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Letter: We must learn from our pandemic mistakes

If the U.S. response had matched that of South Korea's, we would have 80,000 positively identified U.S. cases today instead of more than 2.5 million.

Letter to the Editor graphic

The lack of ownership for mistakes made during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic makes it impossible for us to improve future responses.

There were mistakes on the part of international, federal, state and local governments, and individuals – humans make mistakes. We must learn from our mistakes and learn from others who responded better.

South Korea and the U.S., both learned about the virus from the World Health Organization on Dec. 31. Both had their first cases in-country on the same day. However, South Korea began a coordinated national response on Jan. 3. It was 10 weeks before a national emergency was declared in the U.S. (not coincidentally after the stock market dropped 18%). If the U.S. response had matched the effectiveness of the South Korean response, we would have about 80,000 positively identified U.S. cases today instead of more than 2.5 million and would have less than 2,000 U.S. deaths instead of more than 126,000. And we could have kept the economy open.

Even if our response only matched the average effectiveness of the countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, there would have been 50,000 fewer U.S. deaths. So far. We must demand a thorough and honest review and response – one that identifies needed system changes to prevent us from repeating our mistakes. “I don’t take responsibility at all” or blaming others is an unacceptable response from any leader – most particularly when it comes from the highest office in the land.

April Horne, Rochester

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