US coronavirus death toll hits 100,000: An American tragedy sparks an angry blame game

Why has the richest nation - with world class hospitals and an army of brilliant medical researchers - been caught asleep at the wheel? Credit: AP

America's toll is tragic but not surprising.

But even so the grim milestone feels like a blow to the soul and to the resilience of this country.

100,000 Covid-19 deaths makes the United States the worst impacted nation in the world. It's greater than the US death toll in the Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghan wars... Combined.

The question being debated here is why. Why has the richest nation - one with dozens of world class hospitals and an army of brilliant medical researchers - been caught asleep at the wheel?

People gather on the beach for the Memorial Day weekend in Port Aransas, Texas, during social distancing rules. Credit: AP

One factor is the quality of political leadership on display. Remember, on February 10th, President Trump declared: "By April... When it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away."

A month later, with the first cases already seeded in New York, Trump advised people: "Just stay calm. It will go away."

The President has sided with the anti-lockdown protesters who want to rapidly open up the American economy. He has also ridiculed the wearing of face masks. He has heavily promoted an anti-malaria medication, hydroxychloroquine, that has been widely discredited as a successful treatment for Covid.

And of course, bizarrely and infamously, he asked his medical advisers about the value of injecting disinfectant or of using ultraviolet light.

Protesters gathered outside the "Liberty Fest" rally in front of California State Capitol. Credit: AP

But of course not everything can be blamed on President Trump and a dysfunctional White House.

America's deep-seated racial and economic disparities are being brutally exposed by the pandemic, and they are amplifying the virus' impact on African-American and Hispanic communities.

The US federal system of government has many benefits - giving individual Governors powerful autonomy - but it makes a national response to a health crisis almost impossible. What we have witnessed here is a patchwork of state responses and often a crude free-for-all as different hospital systems outbid each other for medical equipment.

So there is plenty of blame to go around - and this is an election year so the attack ads are already ricocheting around America.

Trump has fired back to his 80 millions followers the claim that 100,000 dead is a success, and that without his leadership the death toll might have been as high as two million.

But ultimately, the tally of 100,000 should not be about numbers or political point-scoring. It is about lost lives, broken families, and individual tragedies.

America is opening up at an accelerating pace - restaurants, shops, cafes, and public spaces are all now back in business, or will be over the next few weeks.

That raises the alarming question of whether there will be a further spike in cases and deaths.

100,000 is a terrible toll. But it may not be anywhere near the final tally.