USA TODAY analysis: America's coronavirus 'curve' may be at its most dangerous
This chart shows the cumulative number of cases in the U.S., compared to other nations with the largest outbreaks, by days since the 100th confirmed case.
As of Wednesday, South Korea had 8,413 coronavirus cases, including 84 deaths. With the exception of Japan, no other country has been able to so successfully "flatten" a large number of cases so quickly, according to USA TODAY's analysis.
It's not immediately clear why.
But Michael Merson, director of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute and the Wolfgang Joklik Professor of Global Health at Duke University, said that places in Asia such as South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore, which has seen about 315 cases but no deaths as of Wednesday, enjoy public health factors that are difficult for countries like the U.S., with its fractured system, to replicate.
"There's strong government leadership, but also trust in the government," Merson said.
"Every time a case is identified there is a very strong action plan to identify contacts. It's also very good at promoting hand-washing and keeping people at a safe distance from one another," he said, adding that Singapore has allowed businesses and universities to stay open but with strict guidelines about the size of gatherings (25 or under).
"They take prudent steps at prevention, but they haven't entirely shut the country down."