Opinion

Why Denmark beat COVID and the U.S. didn't

In a pandemic, trust in science and government is critical

This is the editor's letter in the current issue of The Week magazine.

Denmark is beating COVID. The Danish government recently announced the virus is no longer a "critical threat" there, and lifted its vaccination and mask requirements for indoor activities. Denmark's death toll per million citizens over the course of the pandemic is just 22 percent of the U.S.'s, and daily deaths there have fallen to under 10. Our deaths are again running at more than 2,000 a day. Why the huge difference? Trust. A survey by researchers Michael Bang Petersen and Alexander Bor found that more than 90 percent of Danes trust their national health authorities and public decision makers, The Washington Post reported this week. As a result, 86 percent of eligible Danes have been vaccinated. In the U.S., trust in expertise, government, the media, and institutions has collapsed. Vaccinations are lagging below 50 percent in many states, and we may add another 100,000 deaths this fall and winter to our grim total of 675,000. The pandemic still casts a deep shadow over our lives.

A society cannot function without a basic level of trust. The credibility void is filled with disinformation, conspiracy theories, cynicism, division, and resentment. The effects are plain to see: In Washington, consensus is dead and compromise virtually impossible. Trust in elections, the foundation of democracy, is eroding like a beach in a hurricane. In the face of all evidence, tens of millions of Americans continue to believe that the 2020 election was stolen, and that rigorously tested, lifesaving vaccines already administered to more than 200 million Americans — and billions worldwide — are dangerous and "experimental." People shun a simple shot largely because they see it as a form of surrender. In red states, the unvaccinated are flooding overwhelmed hospitals; Idaho has adopted "crisis standards of care," authorizing burned-out staff to ration beds to those most likely to survive. Meanwhile, in Denmark, crowds are flocking to concerts and bars to celebrate their freedom. Divided, we fall.

More From...

Picture of William FalkWilliam Falk
Read All
When it's time to let go
Sadness.
Talking Points

When it's time to let go

Patrick Henry in China
Protesters.
Talking Points

Patrick Henry in China

Falling from the sky
Sam Bankman-Fried.
Talking Points

Falling from the sky

It will get worse
A view of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's house following an attack on her husband.
Talking Points

It will get worse

Recommended

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel wins 4th term
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel
Congrats

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel wins 4th term

Study finds that the majority of Americans are not exercising enough
CDC headquarters.
Leg day

Study finds that the majority of Americans are not exercising enough

3 Florida nursing schools sold 7,600 fake diplomas, DOJ says
nurse checking pulse in hospital
exam scam

3 Florida nursing schools sold 7,600 fake diplomas, DOJ says

8 modest proposals to prevent gun violence
The White House.
Briefing

8 modest proposals to prevent gun violence

Most Popular

The big debate about alcohol
Alcohol.
In depth

The big debate about alcohol

Former U.S. generals explain how U.S. and German tanks can help Ukraine
Leopard 2 battle tanks
Many tanks

Former U.S. generals explain how U.S. and German tanks can help Ukraine

Britney Spears 'annoyed' after fans call police to conduct wellness check
Britney Spears
leave britney alone!

Britney Spears 'annoyed' after fans call police to conduct wellness check