Imagine that you’re in a midsize city, the lock-down has been lifted and you finally go back to the office and see your colleagues for the first time in months.

The next morning, you wake up with a tickle in your throat. You also notice a bit of a headache, and more alarmingly, a mild fever. No need to panic.

You call the COVID-19 hotline to get information on local testing sites, walk to the nearest one, have a brief one-on-one visit with a doctor, and have your nasal or oral sample collected. The whole process takes less than 30 minutes. Later that evening, you get a text message letting you know whether you’re COVID positive. All this for free or just under $20.

You aren’t extremely worried because the country is taking prompt action for each confirmed COVID-19 case to find and alert anyone who might’ve been exposed and isolating them immediately. The daily new case count in the entire country has mostly stayed in the single digits for a few days straight now.

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But if you do test positive, again no need to panic. If you’re really sick, you’ll immediately get admitted to a designated hospital, free of charge. If you are asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms but are worried about infecting your family and if you qualify, you can go to a designated quarantine facility for two weeks.

There you’ll be given a personal necessity kit — a kind of care package with everything you need to stay safe including gloves, masks, garbage bags, soap and even disposable thermometers — and another box full of non-perishable food to last you through the quarantine, including basic foods and ready-made meals.

The government may even pay you a salary during the isolation. Throughout the isolation, a health official will regularly call you to check how you’re feeling and ask you if you’ve checked your temperature.

This is not some fantasy of what America’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic could have been. It’s reality — on the ground, right now — but in South Korea. And it’s a model that experts say the U.S. could look to replicate as best it can, despite some fundamental differences between the two democracies, as it continues the long fight against the virus and prepares for a potential second wave.“We had a chance to contain this outbreak, but we didn’t,” said Ashish Jha, K.T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “And as a result of that testing failure, over 60,000 Americans are dead and our economy has been shut down. It didn’t have to be this way.”

South Korea announced on Thursday it had the first day in months without a new diagnosed case of the coronavirus, other than four cases detected at the border from those coming into the country.

The first confirmed COVID-19 case in South Korea was reported on Jan. 20, just a day before the first confirmed case in the U.S. was reported.

But South Korea quickly activated a response system put in place during the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, known as MERS, outbreak five years ago and expanded its testing capacity and contact tracing. MERS had a fatality rate of about 20% in South Korea, so many South Koreans knew instinctively how devastating a viral epidemic could be.

“This experience taught them to move quickly and early,” said Yong Suk Lee, deputy director of the Korea Program at the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University. “Let’s track each individual and inform all the people so that they can be prepared and get tested. They communicated transparently with plain, factual, straightforward information.”

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In the last 100 days, the American ally in the Far East has normalized daily life in the face of the coronavirus pandemic by a robust testing system coupled with an expansive contact tracing operation – all built on a foundation of massive amounts of data.

In the U.S., some states are acting to bring some features of life back to normal, but testing still lags far behind levels considered safe by medical experts, while medical staff continues to sound the alarm about shortages in supplies of the critical protective gear they need to do their jobs. Contact tracing programs are just ramping up.

The two democracies certainly have their differences, chief among them their size — South Korea’s population is about one-seventh of America’s — and the more decentralized nature of the U.S. federal system of governance. South Korea also has a universal health care that has served as a backbone of the country’s strong COVID response.

Experts with whom ABC News spoke said South Korea’s greater success in fighting the outbreak came in part due to its ability to institute widespread coronavirus testing and contact tracing far earlier in the pandemic, cheap and effective care for those who got infected, and, perhaps most importantly, a greater cultural trust in the government whose transparent and consistent messaging prompted citizens to take more protective measures ahead of the virus and generally support more aggressive contact tracing methods in its wake.