Why Can’t Trump’s America Be Like Italy?

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A few days ago The Times published a long, damning article about how the Trump administration managed to fail so completely in responding to the coronavirus. Much of the content confirmed what anyone following the debacle suspected. One thing I didn’t see coming, however, was the apparently central role played by Italy’s experience.

Italy, you see, was the first Western nation to experience a major wave of infections. Hospitals were overwhelmed; partly as a result, the initial death toll was terrible. Yet cases peaked after a few weeks and began a steep decline. And White House officials were seemingly confident that America would follow a similar track.

We didn’t. U.S. cases plateaued for a couple of months, then began rising rapidly. Death rates followed with a lag. At this point we can only look longingly at Italy’s success in containing the coronavirus: Restaurants and cafes are open, albeit with restrictions, much of normal life has resumed, yet Italy’s current death rate is less than a 10th of America’s. On a typical recent day, more than 800 Americans but only around a dozen Italians died from Covid-19.

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