The notion of American exceptionalism looks very different since the novel coronavirus swept the globe.
Heading into the holiday season and the winter months, a map of the country showing the spread of the virus highlights just how badly the country has handled the pandemic.
Astonishingly, the virus is out of control in every single US state with the exception of Hawaii.
That’s according to a group of public health and crisis experts who launched a project earlier this year tracking the country’s pandemic response.
Those involved have experience working at the White House and the US Department of Health and Human Services as well as responding to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
The digital project shows what has now become a disturbing “new normal” for the nation.
After it launched, Yahoo News Australia wrote about the project in mid-August. At the time just 21 states were deemed to have uncontrolled spread of the virus. That number is now 49.
At the time, public health experts and epidemiologist worried about the direction the country was headed.
Dr Melissa Hawkins, an epidemiologist and Director of the Public Health at the American University in Washington DC, told Yahoo News Australia the country was playing catch-up in its response, which became harder when the virus became politicised.
“We are going into the cold weather season in this country... when the virus is more likely to spread as people stay indoors,” she said.
“Covid fatigue, or quarantine fatigue – whatever you want to call it – that is also happening at the same time... when this could be a potentially significant problem going into the winter months.”
At the time of her comments, the map looked like this:
‘Bloodbath’: A lack of trust hindered virus response
A handful of European countries have fared equally poorly when it comes to containing community transmission of the virus, but the speed with which things have deteriorated in the US has left healthcare workers angry and frustrated as hospitals reach breaking point.
How have things gotten so bad for the US?
Dr Hawkins put it down to the erosion of trust in public institutions and science.
“I think that has been a fundamental breakdown in our response and in our ability as a public to do our part,” she said.
“Because science needs to do its part, our leaders need to do their part, we as individuals need to do our part as well, but that is contingent on trust.
“Trusting the science, trusting the people who are communicating the science to you and this is where we’ve gotten into serious challenges and barriers in our country.”
On Tuesday, American cardiologist and science author Eric Topol shared the dark red map showing the now uncontrolled spread that blankets the country, alongside a graph showing the rising number of hospitalisations.
“It's now uncontrolled spread in every state except Hawaii. And the hospitalisations today reached ~86,000, yet another new record. Up until 2 weeks ago, we had never crossed 60,000,” he lamented on Twitter.
“The entire continental US is a bloodbath,” one US user remarked in response.
It comes as millions of travellers ignored a warning from the country’s Centres for Disease Control to stay home this Thanksgiving season to curb the spread of the virus.
Businesses forced to close again ahead of holidays
Restaurant and bar workers in the US are again being thrown out of work as state governors and local officials shut down indoor dining and drinking establishments to combat the nationwide surge in cases.
Restaurant owner Greg Morena in Los Angeles County is among those whose business will be affected and his dreading telling his staff after officials banned in-person dining for at least three weeks.
“To tell you, ‘I can’t employ you during the holidays’ to staff that has family and kids, I haven’t figured that part out yet. It’s the heaviest weight that I carry,” he told the Associated Press.
Randine Karnitz, a restaurant worker in Minnesota, was laid her off last week after the state’s governor Tim Walz announced bars, restaurants and gyms would close for four weeks.
“Well, your last day is tomorrow. You don’t have a job. You can thank your governor for that,” her boss told her.
But Ms Karnitz said she supported a shutdown and people who didn’t take the virus seriously bear much of the blame.
“I just think that if we all would’ve done our part to begin with, we wouldn’t be in this predicament,” she said.
The US has seen more than 12.5 million confirmed infections and over 258,800 deaths from the coronavirus. Almost 86,000 people — an all-time high —were hospitalised in the country as of Tuesday.
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