Gayle Smith, a former National Security Council member in the Obama Administration, is spreading the message that the U.S. must look beyond its borders to stop coronavirus.
"We can't defeat this virus and protect Americans if the virus is thriving in other parts of the world," Smith told Cheddar. "So it is in our interest. I'd argue it's also the right thing to do."
Smith, who was also a former administrator in the United States Agency for International Development, is now CEO of The ONE Campaign. The nonprofit group advocates for a global response to issues in the developing world such as famine, disease, and poverty.
The coronavirus pandemic, she said, is a humanitarian crisis in the making for countries even less prepared than the U.S., which has struggled to provide basic supplies and testing.
"If we think there's a shortage of protective gear and testing equipment here in the U.S., imagine what it is in the developing world," Smith said. "The tragedy of that is that testing is what allows us to track the virus and catch up to it."
Smith pointed out that we can already see a parallel in U.S. communities with lower health outcomes. There is emerging evidence, for instance, of higher death rates among Black Americans in states such as New Jersey, Louisiana, Illinois, and Michigan.
Abroad, the disparities are even more acute. Many countries lack basic public health infrastructure, let alone medical expertise and research capabilities. This leaves them at the behest of preventive measures that could be difficult to pull off in dense, impoverished areas.
"A lot of these areas are densely populated, so social distancing is very challenging," she said.
Smith makes the case that the U.S. should prioritize global support, even as it struggles with its own shortages because spread anywhere in the world could impact Americans.
"We've seen it move. It will continue moving until there is collective effort to bring it under control," she said.