The Atlantic Daily: 5 Ways America Has Failed During the Pandemic

For starters, it fixated on the wrong things at the onset.

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Dina Litovsky / Redux

The United States is home to just 4 percent of the world’s population but a quarter of its confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths. How did we get here?

“A virus a thousand times smaller than a dust mote has humbled and humiliated the planet’s most powerful nation,” Ed Yong writes in our latest cover story. Now the country needs a full accounting of what went so catastrophically wrong.

Today, Ed, who spent years warning of such possible failures, begins the work of doing just that. Here are five ways America failed, as explained by him (read his whole piece for more):

1. It fixated on the wrong things at the onset.

Trump could have spent those crucial early weeks mass-producing tests to detect the virus, asking companies to manufacture protective equipment and ventilators, and otherwise steeling the nation for the worst. Instead, he focused on the border.

2. Its public-health system was underfunded and ill-prepared.

Today, the U.S. spends just 2.5 percent of its gigantic health-care budget on public health. Underfunded health departments were already struggling to deal with opioid addiction, climbing obesity rates, contaminated water, and easily preventable diseases.

3. Its long-running racial inequities were exploited by the virus.

Far from being a “great equalizer,” the pandemic fell unevenly upon the U.S., taking advantage of injustices that had been brewing throughout the nation’s history.

4. Its (mis)information ecosystem allowed untruths to fester.

An infodemic of falsehoods spread alongside the actual virus. Rumors coursed through online platforms that are designed to keep users engaged, even if that means feeding them content that is polarizing or untrue.

5. Its president actively made the situation worse.

Trump is a comorbidity of the COVID‑19 pandemic. He isn’t solely responsible for America’s fiasco, but he is central to it.

Read the full story.


One question, answered: What should—and shouldn’t—people do with their financial holdings during a full-blown recession?

Annie Lowrey, our staff writer who warned readers to not touch their stocks at the start of the downturn, offers some advice for an elongated crisis:

Roughly half of Americans hold financial assets such as stocks and bonds, many in retirement-savings vehicles. Some share of those folks will need to access that money in a downturn—to get them through a job loss, pay for a child’s health care, or help a struggling friend. A fee-only financial adviser would be the best person to figure out how to do that. Other folks will want to sell their assets, panicked by their shrinking portfolio. That is an understandable impulse, but usually not a great one. Even financial professionals are terrible at market timing, and volatility is best understood as the price of being in the market in the first place. If you don’t need cash soon, go ahead and do nothing.

What to read if … you’re processing the back-and-forth over banning TikTok in the U.S.:

Michael Schuman spoke with the social-media company’s founder for his piece on why America is afraid of the platform.

What to read if … you miss traveling:

Rick Steves, the guidebook writer and TV host, encourages you to apply that traveling mindset to your hometown: “We can explore our backyards like a tourist would.”

What to read if … you want practical tips: