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America’s Death Gap

2020-09-01 11:03:03

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Here’s a jarring thought experiment: If the United States had done merely an average job of fighting the coronavirus — if the U.S. accounted for the same share of virus deaths as it did global population — how many fewer Americans would have died?

The answer: about 145,000.

That’s a large majority of the country’s 183,000 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths.

No other country looks as bad by this measure. The U.S. accounts for 4 percent of the world’s population, and for 22 percent of confirmed Covid-19 deaths. It is one of the many signs that the Trump administration has done a poorer job of controlling the virus than dozens of other governments around the world.

After the U.S., Brazil and Mexico have the next largest gaps between population share and official death share. They are also countries with less advanced medical systems, where some experts think the actual death toll is vastly higher than the official one. If that’s right, the true gaps in Brazil and Mexico may be as large as the U.S. gap.

But no other affluent country has nearly so big a gap. Canada and several European countries each account for a greater percentage of deaths than population, yet the differences aren’t nearly as severe as in the U.S.

And some countries, like Australia and South Korea, have a positive version of the gap. Japan is home to 1.7 percent of the global population but less than 0.2 percent of deaths. An additional 12,000 Japanese residents would not be alive if the country had merely an average death rate.

As I was putting together these numbers, I started thinking about how Americans should have expected their country to fare — above average, below average or maybe right near the average. The U.S. certainly has had some disadvantages in fighting the virus: It’s an international travel hub, which makes transmission more likely, and it had some of the affluent world’s worst health outcomes even before the virus arrived.

On other hand, the U.S. remains the world’s richest country, with vast medical capabilities, and the virus started on a faraway continent. All of which suggests that there was nothing inevitable about the U.S. performance. It is instead a tragic reflection of the country’s failed response.

In other virus developments:

When President Trump visits Kenosha, Wis., today, he will meet with police officers and tour businesses damaged by the unrest there. He has no plans to meet with the family of Jacob Blake, whose shooting by the police set off the protests.

Trump has yet to speak Blake’s name publicly and yesterday defended Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged with killing two protesters in Kenosha.

“President Trump has been throwing accelerant on the fire of the nation’s social unrest rather than trying to put it out, seeking confrontation rather than calm at a volatile moment his advisers hope will help salvage his campaign for a second term,” Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman of The Times write.

Biden’s response: In a speech on Monday, Joe Biden argued that Trump had made the country unsafe through his erratic and incendiary governing style. “Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?” he said. “We’re facing multiple crises — crises that, under Donald Trump, have kept multiplying.”

This was supposed to be the year that China’s export machine began to stall, given the pandemic and the trade war with the U.S. But China has come roaring back, thanks partly to strong economic management by its government and state-controlled banking system.

“We are locked in a cold civil war,” the journalist Anand Giridharadas writes in his new newsletter, The.Ink.

The U.S. has become “two countries impermeable to each other,” where each side thinks the other presents an existential threat to the idea of America and where persuasion is all but impossible, Giridharadas writes. He leaves no doubt about which side he’s on: He described Fox News’s coverage of the Republican convention as resembling “a complete, coherent, airtight, fascistic world.”

But much of his description will still resonate with Trump and his supporters. “The cultural civil war that has been simmering underneath the surface is now boiling,” writes Ben Domenech, the publisher of the conservative website The Federalist, amid protests over police violence.

“Trump is a secessionist from the top,” David Frum argues in The Atlantic. “As my colleague Ron Brownstein often observes, Trump regards himself as a wartime president of Red America against Blue America. That’s how he can describe riot and disorder as happening in ‘Biden’s America,’ even when it happens under his presidency.”

The novelist Dan Brown is best known for thrillers that usually involve cryptography and secret societies of some kind, like his first best seller, “The Da Vinci Code.”

So it may come as a surprise that the plot of his latest book, “Wild Symphony,” revolves around an orchestra conductor who is also a rodent. The children’s book features an accompanying classical music album based on songs Brown composed as an aspiring musician in his 20s, long before he had published any books.

The Times caught up with the author over video, where he showed off some secret corners of his home (like a revolving bookcase and a hidden door) and explained his writing process behind songs like “Frogs in a Bog” and “Happy Hippo.”


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