By: Julia Burdsall
Roughly six years have passed since the devastating Ebola virus outbreak in west Africa. Fortunately, the rapid formation of treatment centers and isolation zones, the creation of charitable organizations worldwide, and vigorous screening of passengers at entrance ports aided the African continent in slowing and eventually bringing to a halt the spread of the deadly virus within a year’s time.
Despite the success of the measures taken in 2014 to contain the Ebola virus, a deep-rooted issue remains: a debilitating lack of public-health infrastructure. Given the state of our healthcare system it was simply a matter of time before the next virus broke out. Unfortunately for us this resulted in a nation-wide, coast-to-coast crisis as we contributed to, rather than helped mitigate, the global pandemic.
Yet, what’s interesting is that there were warnings, warnings that the road on which we were traveling would eventually lead us to global devastation and a situation far worse than what was experienced six years ago. In a 2015 Ted Talk, Bill Gates explained that the current state of the world’s healthcare systems are simply not prepared for another biological attack and that such a failure would eventually result in another catastrophic epidemic. As if such a warning wasn’t enough, months prior to our current dystopian reality president Trump was alerted by U.S. intelligence agencies of threats posed on the U.S. by the corona virus outbreak in China—to not much surprise he quickly dismissed the early warnings, setting the nation up for a rude awakening come mid-march.
As the U.S. enters its second month of quarantine it really does not take a genius to understand that Gates’ prediction and the warnings of our own governmental agencies were, unfortunately, spot on. It is the repeated disregard for the safety and health of each individual who walks the earth that is most frustrating. The fate of our healthcare system was known. People like Bill Gates spoke up in the aftermath of the Ebola virus to provide forewarning yet, we still chose to turn a cold shoulder. In doing so we jeopardized the lives of thousands.
We can do better. And, for that matter, if we don’t want to find social distancing and pandemics awaiting at our doorsteps again we must do better. It is no longer an option to ignore the cracked infrastructure of our nation’s healthcare system. If the effects of climate change we are currently reaping aren’t a good enough example of how sweeping deep rooted issues under the carpet only fosters greater consequences, then the current pandemic most definitely is. It is time that we acknowledge the need for change and begin to take steps towards it–whether that entails voting for reform-minded individuals or sending weekly emails to our state representatives. It is time to step up. For the sake of the thousands of overwhelmed healthcare workers risking their lives everyday to salvage what is left of our crumbling nation we must start tackling our issues head on—before they cause madness and destruction—or else our story will be one told as a cautionary tale a thousand years from now.