On fighting coronavirus, Israel and US have very different approaches

As the coronavirus is becoming a global crisis, it is getting clear that the Israeli approach is very different from the US government's plan to fight the epidemic.

A teenager wears a costume as a reference to the coronavirus during the Jewish holiday of Purim, a celebration of the Jews' salvation from genocide in ancient Persia, as recounted in the Book of Esther. in Jerusalem March 8, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
A teenager wears a costume as a reference to the coronavirus during the Jewish holiday of Purim, a celebration of the Jews' salvation from genocide in ancient Persia, as recounted in the Book of Esther. in Jerusalem March 8, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
WASHINGTON – When AIPAC announced last Friday that two of the conference’s attendees tested positive for coronavirus, The DC Department of Health said in a statement later that based on its investigation, in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health, “there is no identified risk to conference attendees at this time.” Since then, there have been three new confirmed cases of the virus among AIPAC attendees. And while in Israel, anyone who attended an international conference and arrived in the country after March 5 is obligated to go to self-quarantine, no similar measures were announced for people who attended international conferences in the US.
Furthermore, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced a tough decision on Monday and decided that anyone who is seeking to enter Israel now must do 14 days of self-quarantine. In the US, most restrictions still apply only for people who are traveling from China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.
As the coronavirus becomes a global crisis, it is getting clear that the Israeli approach is very different from the US government’s plan to fight the epidemic. In Israel, while the number of sick people remains low for now, with 61 overall cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday night, no public events can be held with more than 2,000 people. Many sports events are taking place with no audience or with a small one because of the new cap.
There are also several restrictions on public transportation, with Channel 12 reporting on Tuesday that Health Ministry is considering radical measures such as the use of cell tower triangulation and credit statements to check if people who are supposed to be in self-quarantine are abiding by the rules.
In the US on the other hand, the daily routine for the most part is as usual. While there are a few schools and universities that are currently in different stages of moving classes online, many conferences had been canceled and some sport competitions took place with no crowd, there is no sweeping directive about conferences, travel abroad or attendance at sporting events such as NBA games or music concerts.
According to Business Insider, as of March 8, the US tested five people per million residents, while Israel at the same time tested 402 per million. We should note that the health systems in both countries are very different, of course. In Israel, everyone has access to public healthcare and coronavirus testing, with MDA paramedics that arrive at people’s doors to take a sample; in the US it varies from state to state and from provider to provider.
And yes, Israel is a tiny country with a central government, as opposed to some 330 million people who live in the US in different states with different local policies.
And yes, there is a significant economic component in a drastic decision such as halting sports competitions and other gatherings that are going to have a far more significant effects compared to the Israeli and European leagues.
But at the end of the day, despite all the differences between the two governmental systems, there is a fundamental difference in the mindset: The Israeli approach of “prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” as opposed to the more optimistic American approach, which is to not take any radical steps right now. Should the US start taking these steps, or are the Israeli protective measures extreme and unnecessary? Only time will tell.