by Donald Trump. He was late to figure out plans to stop the spread of COVID-19. Now, the only shred of light is the development, approval, and distribution of vaccines against COVID-19. Therefore, the American Flu is the perfect name not only for COVID-19 but also the racism that takes place in the U.S particularly from the police force and other government institutions.