* Author’s note: The “seven months” figure is based on when Florida began its “lockdown” or “quarantine” period. For us, it began sometime in mid-March of 2020. The first outbreaks of COVID-19 started in February. If you go by that, then it’s eight months rather than seven, depending on your interpretation of the event.
Well, here we are in the seventh month of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is the score so far, as of 11:23 AM (Eastern) on Sunday, October 4, 2020:
According to the COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), there are:
- 34,975,593 confirmed global cases
- 1,034,403 confirmed global deaths
- 7,392,285 confirmed cases in the U.S.
- 209,563 confirmed deaths in the U.S.
Viruses are not particularly choosy when it comes to who gets infected and who does not; who gets symptoms and who does not; or who lives or who dies from the effects of the virus’ unwanted and unwelcome presence in one’s body. COVID-19 is not sentient, and it doesn’t care about your political or religious affiliation, your social status, or how big your bank account is. It is a force of nature; a Baltimore-class IV positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus, a successor virus to the SARS-CoV-1 strain that caused the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003-2004.
We have been told countless times that the novel coronavirus at the heart of this pandemic is airborne and is spread from person to person. Per the Wikipedia entry on COVID-19:
COVID-19 is a new disease, and how it spreads remains under investigation. It spreads from person to person, most often when they are physically close, but sometimes over longer distances, especially indoors. When an infected person breathes, coughs, sneezes, talks or sings, they produce contaminated droplets and aerosols. These travel through the air, usually over short distances, but some can remain suspended in the air, to infect other people who inhale them. The closer people interact, and the longer they interact, the more likely the virus is to transmit.
We have also been told that although there is no vaccine or one-size-fits-all treatment for the effects of COVID-19 on the human body, there are ways to stop the spread and mitigate the effects of a world-wide pandemic. Per the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Wash your hands often
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- It’s especially important to wash:
- Before eating or preparing food
- Before touching your face
- After using the restroom
- After leaving a public place
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After handling your mask
- After changing a diaper
- After caring for someone sick
- After touching animals or pets
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact
- Inside your home: Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If possible, maintain 6 feet between the person who is sick and other household members.
- Outside your home: Put 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household.
- Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.
- Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people.
- Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others
- You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
- The mask is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
- Everyone should wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
- Masks should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- Do NOT use a mask meant for a healthcare worker. Currently, surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.
- Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The mask is not a substitute for social distancing.
Cover coughs and sneezes
- Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit.
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Clean and disinfect
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- Then, use a household disinfectant. Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work.
Monitor Your Health Daily
- Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- Take your temperature if symptoms develop.
- Don’t take your temperature within 30 minutes of exercising or after taking medications that could lower your temperature, like acetaminophen.
- Follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.
So we know – or should know – what to do during a pandemic caused by a virus – an organism so tiny that it can’t be seen with the naked eye yet fells both the powerful and the not-so-powerful with equanimity – and yet, millions of Americans, starting with President Donald J. Trump, pretend – or pretended – that only “sheep” (or, as many Trump supporters love to say on social media, “sheeple”) who consume “mainstream media” are either evil Communists who exaggerate the danger from COVID-19 to disrupt the economy and hurt Trump’s chances for re-election on November 3, or they are scared “pussies” who are afraid of a disease that, in their minds, is “no worse than the flu.”
The Tragic Collision of COVID-19 and Political Divisiveness in the Trump Era
To be blunt, the United States of America did not have to “win” the unwanted and tragic distinction of being the world leader both in confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths caused by the novel coronavirus.
As a nation, we have faced serious public health crises before. The 1918-1919 “Spanish” influenza outbreak that started during the last year of World War I comes easily to mind, as do the SARS pandemic of 2003-2004 and the more recent swine flu outbreak of 2009, which affected 60.8 million people in the U.S., of which 274,000 were hospitalized and 12,469 died,
The difference between then and now, of course, is the (lethal) combination of toxic political divisiveness, an inexperienced and inept President, and a collision between the realms of science and wishful thinking.
Let me quote from a recent article that I read in the September 21/September 26 double issue of Time magazine, a sober, centrist publication that I have subscribed to since I was 20 years old:
In the cover story, 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 write:
Forty-five days before the announcement of the first suspected case of what would become known as COVID-19, the Global Health Security Index was published. The project—led by the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security—assessed 195 countries on their perceived ability to handle a major disease outbreak. The U.S. ranked first.
It’s clear the report was wildly overconfident in the U.S., failing to account for social ills that had accumulated in the country over the past few years, rendering it unprepared for what was about to hit. At some point in mid-September—perhaps by the time you are reading this—the number of confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. will have passed 200,000, more than in any other country by far.
Further on down, Fitzpatrick and Wolfson make this comparison of the U.S. handling of the pandemic to that of smaller and less powerful nations:
Among the world’s wealthy nations, only the U.S. has an outbreak that continues to spin out of control. Of the 10 worst-hit countries, the U.S. has the seventh-highest number of deaths per 100,000 population; the other nine countries in the top 10 have an average per capita GDP of $10,195, compared to $65,281 for the U.S. Some countries, like New Zealand, have even come close to eradicating COVID-19 entirely. Vietnam, where officials implemented particularly intense lockdown measures, didn’t record a single virus-related death until July 31. [Emphasis added by this blogger]
And how did we go down this rabbit hole only a decade after the previous Administration, one that is reviled by the current President and his “base” of followers – the so-called Make America Great Again crows – managed to subdue the swine flu pandemic with far less loss of life and a smaller disruption of the economy?
Again, I quote Fitzpatrick and Wolfson’s article:
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.” [Emphasis added by this blogger]
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.
And now, we live in a reality where Denier-in-Chief himself, his wife Melania, his close adviser Hope Hicks, as well as several other prominent Republican figures who have attended public functions – such as the announcement of Trump’s selection of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the replacement for the late Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg and several political rallies and fundraisers before the President and First Lady’s diagnosis that both had COVID-19 as of late Thursday night.
I do not like the current President or most of his family; I know and remember far too much of his history as a private citizen to find anything admirable about the man or his now-adult children. It’s not a partisan issue for me, I just never believed that Donald John Trump, Sr. was a man of Presidential caliber, Trump is a crass and arrogant man who lacks both the leadership skills and the gravitas that are needed by anyone who wants sit behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office and govern a country as large, complex, and important to the stability of the world as the United States of America.
That having been said, I am not happy that he, Melania, and others in his entourage are sick from the effects of COVID-19. I want him to recover and survive. Not so that he can continue his campaign for re-election; the wiser thing to do now is for Trump to withdraw in favor of Mike Pence. I want him to recover and survive so that (a) he will learn some humility (wishful thinking, I know) and (b) that he does not become a martyr to the MAGA cause and enshrine Trumpism as a core value of the 21st Century Republican Party.
Nevertheless, I can’t help feeling more than a bit of schadenfreude when I think that the President who did not wear a mask until July 11 and railed mightily against Democratic state governors’ efforts to “stop the spread” by encouraging mass protests by armed “militiamen” and anti-maskers in state capitols and tweeting twaddle such as “Liberate Michigan!” and “Liberate Virginia!” is now sequestered in a military hospital near Washington, DC.
As the old saying goes, “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”
 Some countries, such as the woefully misnamed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), are claiming that nope, they have no COVID cases. Other countries, such as the People’s Republic of China and Russia, may be undercounting cases. And in the U.S., Republican state governors are trying to make getting accurate numbers difficult to get or slow to report. (Same difference, really!) So, yeah. Take these figures with a grain of salt but assume there are more, not less, cases and/or deaths.
 As of 11:23 AM Eastern Time, October 4, 2020