Even discounting indisputably human catastrophes, 2020 has been relentless. This year has given us wildfires from California to Australia, a global pandemic and the earliest third-named tropical storm on record. Arizona hasn't been spared either, with a brush fire forcing evacuations and keeping part of a state highway closed.
The toll of these disasters is immense. The new coronavirus has infected over 10 million people, killing over 500,000 worldwide. Tropical Storm Cristobal caused immense damage to Mexico and the U.S. The Arizona brush fires have burned over 150,000 acres. But, while disease, storms and fire are all considered natural phenomena, it takes human mismanagement to create a disaster.
Take Arizona's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. In January, Arizona was one of the first states to have a COVID-19 case. While the state government declared a public health emergency on March 12, Gov. Doug Ducey didn't limit public gatherings, as other states had done, until March 19. A stay-at-home order wasn't issued until the end of March, at which point victims had begun dying.
And now, after a hasty reopening, Arizona has a record number of hospitalizations and cases of the virus. While the disease is natural, the disastrous situation is completely unnatural.
To prove it, I'll compare our predicament to how things went down in Wuhan, the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first discovered.
On January 23, the central government of China put Wuhan under quarantine. Masks were made mandatory in public, and public health officials still are taking the temperature of travelers leaving the city. Fully functional hospitals were rapidly constructed to accommodate the surge of cases. By April, the lockdown was eased, with citywide testing conducted as late as May.
China wasn't alone in addressing the hazard of COVID-19 head-on. Vietnam was accused of overreaction in its aggressive response to the virus, but through early efforts was able to keep infections low, without a single death reported.