Which is the real American response to COVID-19? The bungled testing policies, the politically driven rush to reopen, the tragic racial divide seen in the sick and the dead? Or the warp-speed work to develop a vaccine in a year when most past efforts took decades?
The bad: The U.S. ranks 31st out of 36 countries in its assessment of government responses to COVID-19, according to a new index.
- That puts it below developed countries like New Zealand and Denmark, and also lower than nations with fewer resources like Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.
The good: Resources and expertise from U.S. companies and the National Institutes of Health have been key to the astonishingly fast effort to create a vaccine.
- Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna and the NIH announced at the end of July that they had begun phase 3 of the clinical trial.
- Anthony Fauci has said he expects "tens of millions" of doses to be available by early 2021, a little over a year after the novel coronavirus was discovered.
- If that turns out to be the case, "the Covid-19 vaccine could take a place alongside the Apollo missions as one of history’s greatest scientific achievements," epidemiologist Michael Kinch recently wrote in STAT.
The bottom line: America's two-sided response serves as an X-ray of the country itself — still capable of world-beating feats at the high end, but increasingly struggling with what should be the simple business of governing itself.