If you think education is expensive, try ignorance! With well-educated government leadership employing a policy of maximum transparency, Taiwan’s 24 million people have managed to limit their COVID-19 cases and deaths to 420 cases and six deaths, so far. New cases rarely exceed six cases daily. The U.S. and Taiwan both reported their first cases of COVID-19 on Jan. 21, but have experienced different trajectories since. The U.S. has, so far, reported 764,636 cases and 40,575 deaths, including 32,165 cases on a single day last week. Taiwan’s president, a Ph.D. in law, and her vice president, trained in epidemiology, were able to recruit local research laboratories to develop a four-hour nucleic acid test to detect the new coronavirus within days of case No. 1. They then used these tests to identify new COVID-19 cases, track their contacts and forcibly quarantine them for 14 days. At one point, they had 20,000-plus high-risk people in home isolation but avoided an economic lockdown. They issued daily reports on numbers and locations of cases, number of tests performed, availability of masks and prepared medical care personnel for possible surges in cases. They required physicians to report the names of patients with COVID-19 symptoms to Taiwan’s public health authorities within 24 hours of diagnosis. Using their COVID-19 detection tests, rapid COVID-19 case detection and surveillance was made possible by the patient database maintained by Taiwan’s universal healthcare system. The U.S., by contrast, has a balkanized healthcare system that excludes more than 28 million of its residents. White House leadership is skeptical of science and tries to limit public disclosure of COVID-19-related information, such as availability of COVID-19 tests. It considers all government COVID-19 information classified, requiring White House approval for any government employee to release life-saving information. The administration also provided guidance to U.S. businesses indicating that they had no obligation to report suspected COVID-19 cases among their employees. This willful ignorance, deliberate withholding of information and resolve to prevent millions of residents from accessing healthcare has cost the U.S. over $2 trillion and 40,575 lives so far. Our government’s ignorance is not only horrendously expensive, but increasingly deadly!

William McCarthy

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