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  • Writer's pictureIrene Park

California’s Covid-19 Response and Learning from South Korea’s Experience

It’s the perfect season to go out and enjoy the sun in California, and yet everyone has been staying home; streets are empty, and all the shops and malls have been closed. This is due to the effects of Covid-19, a type of coronavirus. Other well known examples of the coronavirus would be Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) as well as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The World Health Organization officially declared a global pandemic on March 11th, 2020 and things have looked a lot different since, and the difference has definitely been evident, especially when comparing South Korea to the U.S.

California, a place usually buzzing with excitement and action in the summer, has seemed almost like a post apocalyptic city with everything shut down around the state. The schools in the state of California have all been shut down as well as other public areas that are health concerns amid the pandemic. All the stores ran out of stock frequently after the pandemic was declared and basic supplies such as food and water were running very low. Extreme measures have also been taken in California to ensure that all the citizens remain home as well as other measures such as Project Roomkey, an effort to keep the numerous homeless citizens in California safe from Covid-19. However, situations have looked a bit different in other countries around the world.

In South Korea, the first case of Covid-19 was initially discovered more quickly than the first cases in the U.S. According to an article by NBC news published on April 5th, 2020, South Korea has already gone through what is often referred to as the “first wave” in which the first crisis has been passed and the country is getting ready to face a possible second wave that could occur. Numbers of cases of coronavirus in South Korea spiked rapidly after its first discovery, but were rapidly lowered. This is due to the testing system that South Korea has implemented by using experience from its disastrous experience with MERS in 2015. This testing system involves a huge amount of the population being tested and after an individual has tested positive, their route throughout the last couple days are all tracked through GPS, phones, CCTVs, and more. While others may think that this system may be invading privacy, it has been extremely effective in further prevention and reassuring citizen sentiments. Citizens are made known of where the coronavirus patient has been and how they got there and emergency messages are automatically sent to phones around the area to warn people that a coronavirus patient has been to a certain subway station or bus station nearby. This helps keep people aware of the situation as all data collected is transparent.

South Korea has also created drive through testing stations that require no additional fees to get tested and results are texted back in the matter of 24 hours. By using these extensive testing measures, South Korea has been able to keep the country in a relatively calm state amongst the pandemic. Since the first outbreak of Covid-19 in the U.S, it has made an effort to make testing available throughout the country though test kits were sparse in the beginning, but there have been great improvements. There are currently two testing methods available: testing for antibodies and polymerase chain reaction testing (PCR). The PCR testing is much more common in the United States and in an article published by LiveScience, Dr.Amesh Adalja, an infectious diseases specialist at John Hopkins claimed that the tests themselves only took hours to run and results would be ready in about a day. This time could also be shortened as rapid forms of both tests could be released, but is currently under development.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. has created 97 official testing centers available around the country with completed verification. This is a big improvement from the 50 public centers that were available on March 12th and a direction that will definitely better the situation. Several experts, according to CNN have claimed that the key to improving the situation would lie in increasing the number of tests. The amount of testing available has been growing as well as the number of public centers and as of May 18th, more than 10 million tests have been administered in the United States alone.

The New York Times also published President Trump’s statements on the coronavirus, in which he stated that the White House would wind down the Coronavirus Task Force due to the situation being under control, and would start to focus on the economic aspect of the pandemic. Just as the President presented, we all hope the situation will be brought under control soon and for quarantine orders to be lifted quickly and safely under stable circumstances.

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