Today is Saturday, October 10, 2020, the first day of the three-days-long Columbus Day Weekend. It’s also the 255th day since the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV (or COVID-19) in the United States was recorded at an urgent care clinic in Snohomish County, Washington. Since then, 7,670, 419 men, women, and children have been infected by 2019-nCoV, of which 213,690 have lost their lives.
Think about that a moment.
In 255 days, we have lost more lives to COVID-19 than the combined combat-related deaths of World War I, the Korean War, and Vietnam.
In a rough and inexact calculation, this means that in the United States alone, we have lost approximately 838.6666666666667 lives each day since Patient Zero walked into that urgent care clinic 24 miles away from Seattle.
Rounded off to the nearest figure, that comes to an average of 840 men, women, and children every day. (And yes, I know. The daily figures fluctuate up and down. Sometimes the number of fatalities is low, sometimes it’s high. And the death rate varies from state to state. Lots of variables there, but the fact is, 255 days into the pandemic, human beings are still dying from COVID-19.)
213,690 deaths. In 255 days. In a nation that boasts that it is “the greatest nation in the world” and has the best doctors, the best medical tech, the best hospitals, and the best health care that money can buy.
The effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic have been catastrophic. World-wide, the numbers look like this on October 10, 2020:
In my previous Life in the Time of COVID-19 posts, I have recorded my informed opinion as to how and why America has failed its Trial-by-2019-nCoV. I won’t repeat my criticisms of the President of the United States, who is – as the time of writing – recovering from his 2019-nCoV infection thanks to taxpayer-funded care that the average American does not have access to – and his Administration’s botched reaction to the public health crisis that has hobbled the economy, exacerbated the political divide between conservatives and liberals, and laid bare the vulnerable spots of American society for friends and foes alike to see.
Personally, the worst revelation of America’s COVID-19 crisis is what I call the Hardening of the American Heart, which I define as the ultimate expression of Toxic American Individualism.
Granted, I am not the only American observer to note the appalling selfishness exhibited by those Americans described by Time magazine’s Alex Fitzpatrick and Elijah Wolfson in their article How Many More Lives Will Be Lost Before the U.S. Gets It Right? (Time Magazine, September 21/September 28 Double Issue).
In this in-depth look at why the U.S. – from the President on down to John and Jane Q. Public – fumbled the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fitzpatrick and Wolfson have several observations on the topics of toxic individualism and the even more tragic sense of apathy about mass death in Trump-era America.
On the topic of the public’s divided response to COVID-19, the Time article says:
Americans today tend to value the individual over the collective. A 2011 Pew survey found that 58% of Americans said “freedom to pursue life’s goals without interference from the state” is more important than the state guaranteeing “nobody is in need.” It’s easy to view that trait as a root cause of the country’s struggles with COVID-19; a pandemic requires people to make temporary sacrifices for the benefit of the group, whether it’s wearing a mask or skipping a visit to their local bar.
….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. (Emphasis added)
For me, though, the most damning indictment of American conservatives’ attitude is this observation about the new American mantra “People die every day”:
There’s another disturbing undercurrent to Americans’ attitude toward the pandemic thus far: a seeming willingness to accept mass death. As a nation we may have become dull to horrors that come our way as news, from gun violence to the seemingly never-ending incidents of police brutality to the water crises in Flint, Mich., and elsewhere. Americans seem to have already been inured to the idea that other Americans will die regularly, when they do not need to.
It is difficult to quantify apathy. But what else could explain that nearly half a year in, we still haven’t figured out how to equip the frontline workers who, in trying to save the lives of others, are putting their own lives at risk? What else could explain why 66% of Americans—roughly 217.5 million people—still aren’t always wearing masks in public. (Emphasis added.)
The authors note that some progress has been made in flattening the curve, but only some (“[I] t seems the U.S. is finally beginning to make some progress again: daily cases have fallen from a high of 20.5 per capita in July to around 12 in early September. But we’re still well above the springtime numbers—the curve may be flattening, but it’s leveling out at a point that’s pretty frightening.”) but they end their cover story on a cautionary note, reminding readers that we are still seeing new cases of COVID-19 every day, and, in stark terms that have also been expressed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, MD, they warn of another wave of 2019-nCoV this winter, coinciding with the annual influenza season.
 The attitude of many conservatives regarding the use of masks in public places is reflected in this sarcastic “copy and share” Facebook post:
THIS IS SO TRUE
THE LOGIC OF MASKS.
Let’s go out to eat, 2020 style…
1. Arrive at restaurant, take mask off mirror (or out of glove compartment) where it hangs or lays every day when not in use.
2. Slip it on, trying not to ruin the hair do.
*MAGICAL ANTI-GERM BARRIER ENGAGE!!!*
3. Proceed into restaurant, opening door with same handle grabbed by 200 people so far today.
4. Hostess has immediate seating for your woke party of three. Walk past entire restaurant of unmasked people. It’s ok, they’re sitting.
5. Sit down.
*SEATED ANTI-GERM FORCEFIELD ENGAGE!!!*
6. Safely within your anti-germ forcefield, remove mask. Browse menu while making relaxed inhales of the same recirculated AC air previously inside the lungs of the 200 people that also grabbed the door handle.
7. Waitress drops off drinks bare handed.
8. Grab drink with your bare hand. Sip leisurely, secure in knowing you’re within your anti-germ forcefield of “seated-ness”.
9. Too many drinks. Need to pee. Don the magical anti-germ barrier mask as you leave your anti-germ forcefield of “seated-ness”.
10. Walk past 40 unmasked restaurant patrons. Open bathroom with same door knob grabbed by 100 other people so far today.
11. Return to table past same 40 unmasked restaurant patrons.
12. Remove mask. Once again safe in your anti-germ forcefield of “seated-ness”. Waitress takes your sweaty drink glass with her bare hand, refills, hands back to you. You accept with your bare hand. Grab some bread and eat it. Same hand. Yum Yum.
13. Meal complete. Mask on. Walk past 40 unmasked patrons. Make full body contact with at least 4 people waiting at the hostess stand as you squeeze your way back to the door – no matter, they’re all also wearing their magical anti-germ barriers.
14. Grab exit handle, which you are now the 220th person of the day to touch. Eating out successful.
15. Breathe a sigh of relief knowing that even after leaving the protection of your home and venturing out into the scary world of the public, you are essentially sterile thanks to your state approved methods of magical germ mitigation, THE MASK!
-Copied and share too if you like-