Today the U.S. reached another unhappy milestone in the novel coronavirus pandemic: as of 4:30 this afternoon, 78,469 Americans – young, middle-aged, and elderly; rich, poor, famous and not famous – have died from COVID-19 in a four-month period.
By way of comparison, the bloodiest post-World War II conflict in U.S. history resulted in 58,220 American deaths from various causes and over a longer period of time – from 1 November 1955 to 30 April 1975. Most of those fatalities occurred between 1965 and 1973, the period in which the U.S. was directly involved, and (needless to say) scarred America’s psyche just as badly as the war itself drove a stake into the nation’s heart.
Right now (May 9, 2020), there is no vaccine for COVID-19. There is no sure-fire treatment for it either. Like most viral diseases, it mutates over time, taking on new genetic properties as it spreads throughout the world. In fact, medical experts can now identify place-specific strains that tell them where in the world the patient was infected.
So even though epidemiologists and other experts in infectious diseases across the globe are working to combat COVID-19 and develop a vaccine and proper treatments, it’s going to be a while before we see any progress on that front.
So yes. Sadly, the pandemic is going to be with us for a while. Perhaps for another year. Perhaps even two.
Part of the reason why COVID-19 has caused as much havoc and so many deaths in the United States is because President Donald Trump, his Administration, and his base of followers reacted to the initial reports that a pandemic was coming lethargically and, in many cases, outright denial.
One method of expressing denial that COVID-19 is a deadly virus and – by extension, calling into question any need to take measures such as “social distancing” and “locking down” entire nations – is to falsely equate the novel coronavirus to “common” infectious diseases, such as the common cold or influenza.
This comment on an acquaintance’s Facebook page from March 11 is a prime example of this false equivalence:
If we have ~56,000 people die a year from the flu / flu like symptoms According to the CDC why is it that the W.H.O. Does not Declare this a pandemic? Just asking and questioning ? (sic)
This person is, needless to say, a self-identified Christian and a supporter of Donald J. Trump. He later stopped posting silly posts like that one, but before the government finally admitted that the coronavirus was not, as Trump liked to say, a “Democratic hoax,” he and likeminded conservatives kept on minimizing the gravity of the situation.
And then of course, there are those idiots who are saying that COVID-19 is, in essence, a huge plot to (a) destroy the American economy and, by extension, Trump’s Presidency or (b) take away everyone’s essential freedoms by mandating the use of masks, insisting on a six-foot separation between individuals in stores and other public spaces, and stay-at-home orders.
I have seen quite a few stories on social media about men and women who scoff openly at these “flatten the curve” measures. The ages and places of residence of the “I won’t wear a mask” idiots vary widely. So do their levels of vehement resistance to “social distancing” and the need to stay home to stem the spread of COVID-19. They take their inspiration from “their” President (a man that I think will be remembered as the worst President in U.S. history):
The shutdown of America is, by far, the second worst economic disaster in U.S. history; only the Great Depression of the 1930s outstrips it in severity and consequence. And it is important that the people of the United States can get back to whatever jobs are left or can be created. COVID-19 or no COVID-19, bills need to be paid. Food, clothes, medicine, and even forms of entertainment need to be purchased. Rent, mortgages, medical bills, court-ordered child support, parking tickets and the myriad of countless obligations that people have in a First World society all must be taken care of.
So, yes. We need to have a well-conceived plan to, as Trump loves to say, “reopen the country.” But it must be crafted in concert with experts in various areas, especially virologists and epidemiologists, with an awareness that viral pandemics don’t just go away on their own. Any effort to restart the “business of America” must be done with careful forethought and with provisions for further waves of COVID-19.
In other words, any such program cannot be solely a political statement. Not even in an election year. COVID-19 is not a political football that can be legislated away. It’s a public health issue, plain and simple.
Although I am sure that many of the right-wing protesters who are demanding an end to lockdowns in their home states are simply scared and angry individuals who do not like the loss of control over their own lives, I am also convinced that there are Big Money interests who are financing the more organized groups. I would not be surprised if the DeVos, Koch, Mercer, and even Trump families are “seeding” these groups with money to organize these scary and potentially demonstrations, where angry white men with AR-15s and other firearms chant angrily at state governors and “take over” state capitals, as they recently did in Michigan.
Such idiocy and naked disregard for public safety makes me angry. Sad, too, because I love the United States of America and fear that if Trump wins another four years, there won’t be a United States of America left by the time 2024 rolls in.