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US Warned Of A ‘Pearl Harbor Moment’

April 06, 2020 07:06 AM

COURTESY TOI APRILL 6US Warned Of A ‘Pearl Harbor Moment’
Officials Ring Alarm Bells As Country Braces For ‘Hardest, Saddest’ Week


The United States on Sunday reached the grim milestone of recording the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths reported in any country in a day – nearly 1,500 – with the national death count heading past 9,100 amid warnings of an upcoming “Pearl Harbor moment” and fears of civil unrest.

The world’s #1 country in many respects, the US now tops the list in number of coronavirus cases too, its 3,21,000 and rising count a testament both to its shoddy handling of the crisis and its relentless global engagement that are both coming under intense scrutiny now. The US now has more coronavirus cases than any other country, including China, Italy, and Spain.

There is also a growing daily conflict between a businessman-President, whose instinct is to re-open the country as quickly as possibly to save its economy, and his healthcare/pandemic advisors, whose primary disposition is to save lives. So while Trump at his Saturday briefing spoke of having to “get back to work” and “we don't want to be doing this (lockdown) for months and months and months,” his surgeon general, Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, spoke of an upcoming “Pearl Harbor moment” and “9/11 moment” while warning that the “hardest and the saddest week in most Americans’ lives” will be coming up soon.

Trump too has warned Americans of a “very, very painful week” coming up, but said “at a certain point some hard decisions are going to have to be made in terms of lockdown” making clear his inclination. But even as the President appears to be itching to throw caution to the winds, his coronavirus task force coordinator Dr Deborah Birx warned against even going to the grocery store or the pharmacy for the next two weeks, unless absolutely essential.

The biggest concern amid the daily growth in coronavirus cases and fatalities tied to it is what happens when medical and healthcare staff, law and order personnel, and essential workers such as truckers, grocery store workers, and delivery people start to contract the virus, as has been happening in NYC where one in six NYPD personnel has called in sick. Amid reports of rise in burglaries, robberies and shortage of some products and produce, stores, particularly high-end outlets, have started to board up to prevent vandalism and theft.

The raging pandemic is also starting to have a more adverse effect on the poor, many of whom do not have the luxury of social distancing and isolation in search of a daily living. Some subway trains in NYC are still running packed with essential workers, and despite nationwide stay-at-home advisories that sparsely populated rural areas in Middle America were the last to embrace, traffic analytics firms say daily traffic remains at about 60% of normal levels, helped by cheap gas that is now less than $2 a gallon in most parts of the country (about Rs 35 per liter).

Besides disrupting the lives of most Americans, the coronavirus has also upended the country’s political calendar that has seen a Presidential election every four years with metronomic precision for nearly 240 plus years, including through two world wars. The Democratic Party has now postponed its national convention where the presidential candidate is usually formally anointed to August, and there is talk of a postal ballots, an idea opposed by Trump and his Republican allies. Conspiracy theorists and those distrustful of Trump are also fearful that the President might use the pandemic as an excuse to extend his power unconstitutionally as has happened in some countries

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