Austin R. Cooper Jr.ColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

COOPER: My Child is Safer in South Korea Than Here in the U.S.

I first read about the coronavirus in the New York Times last Christmas. Since it first surfaced in a Chinese seafood and poultry market in Wuhan, China, it has now spread to more than 118 countries, killing approximately 6,069 individuals globally. For me, reading initial reports of the coronavirus was immediately personal because my 32-year-old daughter Ashley has been teaching English at an elementary school in Seoul for five years.

Ashley came home from Seoul in September and returned last month. Needless to say, I was very concerned. In typical millennial fashion, she respectfully dismissed my concerns, with responses always couched in reassurances of her love for me, and a commitment to “take the very same precautions in Seoul that I would if I were home in Maryland.” However, there was a statement she made before returning that has proven to be quite prophetic: “Dad, yes, it is bad in South Korea right now. But soon it is going to get really bad here in the United States.”

In a recent FaceTime conversation, when I questioned her return timing, Ashley again reminded me of the daily precautions she is taking, including wearing a N99 mask, constantly washing her hands, avoiding large crowds, not getting close to people, avoiding physical contact and frequently cleaning surfaces in her apartment.

“If I feel symptoms, I can call a 24-hour English-language hotline and they will tell me how to proceed,” she said. “If they recommend that I visit a doctor, and I am sent for specialized testing, medical transport will be arranged so that I do not risk possibly infecting anyone. I will be taken to one of many testing centers and tested for free.

“If I test positive, and it is serious, I will be hospitalized at the government’s expense,” she said. “If it’s not a serious case, the doctor will send me home with whatever meds and I will self-quarantine for 14 days. The government will send food to my apartment once a week to make sure I don’t have to leave during my quarantine.

“Even without a doctor’s recommendation, for my own peace of mind, I can easily get tested and only pay $132 USD out-of-pocket,” she added. “Dad, right now, where can you go to get tested? There are still hardly any tests back home.”

Case closed, by a non-lawyer. South Korea has been testing approximately 10,000 residents and non-residents daily for weeks. How can she, an American citizen, be safer during this global health crisis in a foreign country than in the most advanced and developed country in the world? Here, she resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, a little over six miles from the White House and U.S. Capitol.

Were Ashley home, getting tested would be a major challenge. Why? Because, the Trump administration is one of unconscionable and unprecedented incompetence! At the beginning of this crisis, President Trump did not take it seriously. Thereby hampering — crippling, even — the federal government’s initial response. His carelessness put all Americans at greater risk, particularly the elderly and those with preexisting conditions.

In a recent article in The Atlantic, David Frum stated, “At every turn, President Trump’s policy regarding the coronavirus has unfolded as if guided by one rule: How can I make this crisis worse? Trump’s actions have ensured the worst possible outcomes.”

Initially the president called the coronavirus a “political hoax by the Democrats.” It was President Trump who disbanded the White House National Security Council’s entire global security unit. Its creation under the Obama administration was shaped by lessons learned from the Ebola epidemic of 2014. This decision eliminated numerous jobs addressing global pandemics, hampering the U.S. Government’s response to the coronavirus. In addition, tests are not available widely, in part, because the White House declined an offer from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The president went from the coronavirus being a “hoax” to a “national emergency” in the span of several days. Even during his press conference declaring a “national emergency,” President Trump, when asked if he takes responsibility for the lag in making test kits available, replied, “No. I don’t take responsibility at all.” He will always be both proudly and embarrassingly lacking in leadership.

Thankfully, the administration and Congress have reached a deal on a bipartisan economic relief package for impacted Americans and businesses. Yet, the fact still remains that in the president’s never-ending desire to spite President Barack Obama, he spited the nation. And, we here in America are all at greater risk because of it. But not Ashley.

Cooper is president of Cooper Strategic Affairs, Inc.

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