Life in the Time of COVID-19: Reaching the 200,000-Deaths Milestone, or ‘What We Have Here, is a Failure of Leadership’

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Sometime soon – perhaps by the end of this weekend in September of 2020 – the official COVID-19 death toll in the United States of America will reach and surpass the 200,000 mark.

Think about that a minute. 200,000 or more men, women, and children have died in the U.S.  as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic that has engulfed the entire world since the first outbreak was reported late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE)

Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics from Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE), as of 3:23 PM Eastern on September 19:

  • Global Cases: 30,602,281
  • Global Deaths: 953,591
  • U.S. Cases: 6,751,119
  • U.S. Deaths: 198,969

198,969.

Let me say it again. 198,969 men, women, and children of every race, gender, citizenship status, religious group, or political party have died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in America, the country that often describes itself as “the greatest country on Earth.” And we’re only 1,031 lost lives away from the cold, hard, and undeniable landmark number of 200,000.

To put that in perspective, consider this:

If you add up the number of Americans killed in World War I, Korea, and Vietnam, the total tally is 261,000.

 If something is not done to change the attitudes of large segments of the population, starting with the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, and many of his supporters, we are likely to surpass the 261,000 deaths figure by Halloween 2020, if not sooner.

How did “the greatest country in the world,” allegedly home to the best health care system on Earth, get to this sorry state?

According to the cover story in the Sept.21/28 double issue of Time magazine, America’s piss-poor response to the COVID-19 crisis is a result of separate factors that have combined to create a perfect storm.

At this point, we can start to see why the U.S. foundered: a failure of leadership at many levels and across parties; a distrust of scientists, the media and expertise in general; and deeply ingrained cultural attitudes about individuality and how we value human lives have all combined to result in a horrifically inadequate pandemic response. COVID-19 has weakened the U.S. and exposed the systemic fractures in the country, and the gulf between what this nation promises its citizens and what it actually delivers.

Alex Fitzpatrick and Elijah Wolfson, COVID-19 Has Killed Nearly 200,000 Americans. How Many More Lives Will Be Lost Before the U.S. Gets It Right?

Per the article COVID-19 Has Killed Nearly 200,000 Americans. How Many More Lives Will Be Lost Before the U.S. Gets It Right?, Time writers Alex Fitzpatrick and Elijah Wolfson explain:

At this point, we can start to see why the U.S. foundered: a failure of leadership at many levels and across parties; a distrust of scientists, the media and expertise in general; and deeply ingrained cultural attitudes about individuality and how we value human lives have all combined to result in a horrifically inadequate pandemic response. COVID-19 has weakened the U.S. and exposed the systemic fractures in the country, and the gulf between what this nation promises its citizens and what it actually delivers.

Although America’s problems were widespread, they start at the top. A complete catalog of President Donald Trump’s failures to address the pandemic will be fodder for history books. There were weeks wasted early on stubbornly clinging to a fantastical belief that the virus would simply “disappear”; testing and contact tracing programs were inadequate; states were encouraged to reopen ahead of his own Administration’s guidelines; and statistics were repeatedly cherry-picked to make the U.S. situation look far better than it was, while undermining scientists who said otherwise. “I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told the journalist Bob Woodward on March 19 in a newly revealed conversation. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Common-sense solutions like face masks were undercut or ignored. Research shows that wearing a facial covering significantly reduces the spread of COVID-19, and a pre-existing culture of mask wearing in East Asia is often cited as one reason countries in that region were able to control their outbreaks. In the U.S., Trump did not wear a mask in public until July 11, more than three months after the CDC recommended facial coverings, transforming what ought to have been a scientific issue into a partisan one. A Pew Research Center survey published on June 25 found that 63% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said masks should always be worn in public, compared with 29% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

Oh, the humanity.

Photo by Carlos Herrero on Pexels.com

Partisan differences, exacerbated by many Americans’ inability to accept that science and religion can coexist harmoniously, as well as a dangerous tendency to distrust traditional news media, have been a huge factor in the U.S. failure to cope as well with COVID-19 as other countries – such as New Zealand, South Korea, and Vietnam have done.

Consider this highly partisan comment from a Trump supporter on a Facebook post from CBS News about a child who died from complications caused by the novel coronavirus:

Trump Supporting Woman: So that CBS reports about this deadly virus, and just think, as soon as Biden is elected it just goes away! People with poor health can die from it. Certainly a baby that young has no resistance from anything including a cold. What protection did the parents allow the child? Public integration , shame on them. Don’t take your baby out in high populated areas! Family contact possibly? Keep that family separation parents! Whatever they did for that baby to get infected is on them, not Trump! Stop being stupid and protect your loved ones. Trump can’t be everywhere to prevent you from getting the Chinese virus. Come on people.

Trump Supporting Woman #2, (responding to another Facebook member who took umbrage at the above comment):  true but pretty sure Pelosi also called it a distraction in the beginning and Biden called him xenophobic for shutting down travel to China. I wouldn’t personally go to a rally but that’s each persons choice. I wouldn’t go to protests either during this time but hey my choice. The death toll in New York was high because of choices the Governor made to send those sick back to nursing homes. Each state I’m sure has reasons as to why that is so. I believe 94% of those who passed had an underlying issue too so that’s a big contributing factor. I think for sure he could have done a lot different not sure if that would have a made a difference.

Trump Supporting Woman #3 (in support of TS#1):  this baby did not die from Covid and the parents are very upset that this is being said. I read a post from the mom ( which Facebook has taken down) yesterday. Her child had a bowel obstruction that caused complications one being an infection. Baby died from this and parents wanted everyone to know that this was false news. They are angered that the media did this and of course Facebook takes her post down. Shame on all those involved in bringing this family and their child into the covid news. This is their time to grieve and they do not want to be apart of fake news!

Anti-Trump Woman (responding to the above comment about the baby and the “removed post” on Facebook) That was another child. There are two children that just died. Check your facts before you are another one spewing Trump drivel.

There are several points of interest in this exchange, of which I only quote a handful of comments, including the assertion that the COVID-19 pandemic is a politically-motivated hoax, Trump supporters’ repeated use of the mantra “fake news,” and the toxic tone of the overall conversation. There’s no civility, no willingness to politely exchange ideas, but there is a lot of mutual animosity between supporters of the President and his opponents.

Again, the onus of all this falls on a certain Donald John Trump, who sets the tone and thrives on the negative energy he stirs up whenever he speaks in public, be it at one of his countless rallies or on national television.

Again, I refer to the article in the current issue of Time:

By far the government’s most glaring failure was a lack of adequate testing infrastructure from the beginning. Testing is key to a pandemic response—the more data officials have about an outbreak, the better equipped they are to respond. Rather than call for more testing, Trump has instead suggested that maybe the U.S. should be testing less. He has repeatedly, and incorrectly, blamed increases in new cases on more testing. “If we didn’t do testing, we’d have no cases,” the President said in June, later suggesting he was being sarcastic. But less testing only means fewer cases are detected, not that they don’t exist. In the U.S. the percentage of tests coming back positive increased from about 4.5% in mid-June to about 5.7% as of early September, evidence the virus was spreading regardless of whether we tested for it. (By comparison, Germany’s overall daily positivity rate is under 3% and in Italy it’s about 2%.)

This should not have happened, but the schism between conservatives and liberals in the U.S. (and in the West in general) has grown wider and deeper. And with a President who is unable or unwilling to lead responsibly, Americans are left basically to fend for themselves.

I’ll let Time writers Fitzpatrick and Wolfson have the last word:

Absent adequate leadership, it’s been up to everyday Americans to band together in the fight against COVID-19. To some extent, that’s been happening—doctors, nurses, bus drivers and other essential workers have been rightfully celebrated as heroes, and many have paid a price for their bravery. But at least some Americans still refuse to take such a simple step as wearing a mask.

Why? Because we’re also in the midst of an epistemic crisis. Republicans and Democrats today don’t just disagree on issues; they disagree on the basic truths that structure their respective realities. Half the country gets its news from places that parrot whatever the Administration says, true or not; half does not. This politicization manifests in myriad ways, but the most vital is this: in early June (at which point more than 100,000 Americans had already died of COVID-19), fewer than half of Republican voters polled said the outbreak was a major threat to the health of the U.S. population as a whole. Throughout July and August, the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force was sending private messages to states about the severity of the outbreak, while President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence publicly stated that everything was under control.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

6 thoughts on “Life in the Time of COVID-19: Reaching the 200,000-Deaths Milestone, or ‘What We Have Here, is a Failure of Leadership’

    1. We’ve been going in this direction pretty much since the U.S. was founded, actually. But since we can only attest to what we have lived through and not just read (or watched documentaries) about, I seriously believe that the current mess started not with Reagan in 1980, but with the collapse of Jim Crow and the “old order” in the South as a result of the Civil Rights movement. Reagan’s election was just a course correction in the turn toward Nixonian Nastiness after the mostly civil Presidencies of Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter. Neither was the greatest Commander in Chief; Ford sullied his reputation by pardoning Nixon, while Carter (who actually was tougher on defense than many remember) was far too decent a guy to be a Cold War President in those troubled post-Vietnam, post-Watergate years.

      Reagan was the end product of the Nixonization of the GOP. Nixon courted the conservative Democrats in Dixie during his five-year-long Presidency; Reagan merely sealed the deal when he joined up with Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority in order to defeat the very (and truly) devout Carter in the 1980 election. Everything Reagan did as far as union-busting and pitting whites against the poor, the mentally ill, the homeless vets, the AIDS victims, and anyone who wasn’t a natural ally of the post-Watergate GOP…lots of that came from the Nixon “dirty tricks” playbook.

      Even Trump’s biggest media cheerleader, Fox News, was conceived at the tail end of the Nixon Administration. It wasn’t until Roger (Ailes) met Rupert (Murdoch) that Fox was “born’ in 1996, but by then, Ailes and his wealthy Australian-born pal had figured out a successful plan for using Fox News to divide the citizenry rather than inform it.

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      1. Reagan was the first one who eroded the notion of community. For the power brokers, yes, the roots were in Nixon and figuring out where they went wrong. For changing the public mindset – it was Reagan. Hell, my father voted for Reagan the first time around – he didn’t the second and I think that’s one of the things he regretted most in his life. He was really the first “cult of personality” being an actor. And his dementia near the end of his second term cemented for many people on the other side of the aisle that he was not the one running the country, he was just a figurehead parroting what he was being coached to say (that is, until it hit close to home as in the case of Rock Hudson having AIDS). Fox News has managed to coach a whole generation this way, which is why it is “nothing matters unless it happens to me” for them. I have to say that Bush Sr. was most likely more involved in actually running the country than either his predecessor or his son. And Trump tweets while the country descends into chaos.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. My brother now has a grandson and granddaughter. To visit them he must wear a mask. When the new cousins ( the youngest is just a week old and the other one is 9 months) met this week, all the adults were wearing masks. This is their new normal. So strange. I hope by next summer they can interact normally. Anyhow, well written.

    Liked by 1 person

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