• The worldwide death toll from coronavirus has topped 20,500 amid more than 451,000 confirmed infections
  • Trump has been stoking resentment by referring to the disease as the "China virus"
  • China has accused the United States of stoking hysteria

U.S.-China tensions, exacerbated by the recent trade war, is likely making the coronavirus pandemic worse, interfering with the ability for the two nations to work together on finding a cure, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations writes.

Past outbreaks have seen the U.S. and Russia throwing aside their enmity to deal with polio during the cold war and more recently, the U.S. and China working closely together during the 2003 outbreak of SARS, developing a 10-point plan for dealing with he global response to pandemics that gained the support of 88 nations and agencies.

Yanzhong Huan, a senior fellow on global health for the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in Foreign Affairs the COVID-19 pandemic should have presented a similar opportunity to speed the search for treatments and development of a vaccine.

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections worldwide topped 451,000 Wednesday with at least 20,550 deaths. As China’s rate of infection has begun to decline, there were growing fears the U.S. could become the next epicenter, with more than 61,000 confirmed cases and some 800 deaths.

Instead of looking to cooperate, President Trump and members of his administration have been referring to the outbreak as the “China virus,” and China has been promoting conspiracy theories, blaming the virus on the U.S. military. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., suggested the virus was a product of China’s biological warfare program, an idea Chinese officials labeled “absolutely crazy.”

Trump repeatedly has touted his decision to suspend travel from China in February as a means of stopping the disease from spreading, an action that apparently has had only limited impact, while Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the outbreak would accelerate the return of jobs to the U.S. from overseas.

“The U.S. government has not provided any substantive help to the Chinese side yet. On the contrary, it was the first to withdraw its consulate staff from Wuhan, the first to suggest the partial withdrawal of embassy staff, the first to announce a ban on entry by Chinese citizens after the WHO made it clear that it doesn’t recommend and even opposes travel and trade restrictions against China,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in early February.

Earlier this month, China tried to turn down the information spigot, expelling some U.S. journalists for perceived slights against Beijing and its handling of the crisis while China accused the U.S. of overreacting and contributing to public hysteria.