The rapid spread of the coronavirus in the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a new reality for most—if not all—Americans. A growing number of U.S. states have imposed a variety of stay-at-home directives, and many now live under various quarantine measures in an effort to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus transmission, drastically changing our day-to-day habits. This grand experiment provides an opportunity for comparative analysis—not only for states to learn from each other, but also to see what has worked and what hasn’t in other countries, many of which are weeks and even months ahead of the United States in the timing of their pandemic responses. These invaluable experiences in coping with effective responses include hard-learned lessons that the President Donald J. Trump administration would be wise to heed.
Considering the global context, what can the United States learn from other governments—both national and subnational—that are further along in flattening the curve of COVID-19 transmission? While responses need to be tailored to each country, an ideal response may be analogous to what the fairytale Goldilocks and the three bears tells us. Though the reality is far from a child’s bedtime story, the three countries' responses—like the three bowls of porridge—were too hot (China), too cold (Italy), and just about right (South Korea).