Covid Ignoramuses

Photograph Source: michael_swan – CC0

On election night, one exit poll revealed that 48 percent of respondents believed the government had done a good job, including coping with Covid-19. In other words, 48 percent of respondents are imbeciles who approved of what happened that day: 1100 coronavirus deaths and 94,000 new cases. Only four in 10 voters ranked the pandemic as their top concern. If the election disclosed one thing it’s that about half of all Americans have their heads in the sand regarding the pandemic and are likely blithely, provincially unaware that no other country on earth has failed as miserably as the U.S. to contain the disease.

It’s also a good bet that most of those Trump voters would guffaw in belligerent disbelief at the news that countries like left-governed New Zealand, semi-socialist Vietnam, vaguely communist China and other non-white countries like South Korea and Taiwan eradicated this plague and that people in those lands get to lead normal lives. Their children go to school, they go to work, they frequent bars and restaurants, their hospitals are not swamped by critically ill patients, nor do they run the risk of contracting a potentially lethal, chronic and disabling disease every time they visit the supermarket. How to account for such American ignorance, stupidity and insularity? Well, back in the early twentieth century, H. L. Mencken dubbed the U.S. a boobocracy. He was right then, and his verdict holds up today. American morons are everywhere. Their views on covid prove it.

On November 4, while all eyes were riveted on election results, this plague killed over 1600 Americans, and there were over 100, 000 new cases. Two days later, there were 121,000 new cases. Later, over 135,000 new cases in one day. And new infections and deaths zoomed up and up at that pace, or faster, thereafter. At this rate, according to one medical expert, we could have one million dead by late February. For that you can thank Trump’s mass murdering policy of herd immunity, and the one third of voters who told pollsters that they believed the economy’s urgency drubbed the pandemic’s. Roughly 50 percent of Americans wear masks; that’s not enough to stop the virus. But those unmasked multitudes don’t care, so long as their God-given right to infect others is not infringed.

With over 10 million U.S. covid cases, this pestilence has now killed over 240,000 Americans. A month ago, experts cited excess deaths statistics to prove the true number was then over 300,000 dead, so by now it’s more. Whichever it is, it’s too many. It far exceeds the covid death rate of any other country. Indeed, the world gapes in horror as the U.S. fumbles the pandemic, just as it watched in dismay as the U.S. fumbled Hurricane Katrina. In fact, covid is Trump’s Katrina. Not just because it cost him votes, but because apparently, like Bush with the hurricane, Trump was far too incompetent to do anything about the catastrophe other than make it worse. Bush’s ineptness let a great American city drown. Trump’s ignorance and abysmal instincts have cost the U.S. even more, and 10 months into it, the debacle just roars on.

Why? Well, this is the country where, in August, as covid percolated poisonously through the Midwest, 250,000 bikers converged on Sturgis, South Dakota, for a summer shindig. They didn’t wear masks, and they didn’t socially distance. And lots of them got sick. Now they have angry, acrid regrets. According to the New York Times, “Sturgis council members who approved the rally have been bombarded with death threats.” The event caused roughly 250,000 coronavirus infections nationwide. All of this was completely predictable. The bikers who went to Sturgis behaved like irresponsible children. Some of them paid the price. So did plenty of other people.

The bikers’ fecklessness mirrored Trump’s. After he hosted a super-spreader soiree for his radical right-wing supreme court nominee, numerous guests contracted covid, including Trump and Chris Christie. They knew they could get sick, but they couldn’t resist the fantasy that things would “go back to normal.” How stupid is that? This virus has made blindingly clear its power to relegate normal to paradise lost, as any adult knows. Normal is over for the foreseeable future, until we get a good, tested, reliable vaccine. The Trump regime’s infantile “I want, I want, I want, gimme parties, gimme cameras, gimme glitzy, crowded blow-outs,” had a perfectly foreseeable outcome. It’s a miracle none of those overgrown toddlers were intubated and died. Or maybe some were. If so, you can be sure we won’t hear about it.

So now what can Biden do? He can negotiate with the lame-duck Trump regime for a national mask mandate tout de suite. He has also named his coronavirus task force. Otherwise, he probably must wait till January. His moves then will hopefully include finally revving up the National Defense Authorization Act to its fullest potential to produce protective gear for medical workers – most of them reusing masks in the covid-crammed hospitals of Trump country. He should assure that vaccine distribution plans are ready and not enfeebled by the malicious neglect that plagued testing. He should fix testing and contact tracing once and for all.

Regarding economic impacts, Biden should back up those states and localities that have to impose targeted lockdowns, as Utah just did, by releasing funds to support workers and small businesspeople thus idled, by executive order if necessary. He must try to pass another stimulus with unemployment dollars, basic income, money for cities and states and a full-fledged rent and mortgage moratorium, and even rent forgiveness. And to atone for his wretched 1994 crime bill, which he now acknowledges was a mistake, Biden should do everything possible to release nonviolent and elderly felons from those disease-infested pits – the prisons. These are only some of the weapons in a president’s arsenal against this plague. It is high time, past time they were deployed.


Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Busybody. She can be reached at her website.