In rural areas, railroad crossings rarely have lights and gates to warn drivers of an oncoming train. Tax revenue in rural areas is too small and railroad crossings too many to afford lights and gates at rural railroad crossings, even though most traffic-related deaths at railroad crossings occur in rural areas. Similarly, zoning laws require urban residents, but not rural residents, to pay for sidewalks. Adding a sidewalk reduces automobile-pedestrian accidents by 50 percent. And so it goes when comparing rural versus urban values when it comes to preventing avoidable deaths. Rural residents pay less in taxes and have fewer government-imposed restrictions than urban residents but their life expectancy is two years less. The Trump administration has embraced rural values as a consistent executive branch policy, moving administrative staff from the Washington DC area to more rural areas of the U.S., shutting down regulations designed to protect consumers and downsizing federal personnel dedicated to protecting consumers. The 2018 elimination of the global health security office in the National Security Council complied with this policy. This office had helped prevent the Ebola virus from spreading worldwide for five years. 

Taiwan was expected to have thousands of COVID-19 cases by now because of its proximity to and strong trade ties with China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Instead, it has only 53 documented cases and one death. Following its deadly experience with the 2002-03 SARS epidemic, Taiwan established the National Health Command Center (NHCC). The NHCC went into action on Dec. 31, 2019, when China disclosed several cases of pneumonia caused by a new coronavirus. By mid-February, Taiwan had established 124 safety protocols, including free testing for COVID-19, guaranteed paid sick leave for all workers and health screening of all travelers entering Taiwan. Without its former global health security office, the U.S. federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been slow, uncoordinated, bungled and ineffective. The Trump administration embrace of rural values has won it a cult-like following among the rural electorate, but at the cost of thousands of U.S. lives that will be avoidably lost in this COVID-19 pandemic.

William McCarthy

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