COVID-19-weary folks in the Seattle area could drive two-and-a-half hours north to find a much more disease-free environment – they could, that is, if they were not prohibited from crossing the border into Canada because Americans have done such a terrible job dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Last winter, Canada and the United States saw the first COVID-19 infections appear at about the same time and at the same rate. By May, though, the U.S. had 30% more deaths per capita than our friends to the north and twice as many per capita infections. Now, as the curve of infections and deaths has dropped dramatically in Canada, infections are spiking to higher levels than ever among Americans.

Why the difference? Because Canadians were far more politically unified in dealing with the crisis, and their medical officials were empowered to enforce measures that ameliorated the problem. While Canadian politicians and political parties avoided partisan squabbles over coping with the pandemic, Republican governors, legislators and the Republican president were in denial, brazenly downplaying the risk and pushing for a quick reopening of the economy. In Canada, politicians got out of the way while scientists and medical professionals called the shots; in America, there was strong pushback from strident, conspiracy-minded citizens who claimed their cherished freedoms were threatened by stay-at-home orders and suggestions that they wear protective masks.

Compared with the successful efforts at COVID-19 suppression in Germany, Japan and other developed countries, Canada has done only a middling job, but Canadians have performed brilliantly in contrast with Americans, too many of whom think freedom means they have the right to spread a deadly virus anywhere they please.

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