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This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab. (Courtesy of NIAID-RML)

When the World Health Organization reported several clustered cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China in January, the news made headlines, but the world was not shaken yet. Few countries even considered imposing social distancing guidelines. However, as the disease spread rapidly, many countries started responding by March. South Korea, for example, had installed swab booths for testing by then. After Austria saw its first few cases, it immediately quarantined the region of Tyrol, eventually instituting shelter-in-place guidelines. 

The U.S. lagged behind other developed countries, with most of the country starting to stay at home towards the very end of March. However, the U.S. sharply criticized China for spreading COVID-19, blaming the country for the U.S.’s problems. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump kept downplaying the severity of COVID-19 as it pervaded the States.

Criticism of China has grown so much that the president’s aides are now releasing ads targeting presumptive Democrat nominee Joe Biden for being soft on China. Although the Trump Administration had praised China in the beginning for its transparency in handling COVID-19, the U.S. government’s stance has turned, Trump recently alleged that the World Health Organization was spreading “China’s misinformation”  and biased toward the country.

 Unfortunately, much of the blame on China comes from our society. Racism towards Asians, especially Chinese people, has increased amid COVID-19 fears. Senator John Cornyn of Texas claimed that Chinese deserve the blame for the coronavirus, because they “eat bats and snakes and dogs.” Even though some Americans like to scapegoat China for COVID-19, we’re achieving nothing by blaming China, and we are forgetting that we acted too late to confront the pandemic. 

COVID-19 is worsening in the U.S. and the situation will exacerbate if we continue to scapegoat China instead of focusing on solutions. As of May 7, there have been nearly 80,000 deaths in the US due to the disease. And the number of cases has reached about 1.3 million. Former Centers for Disease Control Chief Tom Frieden predicted that there would be 100,000 deaths by the end of May. Frieden also said that the tide of the coronavirus right now is “only the beginning.” 

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Even if China is to blame for COVID-19, blaming them is counterproductive. We don’t have time to hold a country accountable for the pandemic, but we do have time to work on streamlining testing, increasing hospital beds and other measures. 

The U.S. government was ineffective at responding to COVID-19 in its beginning stages. The White House did not release a stay-at-home order until April.  Even then, several states never issued stay-at-home orders, among them Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. 

Additionally, many members of this administration are against lockdowns. White House advisor Stephen Moore recently likened anti-lockdown protesters to Rosa Parks. Moore claimed the people were protesting against “injustice and a loss of liberties.” The U.S. should not cast blame on China for problems that exacerbated the American government. 

The number of cases and deaths are continuing to rise, and blaming China only hinders making progress against COVID-19. The U.S. has failed to issue a nationwide stay-at-home order on time and effectively, and some American leaders are overlooking the virus’s severity. Casting blame on China is not only unproductive--it’s hypocritical.