As the fall approaches, and countries around the world prepare to resume their pre-pandemic lives, the planet’s most powerful nation stands alone. The United States has been humbled and humiliated by its failure to protect its people and contain the coronavirus. How did it come to this?
For The Atlantic’s September cover, staff writer Ed Yong undertakes an autopsy of this catastrophic failure. His is a full accounting of what went wrong, every weakness and every failure, leading to the painful conclusion that “almost everything that went wrong with America’s response to the pandemic was predictable and preventable.” Yong’s reporting urges us to grapple with the multitude of preexisting vulnerabilities that have accumulated in the U.S. for years, for decades. Unless we fix that broken foundation, the country will be at the mercy of even worse plagues to come.
Yong’s report, “Anatomy of An American Failure,” is out today. He shares the cover with Ibram X. Kendi, a contributing writer at The Atlantic and one of the country’s foremost anti-racist voices. Kendi’s cover story, “The End of Denial,” will be published Wednesday, August 5.
In his reporting, Yong details how each of our country’s actions, and inactions—from chronic underfunding of public-health programs, to racist policies that left Indigenous and Black Americans especially vulnerable to COVID-19—contributed to a response that has left more than 150,000 Americans dead. He argues that the U.S. has little excuse for its inattention, as epidemics of SARS, MERS, Ebola, H1N1 flu, and Zika showed in recent decades the havoc that new and reemergent pathogens could wreak. But, he writes, “the COVID-19 debacle has also touched—and implicated—nearly every other facet of American society: its shortsighted leadership, its disregard for expertise, its racial inequities, its social-media culture, and its fealty to a dangerous strain of individualism.”