A harrowing analysis from ABC News shows that more than 3.4 million travelers came to the United States from some of the most infected countries in the world, showing quite effectively how our country quickly became the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite President Donald Trump’s early actions in shutting down travel from China, experts say that a look at the real numbers shows that even that shutdown – as lifesaving as it undoubtedly was – came a little too late. If the disease was spreading throughout China as early as November, as many believe it was, then there may have been nothing any world leader could have done to keep COVID-19 from reaching their shores.
“Travel data of passengers arriving in the United States from China during the critical period in December, January and February, when the disease took hold in that country, shows a stunning 759,493 people entered the U.S.,” reports ABC News.
“President Donald Trump restricted travel from China effective Feb. 2, which likely saved lives,” the report continues. “But by the time the president acted, much of the damage had already been unleashed, and some 18,000 Americans returned home from China in February and March, after the restrictions were in place. It’s unclear how intensive, if at all, the screening was for the Americans coming home at that point.”
Unfortunately, even if there had been some magic way to keep infected persons traveling directly from China to the U.S., it wouldn’t have been sufficient to stop the coronavirus from spreading to America.
“ABC News examined data from December, January and February on travelers entering the U.S. from eight of the hardest-hit countries: 343,402 arrived from Italy, 418,848 from Spain and about 1.9 million more came from Britain,” the report shows. “Combined with those from China, that’s more than 3.4 million people from just four countries — nearly half, about 1.5 million, Americans returning home. Travel from Italy and Spain wasn’t shut down until March 13, with U.K. arrivals restricted a few days later.”
It’s difficult to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions from this sobering analysis. We could look back with perfect hindsight and say, “Well, Trump should have shut down all incoming travel the moment he heard the first whisper of disease from Wuhan,” but that’s patently ridiculous. We can’t prepare for the future by pretending that such extreme measures would have worked – or that any leader on the planet would have actually gone through with them. It’s just not reasonable. Hell, Trump shut down travel from China in early February, and there were STILL Democrats accusing him of xenophobia.
Nor is it realistic to wave a hand angrily at globalization and pretend that we’re all going to suddenly stop worldwide travel.
Now – should there be sanctions against China? Absolutely. They, and they alone, could have stopped this disease in its tracks, and they chose to initiate a major coverup instead.
But putting that aside, the ultimate lesson to be learned from the coronavirus may be…that we’re simply vulnerable to this kind of thing. No matter how tall our buildings or how advanced our technology, we’re still human. And in this increasingly interconnected world, what affects the further corner of the globe can quickly affect us. The next time we hear about a contagious disease spreading somewhere “out there,” we may want to pay attention.