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Dear America, From New Zealand

A love letter from a dual citizen

Kaila Colbin
7 min readAug 25, 2020


Dear America,

First, a quick update from New Zealand. Despite what you may have heard, we do not have any “massive breakouts” or “big surges” of coronavirus. Our pandemic response has most certainly not turned our country into a “hellhole.”

As of this writing, we have 111 active cases, or 2.27 per 100,000 people. To put this in context, the US currently has 3,655,979 active cases, or 1,114 per 100,000 people.

We do not have any uncontrolled community transmission, by which I mean we are not finding cases in the community where we have no idea how they got it. 92 of our active cases are from a single cluster. We currently have 3 people in ICU, and we’re praying for them.

We’ve had 22 deaths, or 0.45 deaths per 100,000 people. The US has had 175,343 deaths, more than 53 deaths per 100,000 people.

Let me frame these numbers another way: on a per capita basis, the US has almost 500x as many active cases as New Zealand and well over 100x as many deaths.

I’m not telling you this to show off or be smug. I’m an American as well as a Kiwi, born and bred in New York with stints living in Florida and Colorado before migrating to Middle Earth. The failures of the US COVID response are mine as much as yours.

And New Zealand is far from perfect. We have serious problems with child poverty, youth suicide, racism, colonialism.

I’m telling you this because it’s important to understand WHY these two countries have responded so differently to the pandemic, and — more importantly — HOW we Americans can turn things around.

Let’s start with the why.

Five reasons New Zealand has been able to respond well to the pandemic

It’s not just that one is big and the other small, or that one is surrounded by a giant moat and the other isn’t.



Kaila Colbin

Founder/CEO Boma. Dual citizen USA/NZ. Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator. Just wants the world to be a better place.