As of the start of 2021, the United States has reached over 20 million COVID-19 cases. In less than a year, the country has had over 360,000 deaths, solely due to the virus itself. Right now the virus is nowhere near slowing down either – these last few months have contained some of the deadliest days in US history. The average number of deaths per day from the virus has passed the amount of casualties from the Okeechobee hurricane, D-Day, and even 9/11.
However, as cases continue to skyrocket, public health mandates still are not being taken seriously. Thousands of individuals visited family or friends during the holidays, many of which did not properly quarantine to limit the risk of the virus. There are still people who refuse to wear masks in public or around other people, who could potentially be silently spreading it to others. All over social media, celebrities or influencers completely ignore the pandemic, leaving a negative influence on their impressionable audiences.
The handlement of COVID-19 by the United States is an embarrassment to the rest of the world. While there are many reasons that the virus has spread so abruptly there – such as the deprivement of strong, federal leadership – one of the primary causes is the lack of time in lockdown. Although many states in the country had lockdowns throughout early March, April and June, they occurred when COVID-19 did not pose as large of a risk. With the amount of cases that are being reported each day, the introduction of a new strain of the virus, and in order to effectively distribute vaccines to those who need it the most, the United States needs to go into a second mandatory lockdown.
Virginia has been hitting record-high amounts of COVID-19 cases almost every day. During the start of quarantine, less than 1,000 new cases were reported each day; however, through the new year, this number has practically quadrupled. Virginia isn’t nearly one of the most dangerous states for the virus either: with more populated regions such as Florida or Texas finding over 20,000 cases each day. California, the state currently with the most COVID-19 cases in the country, reports around 50,000 daily cases.
New mutations of the virus pose a potential threat to the United States as well, specifically the B117 strain of COVID-19. So far, it has been detected in eight different states within the country, with around 50 cases in total. Although, due to its increased transmission rate, this number could shortly increase. Lockdowns would aid to slow the spread of this specific strain of the virus, as well as others that are predicted to arise as COVID-19 rampantly continues.
Many health officials around the country have widely discussed the possibilities of second stay-at-home orders; however, California is one of the only places to actually begin implementing it. Specific regions have had significant restrictions on mask-wearing and social distancing, as well as limitations on large gatherings. While certain dates were set for when these counties could reopen once again, the California government set to shut down these locations until the ICU capacity reached 15% or higher. Although these orders were initially aimed to be completed by the end of December, with this policy, the lockdown has already been extended by a few weeks.
A second lockdown in the United States is possible, and with the current state of the COVID-19 virus, is necessary for the safety of the population. How are almost 4,000 individuals allowed to be killed each day, yet with practically no action being taken to stop it? Hospitals are completely overwhelmed, and ICU capacities are diminishing. The only way for safety precautions and regulations to truly be taken seriously is through government enforcement, yet with the current federal administrations, this possibility seems unlikely.
President-elect Joe Biden has promised to “follow the science” regarding his handlement of the pandemic, yet in the past, has stated how he does not support a second lockdown. The real question is, is another lockdown the most effective option in terms of slowing the virus? And if so, will Biden still live up to his claim to back up his actions to what is best supported scientifically? These will all be answered following his inauguration and the first few months of his presidency, and as the virus continues to worsen, his response to the pandemic may alter.