Since writing an op-ed about what needed to be done to take control of coronavirus spread back in March, I’ve been doing a lot thinking as I’m sure we all have. We’ve had the time for it, right? Perhaps the explanation for mandating a total nationwide lockdown needed to be framed in a far simpler manner so as to appeal to the average American.
So let’s say that instead of a pandemic virus, it was zombies that were out to get us. And let’s say that initially these zombies had an appetite for the brains of a certain type of human, the elderly, the sickly, the obese — perhaps the immunocompromised. Now imagine that the situation becomes even more fraught with danger. With time, the zombies also figured out that brains of younger and seemingly healthy humans tasted just as delicious.
But then, some very wise doctors and scientists discovered the zombies’ weaknesses. All one had to do to remain alive was to simply stay away from them. And let’s imagine that we had a federal government that listened to these very wise doctors and scientists and mandated safety measures where everyone had to lock themselves into their homes for a period of time until the zombies just plain dropped off from hunger.
But what if the federal government did the opposite and lined up its people to feed the zombies? We don’t have to ask “What if?” because this is our present reality.
There are hundreds of dystopian movies with this exact plot, wherein a deadly foreign or alien enemy threatens the world and nice middle-class families have to find somewhere safe to regroup and ride it out. And yet, despite the veritable wealth of cinematic examples, despite the urgent warnings of the very wise doctors and scientists, despite the knowledge that these were some weak-ass zombies, our government decided on a blueprint where we’d walk freely among them, and risk getting our brains eaten.
There is no joy in a “I told you so” moment when it means that thousands of innocent souls are no longer living among us. My opinion piece a couple months ago predicted that this very kind of tragic death toll would happen if we didn’t institute harsh lockdown methods. I’m not a scientist. I don’t pretend to be a scientist. But it does scream the obvious when someone as unqualified as me could so clearly understand what was about to transpire.
Fact is, we never actually locked down. Sure, we pretended to. You may have, but “we” as a society trying to save itself, did not. Yes, there were quite a few of us doing the right thing, living our daily lives disheveled and depressed in sweatpants binging Tiger King, shoving blocks of cheddar into our festering gobs, while FaceTiming friends and colleagues we couldn’t see in real life. But other than some metropolitan centers, the country didn’t truly shut down at all.
Some states like California took it more seriously than others, but a strange thing happened. It was discovered that a single stranded bit of RNA has zero regard for man-made borders. It’s almost as if the virus didn’t care that Arizona wasn’t practicing safety measures but California was. It’s almost as if the virus is airborne, or something. Many people obviously weren’t listening, because they didn’t want to.
In much of the hinterlands and fly-over states, people went about their way, in complete denial of the “Wuhan Virus” their great leader claimed was a hoax. Masks were for libtards, weak types and the “feminized” after all. The states that refused to shutdown might as well have brought the virus some running shoes and a Gatorade. Coronavirus was even singing lead in the church town choir.
And so, after three months of half-assed self-quarantine, of no national game plan, we just kicked the can down the road.
Well, look down. We’ve caught up to the can.
Now look to the north. Canada has 38 million people. At time of this writing, Canada is posting a little over 300 new cases every day, with a total of almost 108,100 active cases. Now look in the mirror. The United States’ population is a little less than 330 million, with more than 60,000 new cases being reported every day, contributing to a total current caseload of over 3 million with 136,000-plus deaths and surging. It is little wonder than Canada has closed its border to us.
On July 1, the European Union opened their borders to 15 non-EU countries that have brought COVID-19 to heel. The United States was not among them. Americans have become international pariahs. No trip to Europe for us this summer.
The U.S. has 4 percent of the global population but 25 percent of the global deaths and cases. Racists like to point to BLM protests as a reason for virus spread, but most who participated wore masks and tested after gathering outdoors. A more important takeaway from the movement that exploded last month: the fact that the virus had already exposed more racial disparities in our country. African Americans and Latinos are becoming infected at three times the rate of whites, and are dying at two times the rate.
Legitimate epidemiological models says we’ll be at 235,000 dead by fall. President Trump keeps parroting the false claim that we are doing more testing than anyone else, while simultaneously stating that we need to do less testing. The UK, Iceland, Spain, Russia, Portugal, Israel, Denmark and 17 other countries have run more tests per capita than the United States. For crissakes, socialist punching bags such as Cuba and Venezuela have better numbers than the United States.
We are in the midst of a dangerous pandemic with no strategy to fix it, which has been Trump’s strategy all along. First, he denied the virus existed, then he claimed it was a hoax, then he claimed it would magically disappear, then finally, he begrudgingly admitted there was a problem while actively opposing and demeaning any governor who was attempting to shut down their state. In fact, Trump encouraged quite the opposite, as states like Florida and Texas remained open. Look at those states now.
At the end of June, Vice President Mike Pence, completely out of his depth as the Coronavirus Task Force leader, was in deep denial. Delivering whopper after whopper at a press briefing, he claimed that “truly remarkable progress” was being made, that all 50 states were opening back up, and that the curve of the spread had been flattened.
Statistical research done by smart people shows this to be completely untrue. Much of the country is in the midst of an out of control COVID-19 forest fire with no smokejumpers in sight. In California, we are up to nearly 8,000-plus new cases daily, a 62 percent increase from a week ago.
The Trump Administration’s medical experts, Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, have the facial expressions of people who’ve just been forced to drink a quart of sour milk. As much as they attempt to speak truth to power, power has no interest in their truth. At this point they seem resigned to the inevitable, attempting to deliver hidden kernels of truth amid a smokescreen of outright lies and denial. Never mind the fact that Trump eggs on the far-right loons who are convinced that Birx and Fauci are part of some deep state Bill Gates-mandated microchip conspiracy.
Despite the majority of Americans showing more concern for the pandemic, something as simple as covering your face has become a partisan issue. Trump has politicized the pandemic into a re-election tool rather than trying to prevent it. MAGAs have roundly rejected medical advice on face-covering, choosing instead to adopt any number of batshit reasons for not wearing one. And this is truly a tragedy of epic proportions. Something as simple as decreeing that everyone wears a facemask could have likely saved tens of thousands of lives.
Bottom line, masks do work. For example, Japan, one of the most densely populated nations on earth, had less than 1,000 coronavirus deaths. They didn’t lockdown their society or destroy their economy, and their current unemployment rate is a boastful 2.6 percent. Everyone wears a mask in Japan. Everyone. It’s not seen as a sign of weakness, it is seen a sign of shared social responsibility, of empathy, of concern, something a lot of Americans seem to have lost under this presidency.
So here we are, 135,000 souls in the ground and still no plan in place. Our federal government has completely failed the American people.
The best we can hope for is that our local leaders from some sort of coalition. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti just stated that he was close to locking down the city again, while Governor Gavin Newsom just ordered most indoor locales like gyms, salons and malls to shut down again
It isn’t only the dead that suffer. People are under the general misconception that you are either asymptomatic or dead. This is a falsehood, as most people recover. But the middle ground is hell, as COVID-19 kicks your ass. We are learning that there are severe long term respiratory, neurological, renal and digestive issues and recovery can take ages. The cost of this pandemic will be upon our necks for decades, no doubt.
Yet, there is a significant percentage of the population that wants to remain ignorant to gravity of the situation. The science deniers, the faux libertarians, the shit kickers, and the evangelicals. These people are going to get a lot of other innocent people killed, because they simply don’t understand the science and math behind risk assessment.
It was sound risk assessment that led the CDC’s Dr. Robert Redfield to deliver a set of strict guidelines to be followed for schools to be reopened. Of course, political pressure deemed these guidelines unnecessary, as Trump went to Twitter last week, demanded that the guidelines be severely altered and that schools be opened regardless, because, you know, children are indestructible flesh robots incapable of transmitting viruses to adults. Trump brought up the fact that countries like Germany, Norway, and Denmark “are doing fine” and schools are open. Well yes, because those countries had leaders that acted responsibly and locked their countries down, whereas the United States of America has no such leader.
Secretary of Education Betsy Devos wants to withhold school funding if they don’t open classrooms. Trump has threatened to deport foreign students if universities don’t reopen classrooms. At press time, lawsuits have been filed by a few big colleges and announcements have been made locally that reject the federal government’s reckless direction. Despite the threats, LAUSD says it will hold classes online, but O.C. — which leans red — may actually take the risk.
Apparently, the president’s “strategy” at this point is something akin to human sacrifice. Does anyone think teachers and professors will be remotely safe being exposed to hundreds of students on a daily basis? And what of the families these kids are coming home to, and the children themselves? Can we possibly think of a more efficient way to infect as many people as possible in as short a time than in our crowded schools full of kids just out of lockdown? Do we see a world in which college students actually self-quarantine and act like responsible adults?
College sports are cancelling their seasons. You’ve got MLB players refusing to play, multiple NBA players who have tested positive and the NFL scrapping the preseason altogether. The NHL has fled to Canada to finish out their season, and the MLS has contracted its season into a tournament where they’ve already sent two teams home due to multiple positives. So, consider for a moment that if professional sports teams, with their unlimited resources, top medical staffs, and strict quarantine measures can’t keep the virus at bay, how in God’s name does anyone think they can control it when public schools and universities open in a month or so.
Trump knows he’s toast. His last gasp is attaining some sort of economic (Wall Street) success that he can warp into an argument for another term. And he is perfectly willing to sacrifice American men, women and children to a deadly pandemic in order to get there. When Trump spoke of American carnage during his inauguration, most of us didn’t think he meant it literally. The sociopathy is astonishing, but at this point not all that surprising.
And speaking of sociopathy, while the federal government has been an absolute failure at controlling the virus, they’ve been stunningly successful at lining the pockets of the rich with free money. It has been disaster capitalism 101, where everyone from Kanye to Grover Nordquist to megachurches to the Ayn Rand Institute to Trump himself (and his faily members) filling their pockets with money that we taxpayers will eventually be on the hook for. But hey, you got a check for $1,200, so you’re good, right?
There is only one way out of this disaster. We have to lockdown. Again. This time for real. We must enact a nationwide quarantine for a minimum of three months. We must freeze rents, bills, mortgages and payments. We have to stop time. We have to provide aid and financial security to 330 million Americans or many more will die or face a lifetime of severe chronic illness.
Without these extreme and harsh measures, the economy may never fully recover and we may never see any normalcy in our lives again. It should terrify us all to realize that the likelihood of this kind of national lockdown and recovery measure is slim to none right now. Maybe things will change in November, but for now, it looks like we’re on our own to fight the zombies trying to infect or kill us. Sadly, they aren’t the only monsters we need to contend with to survive, but once again, staying home is the best chance we got.