As the COVID-19 crisis grinds on and on, I’ve become increasingly motivated to write about it…for a number of reasons.
First, we’re all thinking about it, so I might as well address it here.
Second, I’ve sort of avoided writing about it in some previous blog posts, because I knew everyone was thinking about it.
And third, I really feel compelled to process how much better other countries are doing addressing this virus.
Developing—Or Better Developed?
My wife and I frequently discuss the ongoing crisis, often in the context of her native Thailand. After all, that’s her natural frame of reference, and a frame of which I also have some understanding.
Though I may not have written about it here, I’ve told many friends and colleagues the story of my hospital visit in Thailand in 2014.
When you come from the US, and have had horrendous experiences waiting for hours in an emergency room, you don’t relish the thought of visiting one in a developing country. But when I came down with one of my infamous sinus infections during a trip to Thailand, my wife said, “We have to go to the hospital.”
I faintly protested but acquiesced, figuring she ultimately knew better than me. It’s her country.
Off we went, and entered a very normal, modern hospital in Bangkok. There were hardly any patients in the ER waiting area. Within less than 45 minutes, I was in front of a doctor’s desk, and my then-fiancée translated my sinus woes to the doctor. Shortly thereafter, I was out the door—with a number of medications from the hospital’s in-house pharmacy, including the medication I’d requested, as well as an allergy med, just in case I was wrong.
Total cost: about 1,500 Thai baht, or $50.00.
Contrast that with my wife’s ER visit here in the states a year later, when she had bronchitis on Christmas weekend. Hours of waiting, a battery of tests, and a bill for $5,000…$1,000 of which we had to pay out of pocket.
Our Medical/Political Ignorance
One thing I’ve learned over the past few months of quarantine is that Thai people know how to handle a pandemic much better than my average fellow American citizen.
For one, it’s a natural thing in Thai culture to wear a mask if you are sick. You leave your residence and go out in public—whether to the doctor or the grocery store—and you wear a mask to protect other people from you.
I’d never heard of such an approach to citizenship, I’m sorry to say. Never even thought about it. Sadly, we are taught to be relatively selfish here, at least compared with Thailand.
The result? Well, we can see it in the news every day. The US COVID-19 numbers are far worse than other countries, including the number of deaths. It’s beyond tragic, and the absurdity of it is that it was preventable.
It’s easy to blame our garbage president, and he’s got plenty of blood on his hands, as far as I’m concerned. But even more sad, really, is that a little self-education on our part, and some personal responsibility, could have prevented tens of thousands of deaths here.
The COVID-19 numbers in Thailand are stunningly low: a total of 3,295 confirmed cases, most of which came in March and April. This is in a “developing” country with a population of nearly 70 million. Sure, there are still new cases, but the daily count is in the single or low double digits. Five or ten, as opposed to five or ten thousand.
And the total number of fatalities in Thailand? An unthinkable 58. Contrasted with 147,000 American fatalities, that number is even more astonishingly sad.
The difference: ordinary citizens wearing masks.
So yeah, we’re doing this to ourselves. And it’s got to stop. Everyone needs to do their part—not because the government, or Costco, or whoever said to do it. Because it’s the right thing to do. It’s really the only sane thing to do.