Carl Schmitt's point about the state of emergency or exception trumping the rule of law even in a liberal society would be relevant here.
The question might, however, be pragmatic: which type of society is best equipped to handle natural emergencies, as in dangerous natural conditions that are indifferent to human politics and laws? The individualistic US has fared relatively poorly in handling Covid, whereas more collectivist societies did much better. So as a pragmatic matter, an individualistic society might suspend its rule of law which is meant for peacetime, and enter a different mode as circumstances warrant (martial law or a state of emergency).
Another reason why the US did poorly is that Trump was installed not to govern well but to troll, embarrass, and destroy the American political establishment. Moreover, that impulse has been baked into Republican libertarianism since the 1980s. So no one should expect competent handling of anything other than trolling and cheating in political campaigns from the current configuration of the Republican Party.
But does that lapse mean the whole country's health and economic prosperity should be sacrificed? Not necessarily, since a realist could think more pragmatically, and recognize the American political squabbles and late-modern values are laughably parochial and petty compared to nature's inhumanity. It's a question of putting politics and the culture war within a larger, more grown-up perspective.
Indeed, conservatives are hardly immune to authoritarian tendencies. Liberals want to force people to wear masks in a medical emergency. American "conservatives" want to foment a coup to put monstrous Trump back in power after he lost a fair election. One seems much worse than the other.