“Controlling the COVID-19 Pandemic is the Main Challenge Facing the Biden Administration”
In March 2020, at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, I offered the White House some urgent suggestions regarding how to control the epidemic. My main ideas can be summarized as follows:
- The epidemic should be deemed a national security issue and responded to as such. The United States must recognize the urgency and severity of this matter and make an all-out effort to respond to it.
- The importance of masks should be emphasized. Although masks cannot fully control the spread of the virus, they can still play an important role. Furthermore, wearing masks is a simple and clear means of controlling the epidemic, and is of symbolic importance for mobilizing society at large. Wearing masks can prompt society as a whole to rapidly increase its awareness of the pandemic.
- A multipronged strategy must be adopted to control the pandemic and prevent its further spread. This is a race against time, during which people’s patience will be put to the test. For this reason, we should learn and draw from the epidemic prevention experience of other countries and regions around the world.
- The “theory” of COVID-19 herd immunity must be refuted. In the absence of a vaccine, or in the face of uncertainty over vaccine efficacy, we must not give up or surrender to the virus. To this end, in August of this year, I wrote an article entitled “The Theory of ‘Herd Immunity’ is One of the Main Reasons for the Failed Global Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic” (published in both Chinese and English).
I made some other efforts as well. Unfortunately, the reality of the past eight months has been dismal. It is my belief that with regard to the United States’ failure to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump’s responsibility cannot be overlooked. As in my prior criticism of Trump’s response to COVID-19, it is clear that he made incredible mistakes – in the degree of importance that he attached to the pandemic, in his failure to comprehend the situation, and in the epidemic control measures that he adopted. This led directly to Trump’s failure to win re-election. As the pandemic in the United States reaches a new peak, the prospects for bringing COVID-19 under control do not look good.
So many lives have been taken from us. The democratic system that we love and trust failed to stop the pandemic, let alone serve as a model for the rest of the world. As society remains shrouded in the haze of a still-raging COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot help but feel distressed and anxious.
Biden’s election isn’t just a personal victory for him. It is also an opportunity for U.S. society to embark on a new path to overcome the pandemic. I’m happy that after Biden won the election, he announced that he will form a COVID-19 pandemic task force next Monday. This shows that he attaches great importance to pandemic containment and control. The virus won’t lose its virulence or transmissibility just because there is a change in the American political landscape. We must be under no illusion that overcoming the pandemic will be an easy feat. The characteristics of pandemic mitigation work necessitate that the government play a coordinating role and lead society to act in unison, but this is also an extremely complex task. It will require the mobilization of politicians, the assistance of experts, and the collective action of society as a whole.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to American society – both in terms of the loss of human lives as well as economic devastation. The pandemic has brought gloom and uncertainty to the functioning and future prospects of the nation. Now is the time for American society to reflect on this and take comprehensive action.
To this end, I would like to offer the following suggestions to American society:
- Societal pressure is the driving force that spurs government into action. As we await the transfer of presidential power, and as COVID-19 cases reach an all-time high in the United States, people must not stand by passively. Americans should call upon the Trump administration to cooperate with the Biden transition team, and strive to work together to ensure the continuity, and increase the effectiveness, of pandemic control efforts. This is also Trump’s last chance to make up for any political regrets he may have regarding his handling (or mishandling) of the pandemic.
- Given the uncertainty over the time required to prepare and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as uncertainty over the efficacy of such a vaccine, the United States must be weary of the fallaciousness of the “herd immunity” theory as pertains to COVID-19. We must abandon any illusions about this. Considering the tremendous long-term harm that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, and will continue to cause, the American government and the American public should be aware of the strategic value of sacrificing short-term pain for long-term gain. Pandemic control measures must be strictly enforced. The government and the people must cooperate and be understanding of each other. At the same time, I hope that President Trump, President-elect Biden, and local officials will show courage and a sense of responsibility.
- We must believe in science and respect the advice of experts. We must not restrict ourselves or refuse to acknowledge new ideas. There is a misconception that it is difficult for democracies to prevent or control epidemics. We must avoid the mistaken belief that the government’s inaction and mishandling of the pandemic were or are inevitable. In his victory speech, Biden affirmed his commitment to building an America that “never gives up, never gives in.” He added, “I’ve always believed we can define America in one word: possibilities.” Over the past few months of pandemic control efforts, we have seen people give up too easily – making all kinds of excuses to abandon the hope of “possibilities” beyond the scope of their own limited understanding.
- Many places around the world have shown us the possibility and feasibility of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. This leaves the United States no excuse to respond to the pandemic in a negative or incompetent manner. President elect Biden and his transition team must draw on the experience of these places and implement best practices in accordance with the characteristics of American society. They should listen to different views from society and develop a feasible plan. During this process, we should strive to secure the cooperation of President Trump. Nothing else would better reflect Biden’s own words: “[If] we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.” What I hope to see is cooperation between President Trump and President elect Biden; cooperation between the government and the people; cooperation between states; and cooperation between individuals.
- Preventing and controlling pandemics is the responsibility of all forms of government. In the face of COVID-19, it would be impossible to bring the pandemic under control solely by relying on the people; proactive and effective government action is essential. In this respect, the Trump administration made a fatal error. Of course, the government is responsible for guiding pandemic control efforts, and the public should also adopt a responsible attitude. Simultaneously, the efforts of the country’s legal and administrative system are required. If the people adopt a responsible, conscientious attitude, everyone will benefit. We must extricate ourselves from the pandemic as soon as possible to avoid the further loss of life and further economic devastation.
The emergence of a new political landscape in the United States enables the possibility of effective pandemic control, but it doesn’t guarantee success. Unlike some governance plans that are difficult to assess in the short term, Mr. Biden will have limited time to implement a pandemic control plan. After Mr. Biden takes office, if he is unable to make swift and substantial improvements in controlling the pandemic, criticisms of failure and incompetence will follow him throughout his presidency. Under such a scenario, it would be difficult for Mr. Biden to gain sufficient credibility to heal the rifts within American society. And as the frustration and failures of American society continue to grow, it would become increasingly difficult for the United States to project an image of self-control or success. After that, the United States would face immense troubles. The ensuing sense of failure could even engulf the entirety of American society and the nation’s future. The American people would pay a huge price for a long time.
Bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control is the most essential – and easiest – way to unite American society. Please put aside your political differences and superfluous disputes. Let’s work together as a people to overcome this pandemic. Let the United States of America emerge from the gloom and return to normal life. There is no reason for us not to unite. Let’s work together – to save lives, to grow the economy, and to show the world how capable we are as a nation.
November 8, 2020