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South Korea's Coronavirus Epicenter Reports No New Cases For First Time Since February

Employees sit behind protective screens as they eat in a cafeteria at the offices of Hyundai Card credit card company in Seoul, South Korea on April 9, 2020.
Employees sit behind protective screens as they eat in a cafeteria at the offices of Hyundai Card credit card company in Seoul, South Korea on April 9, 2020.
Photo: Getty Images

The city of Daegu, South Korea reported no new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, the first time that’s happened since February after spending months as the country’s epicenter for covid-19. Daegu identified its first case on February 18 and South Korea quickly rolled out a massive testing regime in the city to identify and contain the virus, along with implementing strict social distancing measures.

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“A high level of social distancing for the last three weeks seems to have made results now,” Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said on Friday, according to the Korea Times, warning that it’s still too early to declare an end to the crisis after one day without any new cases.

The worst day for Daegu came on February 29, when 741 covid-19 cases were identified, but those numbers have been declining ever since. Daegu, roughly 170 miles from the capital city of Seoul, was the location of South Korea’s first bad cluster of covid-19 after a fringe church held services where hundreds became infected.

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South Korea identified its first case of covid-19 on January 20, coincidentally the same day that the U.S. saw its first case. But the two countries set out on two wildly different paths, with South Korea mobilizing health care professionals to conduct tests and the U.S. government largely denying that the virus would become a problem.

“When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” President Donald Trump said at a press conference on February 26.

Even after people like Trump acknowledged that drastic steps would need to be taken to combat covid-19, the amount of misinformation distributed by the federal government severely hampered the ability to conduct an effective and coordinated response. Trump continues to give daily press briefings that serve as little more than reelection rallies and leave viewers less informed.

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South Korea has tested roughly 440,000 people, and while the U.S. has finally tested over 2 million people, it’s very late to the game and has still tested less than South Korea, relative to the size of each country’s respective populations. Bizarrely, President Trump claimed at his coronavirus briefing at the White House yesterday that mass testing was not needed.

“We want to have it and we’re going to see if we have it. Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes. We’re talking about 325 million people and that’s not gonna happen, as you can imagine, and it would never happen with anyone else, either,” President Trump said on Thursday. “Other countries do it, but they do it in a limited form. We’ll probably be the leader of the pack.”

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A teacher wears a mask as she gives a lesson on the first day of online class in an empty classroom as South Koreans take measures to protect themselves against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) at Seoul Girls High School on April 09, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.
A teacher wears a mask as she gives a lesson on the first day of online class in an empty classroom as South Koreans take measures to protect themselves against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) at Seoul Girls High School on April 09, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.
Photo: Getty Images

South Korea had done over 150,000 tests for coronavirus by March 6. But by that date, most U.S. states hadn’t conducted even 50 covid-19 tests each. And the states that had done the most tests hadn’t done over a thousand. California had done just 516, Illinois 170, New York 98, and Colorado 94. New York is now struggling as America’s worst hit city, with 5,150 deaths in New York City alone.

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While Daegu didn’t have any cases to report today, South Korea more broadly still identified new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, including 27 new infections and four new deaths, according to the Korea Times. It was the first time the country has seen new infections fall below 30 since February 20, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news service.

South Korea has currently identified a total of 10,350 cases and 208 deaths, according to the coronavirus tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University. That same tracker has identified 466,299 cases in the U.S. as of Friday morning, the largest number of any country in the world, with the next highest in Spain with 153,222 cases and Italy with 143,626.

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There have been at least 16,686 deaths in the U.S., though Italy currently has a larger number of deaths with 18,279. Spain has identified 15,447 deaths. Sadly, the U.S. looks like it’s on track to be the worst hit country in the world, all because the government didn’t take it seriously, despite repeated warnings from health experts around the world.

The mass graves in Iran for coronavirus victims was once seen as a great shame for that country back in March. But the U.S. has its own mass graves now, as people without family or money for proper funerals are buried on Hart Island, New York near the Bronx.

President Trump didn’t cause the coronavirus. But when you compare his response to that of South Korea, it’s clear that he has the blood of thousands on his hands.

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Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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DISCUSSION

thirdamendmentman
ThirdAmendmentMan

That’s some great leadership we have in the US.