How nice it would be to be in Auckland today.
How nice it would be to be in Paris or Berlin.
On Monday, France and Germany, enjoying low levels of the virus, opened up to travelers from within the European Union. German tourist attractions reopened, and Paris reopened restaurants. French President Emmanuel Macron said it’s time to “rediscover our taste for freedom.” But U.S. visitors won’t be allowed.
And how nice it would be to be in Athens.
The world is reopening, safely in many places, because responsible governments made the right decisions about the pandemic. Life there is slowly returning to normal.
Who can blame them? Other governments took the pandemic seriously and responded competently. Ours didn’t, and doesn’t. The willy-nilly reopening here, with safety requirements ignored and inadequate contact tracing, has allowed the virus to spread in much of the country, particularly in states that were most reckless in their reopenings.
And President Trump undermines what few restraints there are, scheduling mass rallies, beginning with an indoor event this week in Tulsa against the pleading of the local health director. Trump won’t “give the press the pleasure” of wearing a mask (one of the most important factors in safe reopening), which ensures many of his supporters won’t, either.
The effects of the careless reopening are now becoming clear. Health-care investment-research firm Nephron, in a report Sunday, finds that the quartile of states that opened earliest has seen a 26 percent increase in cases, while the second-fastest quartile has seen a 7 percent increase. The third and fourth quartiles went down, 31 percent and 9 percent, respectively. “It is patently obvious that states that removed stay-at-home restrictions earlier are seeing worse trends in case growth this month,” Nephron concluded.
Among the 14 earliest states, many of which ignored public health recommendations, nine have seen increases: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, Missouri, Montana, Idaho and Alaska. In the second group, Arizona, California and North Carolina are particularly alarming.
In an interview with Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, top U.S. infectious-disease official Anthony Fauci said it’s an open question whether states will “have the capability to do the appropriate and effective isolation, and contact tracing, to prevent this increase from becoming a full-blown outbreak.” But The Post reports that contact tracing efforts are “way behind” in many hard-hit areas. And yet the reopening keeps expanding — sporting events, conventions, concerts — regardless of the growing threat.
It didn’t have to be this way. Japan, where subways are busy and nightclubs are hopping, benefits from a culture that embraces mask-wearing. Virus-free New Zealand, with back-to-normal sporting events and concerts, benefits from being an island nation. But what about Tunisia, Morocco, Chad, Dominica, Barbados, Uruguay, Cambodia, Thailand, Montenegro, Croatia, Fiji, Iceland and Australia? They’re also on the list of the 15 countries that a German data analysis company, Iunera, identified as being “on a successful path to recovery.” South Korea, the Czech Republic and others have also done well. Is America not as “great” as them?
“It’s just political will,” Andy Slavitt, a top health-care official in the Obama administration, told me Monday. “Are you willing to suffer short-term pain for a lot of long-term gain? Obviously, the president wasn’t.” The behavior of Trump, and of like-minded governors operating with his encouragement, is self-defeating, for it delays the restoration of commerce and the return to normal that countries around the world are now savoring.
The United States, long the envy of the world, now fumbles while others move ahead. A president who promised to put “America First” instead put us at the back of the line.