The Price of Your Freedoms


Anna Dabrowski, Head Editor

On March 31st only seventeen days after we went remote I pulled up the COVID-19 death counter. I was watching because we were getting close to three thousand which meant one thing in my mind, we were about to pass the amount of deaths from 9/11. I watched it slowly tick up to 2,993 (9/11 had 2,996), but then I had to go eat dinner. When I came back it had passed the number I was waiting for by twenty. As such a self-absorbed nation, we tend to only care about our own tragedies. We count stuff in “terms of 9/11” and compare other countries’ far more catastrophic tragedies to it. So, in terms of 9/11 we have now surpassed that tragedy 67 times. This is the price we pay for our freedom and we seem to think there is no better solution.

No, I’m not some communist trying to disband the Constitution, I am simply a person asking you to step back for a minute. I’ll be laying out the COVID response for what I think are the best faring countries, and then the worst. You can make your own decision regarding whether the responses and effects correlate. Then we will continue on to the U.S., and how the freedoms we have grown to love caused a slow reaction time in the face of crisis, as well as a disjointed and un-correlated set of COVID rules. So often we just accept what is handed to us on a silver media platter. You almost always should go digging for yourself. 


Vietnam: 35 deaths

Vietnam started off strong by requiring mandatory quarantine for two weeks for anyone flying in from ANY country. No special treatment for European countries was allowed. By March 21st all international travel was shut down, no one in or out. Anyone traveling domestically had to quarantine for fourteen days. On March 29, a mandatory three week social distancing order was enacted, not very different to what we did here in the U.S.. Mandatory mobile apps were downloaded on phones for citizens to record their symptoms. Only 35 people have died, yet Vietnam is roughly the same size as many Asian countries that struggled. Surprisingly, their method did not involve mass testing. They shut the country down so early on that they were able to simply use contact tracing* to detect people who had come in contact with the virus. People in Vietnam actually followed the social distancing orders so there was no need for further testing. If you’re wondering why the people were so well behaved, Vietnam is not the most medically equipped to handle a pandemic. People actually feared death instead of ignoring it. If you are versed in international affairs then you may know that Vietnam is an Authoritative one-party state. Yes, I will allow you to say that the people of Vietnam did not have a choice, but I’d argue that free-will is how we got where we are today.


Malaysia: 128 deaths

There is a trend for what countries fared well, they’re mostly Asian. Asian culture tells people to respect authority and be gracious to others. Wearing masks when you’re sick in Asian countries is normal, and during a pandemic not wearing one would get you publicly shamed. In Malaysia, meetings to plan a COVID response were held in December. Yes, you heard that right, while we were yelling “hoax” and acting like viruses honor borders, some countries got ready.The shots were called by health officials, not politicians. Rumors were also heavily debunked quickly. Malaysia underwent a strict lockdown, where only one adult was allowed to leave to get groceries. Everyone was subject to this lockdown, even the deputy health official was fined after breaking quarantine. Mass testing was prominent very early on when large gatherings were broken up. Most importantly their hospitals were ready. Malaysia set up extra hospitals, passed funding to get ventilators in a timely manner and prepared beds especially for COVID patients.The people of Malaysia did not rush the lockdown, even as restrictions lowered many chose to still stay and work at home because of anxiety for a second wave. 128 people have died from COVID in Malaysia, and people are terrified to return to normal. I’d also like to point out that many Asian countries are “normal” now. If you were to travel to South Korea you could go to museums, cities, tourist attractions, and even amusement parks. The whole world is not the U.S. Some countries are truly getting to live now.


Spain: 29,628 deaths

The Spanish government acted very late and without urgency. The weekend before they shut down all the cafes and bars were full to the brim. Universities had closed the week before creating a very vacation-like atmosphere. I remember seeing this atmosphere in our own town the first week of school closure. Massive demonstrations for International Women’s Day were also taking place. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators swarmed the streets for conventions. When tragedy struck in the form of 50,000 cases in eighteen days, the hospitals were ill equipped. Ventilators and protective gear all had to be sourced from China, which was ironic since most Chinese owned shops had closed their doors to people because of racist attacks. Hospitals and nursing homes were quickly overwhelmed and experienced a 20% death rate. The lockdown began March 14, and was enforced by the police. Elderly people were found dead and abandoned in their beds when the military went to help disinfect nursing homes. The workers had all left to go support the dwindling hospital workforce. The grocery stores were barren and the Spanish economy has taken a hit that will only continue to build upon Spain’s debt to other nations.


The U.K.: 41,614

Britain’s first shortcoming was Brexit. Britain knew they were ill equipped to handle a health crisis, but put fixing this on hold for two years because they were distracted by agreeing on a Brexit deal. On January 23 the World Health Organization warned all countries about the threat of COVID, meaning the UK had sufficient time to plan. However, the UK ignored the advice of the World Health Association and refused to set up a contact tracing system. For some reason the U.K. was under the impression that COVID would affect their country in a way that would not require case by case contact tracing. The scientists in charge of outbreak management were not shown to the public, their meetings were closed. There was no way to tell whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson was using science or wishful thinking. He decided to slow down testing and attempt a herd immunity approach instead. Herd immunity involves the majority of the population catching a disease and becoming immune, but with such a high death rate who could possibly justify this risk? Hospitals were ill prepared and nurses had to go to hospitals with bandannas tied around their faces instead of masks. It took weeks to source everything that was actually needed for the outbreak. Boris Johnson did not lock down the country until March 23rd. It seems what goes around comes around… Boris Johnson caught COVID and almost died. It seems the U.K. is no longer pursuing herd immunity either.


The United States: Over 200,000

The U.S. was rated number one for what countries would be able to handle a global outbreak the best in a Global Security Index published forty-five days before the first case of COVID was discovered. Here I am writing this six months after our initial shutdown. We are doing a hybrid method for school, I’m wearing a mask, I’m sitting at one of the twenty desks spaced six feet apart in the library. What went so wrong, what happened to our invincible America? We have the seventh-highest number of deaths, and before you start screaming about our large population, those deaths are per 100,000 people. The other nine countries in the top ten death rates have an average GDP* of 10,195, for reference our GDP is 65,281. Some countries have even already eradicated COVID, for example New Zealand. 

The first problem was not closing down fast enough. For some reason politicians think viruses care if we’re American? This article is not a political statement, if you remember correctly even the Democrats didn’t want to close down early on. When we did close down, we still allowed travel to the UK. As you just read, the UK got COVID too and they are only slightly better off than us now. We went through various travel bans in January and February, too many to recap, and obviously none of them worked.

Our second shortcoming was our inability to mobilize our resources. A national health crisis stockpile didn’t exist, which is concerning because we are a well-developed country. State government stockpiles also did not exist so this was a fault at the state and national levels. We waited too long to start sourcing ventilators and medical equipment. To the government’s credit, once they finally stopped sitting around, we did get way more supplies than we actually need. We will be prepared the next time this happens, I hope. We also did not have access to adequate testing for months. Now we are testing more than any other country, but our slow start caused catastrophic results. Doctors had to pick and choose who to send to testing because we simply didn’t have enough kits.

Restrictions at the state level took way too long to pass. We love our state freedoms, but the lack of national orders made for a disjointed set of rules that was highly ineffective. Cuomo had us on shut down, while the governor of Florida was busy downplaying the virus as a whole. Let’s be honest, most of you didn’t follow the rules anyways. We ignored science, we called Faucci corrupt, we did everything except look at the man in the mirror. The state restrictions were not enforced at all. I have heard first hand stories from people who threw parties and when the cops showed up, they just joined in. I saw the parties all over Instagram as early as May, and then a day later the posts about how “the government isn’t handling COVID correctly.” We can pretend all we want, the government did play a big part in this, but so did American culture on the individual level. Our country as a whole does not value the opinion of medical experts, and we don’t care about stuff that doesn’t involve us. In Asia they followed the rules, they wore their masks, and they have their lives back.

Why am I sitting in the library with my mask on again? To sum this up, I would like to address a statistic put out by the CDC. They said that 6% of reported COVID deaths were only the result of COVID. When I first saw this I immediately thought we had been betrayed by the CDC, but literally two seconds of reading clarifies what they meant. 6% of the deaths were from people with no pre-existing conditions. The other 94% had something paired with COVID. To be clear this “pre-existing condition” could be the slightest amount of asthma. 1 in 13 Americans have asthma. 200,000 Americans are the price we paid to keep our many freedoms during quarantine. Was it worth it?



  1. Contact tracing is a method where an infected individual tells a health official every person they’ve come in physical contact with in the past 14 days, those individuals are then tested.
  2. A GDP is a measurement of the market value of a country. It’s like measuring how good our economy is, the higher the number, the better.

Works Cited:

Black, George. “Vietnam May Have the Most Effective Response to Covid-19.” The Nation, 27 Apr. 2020, 

Fitzpatrick, Alex, and Elijah Wolfson. “Coronavirus in the U.S: How Did the Pandemic Get So Bad?” Time, Time, 10 Sept. 2020, 

Shah, Ain Umaira Md, et al. “COVID-19 Outbreak in Malaysia: Actions Taken by the Malaysian Government.” International Journal of Infectious Diseases, Elsevier, 2 June 2020, 

Tremlett, Giles. “How Did Spain Get Its Coronavirus Response so Wrong?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 Mar. 2020, 

Yamey, Gavin, and Clare Wenham. “Why the U.S. and U.K. Failed Their Coronavirus Responses.” Time, Time, 1 July 2020,