Director of Harvard Global Health Institute: US Response Worse Than Iran, Italy
The Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has been “much, much worse” than nearly any other country, according to Ashish Jha, head of the Harvard Global Health Institute.
Jha told NPR that government responses across the world have varied, with some far more effective than others, but he singled out the United States as worse than both Italy and Iran, where the outbreaks grew out of control.
"Some countries have been very aggressive and have actually done quite a good job," Jha said. "Other countries have been quite lackadaisical and, I think, have suffered immensely from it. And I think there are lessons to be learned for all of us."
He pointed to Italy and Iran, both of which seemed to be in denial about the outbreak early on: "I mean, you had the Iran deputy health minister coughing on national television talking about coronavirus, but really not taking it seriously."
NPR noted that the deputy health minister later tested positive for the coronavirus.
In both countries, the government was slow to test people as cases showed up and slow to shut down large gatherings as well.
The story sounds familiar to the current state of affairs in the U.S.
"Our response is much, much worse than almost any other country that's been affected," Jha said, using words like "stunning," "fiasco" and "mind-blowing" to describe the breadth of the Trump administration’s failures.
"And I don't understand it," he said. "I still don't understand why we don't have extensive testing.”
The delay in testing — due in part to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially rolling out flawed test kits — has hindered a timely and efficient response to the crisis, Jha said.
"Without testing, you have no idea how extensive the infection is. You can't isolate people. You can't do anything," he noted. "And so then we're left with a completely different set of choices. We have to shut schools, events and everything down, because that's the only tool available to us until we get testing back up. It's been stunning to me how bad the federal response has been."
His prediction? The U.S. outbreak can only continue to grow.