20. U.S. Covid Deaths: A National Scandal?

The United States has 4 percent of the world's population, but (at last count) 19 percent of the world's deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic. Is this indication of failure at the national level?

Yes. The numbers don't lie. But the "perspective" in this case is a broad comparison to other nations, and it shows that there are factors other than governmental responses. Some nations have done even worse, and it's not clear, whatever one may surmise, that their governments were worse.

In the data compiled by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the United States ranks 13th in Covid mortality per capita. The twelve nations with higher mortality rates were all in Europe, mostly in central, eastern, and southern Europe. The Czech Republic led with 262 deaths per 100,000 population; the U.S. figure is 172 per 100,000. The only Western European state ahead of the U.S. was the United Kingdom.

Some of these nations -- Hungary, Italy, UK -- did have notably anemic initial governmental responses that contributed to high mortality. In other cases the explanation may lie in factors apart from governmental inaction, such as population distribution and the pattern of the pandemic.

Also, the mortality rates for some nations may be seriously underreported. China, the source of the virus, reports only 0.35 deaths per 100,000, or roughly two-tenths of one percent of the U.S. mortality rate. Admittedly China's huge population skews the statistics, but this number is highly unlikely.

Nevertheless, the incidence of U.S. dead, relative to roughly comparable countries, is a scandal. It is almost twice that of Germany, almost three times that of Canada, and fully 47 times the mortality rate of Australia. The average for the world as a whole was 37 per 100,000, about 22 percent of the U.S. death rate.

Israel, where the government record on combating the virus is generally regarded as mixed, stands at 71 per 100,000, above the world average but only about 41 percent of the U.S. mortality rate.

Since the data cover over 200 states and territories, there is another end to the spectrum. Apart from Australia (3.64 deaths per 100,000), there were New Zealand and Singapore (both at 0.53) and Taiwan (0.05). (To date, Taiwan has recorded only 11 Covid deaths!) What these nations had in common was an aggressive program of testing and tracing. Clearly governmental action or inaction does make a difference.

Another relevant comparison is within the Western hemisphere. Though the United States has the highest hemispheric mortality rate, it is followed closely by Brazil and Mexico. What these three nations had in common was presidents who belittled the crisis, delayed responses, seldom wore masks, and caught the disease themselves. Clearly this is not purely coincidental.