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Covid-19 abroad: The US and the impact of the pandemic from coast to coast

As America surpasses the grim landmark of 500,000 Covid-19 deaths, Liam Daly gets a glimpse at what life is like on the east and west coasts
Video by Liam Daly

The first US Covid-19 fatality was reported in Seattle on the 28 February 2020 – one year later and the deaths have now risen to half a million.

In that time the US has been a mainstay in worldwide news and media for a multitude of social and political issues ranging from the strange to the shocking.

Throughout the last year, the American people have become increasingly polarised – the brutal killing of George Floyd and the resulting protests revealed systemic issues of racism in the US which were brought to the fore in worldwide media, on top of that, then-president Donald Trump’s approach to handling the pandemic was controversial, and did nothing to quell the tense atmosphere in the US.

The US entered the pandemic with an already problematic healthcare system, which the Trump had inherited – a healthcare system which had been decreasing in funding every year since 2002.

Trump’s devil-may-care attitude to the virus and his peddling of conspiracy theories did not help this fragile system, and the magnitude of lives lost is a sad reflection of this.

Through this historic period, Cillian Dunne, 24, a recent college graduate, published author, and budding Hollywood screenwriter has lived on both the east and west coasts of the United States.

First in Boston, where he has been living for the past five years while completing his college degree, then, upon graduating, he drove cross-country to settle in Santa Monica, where unfortunately he has been mostly confined to his apartment since October.

“Since we got here we’ve been under the strictest lockdown in America”

Cillian Dunne

While things are starting to reopen as more than one million people in LA have been vaccinated, thousands of cases per day keep the locals wary.

“ICU wards are getting within their threshold. I’m sure we’ll get put into another lockdown,” says Dunne.

A quick vaccine rollout has lead to an increase in optimism. Some reputable sources are backing ‘herd immunity’ and speculate that a herd immunity threshold can be achieved as early as late-spring or at worst, the end of summer.

This theory has its complications however, and arguments have been made against it. While a quick vaccine rollout seems the perfect solution that we all have been searching for, the danger of increasing variant strains of the coronavirus complicates the situation – we may vaccinate against the current strains but a new variant could come along tomorrow and make that work null and void.

The only way to tackle this problem is to learn to live with Covid-19 while work on vaccines and studies of the virus improve – and in the US, the new president’s policies are putting this into action.

President Biden’s approach to the pandemic has been significantly different to Trump’s.

Biden has focused on personal protective equipment (PPE) and improving access to it. Increases have been made to testing capacity, travel restrictions, and mandates requiring Americans to wear masks have been introduced. There has also been a focus on returning to schools and workplaces safely.

If the US can maintain their current vaccine trajectory, the country could reach herd immunity as early as July, however it is also projected that in that time an additional one million people could die – and that is without interference by new variants.

The more important strategy could prove to be in the policies the new administration are implementing rather than in the questionable herd immunity plan.

Sunset in Boston, Photo by Kristin Vogt via Pexels.com

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