Americans tend to think that we’re either the best or the worst at everything. And while I agree that the United States hasn’t been the absolute best in the world in terms of coronavirus response, our nation has certainly fared better than most advanced countries and remains far from the worst in terms of dealing with COVID-19. Whether success is measured by testing, cases, fatalities or some other metric, it’s important to put any such data in the right context – including using relevant country-to-country comparisons and appropriate skepticism about some data provided by various countries.
In terms of testing to date, the United States has performed nearly 22 million tests, including nearly 222,000 in Oklahoma. That’s more than any other country in the world. Perhaps not surprisingly, our testing capacity has led to more confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported than anywhere else. However, considering that not all countries have comparable populations, it’s more telling to look at various statistics in terms of per capita.
According to data aggregated by Real Clear Politics and sourced from health organizations globally, the United States doesn’t have the most cases per million people, though our nation still falls within the top 10 countries credited with the most confirmed cases. The same thing is true when looking at the number of deaths reportedly caused by COVID-19. In fact, those with worse fatality outcomes per million people are from advanced countries with sophisticated health systems – Belgium, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Sweden, France, Netherlands and Ireland. Moreover, these countries produce statistics that can be trusted. That’s not true of many other countries.
There are even more considerations to be made when drawing conclusions on how the U.S. is doing, including the reliability of data provided by other countries. Unfortunately, there are numerous countries whose data can simply not be trusted and who have refused to be transparent about COVID-19. Not surprisingly, these countries include the likes of countries such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. Each of these countries routinely provide false data and narratives to world health organizations.
In addition, there are third world countries that simply don’t have the health infrastructure to effectively determine and report the realities on the ground quickly or accurately. While numbers may currently be lower coming out of places like India, Pakistan and areas in Central and South America, that probably does not reflect the real situation on the ground. This is not due to deliberate deception, but to underdeveloped public health systems that lack the capacity to produce accurate and complete data.
On a positive note, however, there are countries with real clout like Japan, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia and Germany that have shown great leadership in protecting their citizens and facing down this pandemic. Certainly, there are lessons to be learned from them as we actively prepare for future emergencies and continue to navigate this one.
Fortunately, Congress has worked in a bipartisan manner throughout this crisis and delivered four essential relief packages for Americans struggling by no fault of their own. And before coronavirus struck, I am grateful that Congress generously invested in worthy tools and response resources to strengthen our readiness. Clearly, pandemic preparedness must be an even higher investment priority in the days to come.
Tom Cole, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, is serving
his eighth term in Congress as the elected representative of Oklahoma's 4th
Congressional District. He is recognized as an advocate for taxpayers and small
business, a proponent for a strong national defense and a leader in promoting
biomedical research. He is considered the foremost expert in the House on issues
dealing with Native Americans and tribal governments. He and his wife, Ellen,
have one son, Mason, and reside in Moore, Oklahoma.
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