The Covid Debacle Rolls On

Photo by Nick Fewings

Americans still die of covid, at least 400 to 500 per day. The Centers for Disease Control tells us exposure no longer requires quarantine, and for the public generally, everyone’s so done with masks. That’s the state of the disease for us proles – do nothing to prevent catching it, while hoping, irrationally, that you won’t. Things are quite different at higher media and political altitudes. Though proconsuls featured in his news empire have been known to belittle the covid shot, reactionary mogul Rupert Murdoch has always, reportedly, been quite cautious about the disease, with underlings allegedly vaxxed and masked, before contact with him. The same holds true in the presidential aerie. Indeed, throughout most of Biden’s rule, anyone who wanted a session with him had to be tested and wear an N95 mask. Nothing relaxed about precautions for the man at the top. You can be sure that if one of his assistants is exposed to the virus, he or she isolates for a long while before being permitted back into the presidential presence.

Meanwhile covid was the third leading cause of death in 2020 and 2021, according to the National Institutes of Health. But Health System Tracker on March 24 announced different results: “Nearly as many people died of Covid-19 in February 2022 as the typical deaths from heart disease. We also find that in January 2022, Covid-19 was the number 1 cause of death for people age 45-84 and in the top 4 leading causes of death for other age groups.” Currently, this outlet reports, the virus kills over 1000 people per day and on average in 2021 killed more people per day than cancer. Not saying the official 500 per day death count is wrong or deliberately misleads, but I just thought I’d throw these different numbers out there. Statistics vary, because statistics lie. The rosiest statistics lie the most brazenly.

Covid finished off 1.04 million Americans, the highest toll of any nation and hardly an advertisement for the public health system in the heart of the Exceptional Empire. Compare that to China’s 5200 covid deaths out of a population of 1.4 billion. The U.S. population clocks in at 330 million. Which country took this lethal virus seriously enough to protect its citizens? Hint, not the capitalist behemoth, with patients intubated from sea to shining sea.

Keep in mind that right now, with 95 percent of its population NOT in lockdown, China has zero covid deaths in the last 100 days. Things are quite different in the Exceptional Empire. Here, in the U.S. in the last 100 days, with 100 percent of its people NOT in lockdown, Amurica has had 50,000 covid deaths. But that barely dents the self-righteous, Sinophobic media ballyhoo.

What does China get for its heroic anti-coronavirus efforts? A constant beating in the western right-wing press. Its public health miracle is held up as having transformed the nation into a gulag (this from journalists whose U.S. “homeland” in fact features a real, live, out-and out carceral state gulag) and as proof of its hopelessly authoritarian governance. But I doubt Chinese leaders care what American free-market lunatics think. They clearly staked out their job as protecting the public health of their people, something we Americans can only dream of. Our rulers screech “get back to work! If you drop dead, them’s the breaks.” China’s response betokens far more civilization: “Don’t spread it, and get better soon.”

As of Labor Day, the city of Chengdu was under lockdown – the bugaboo of the American right, because lockdowns are, simply, bad for the people who fund the American right, namely, business. The fact that Beijing doesn’t fear lockdowns and imposes them when it deems necessary profoundly offends American corporate bigwigs, whose rightist stenographers shriek about this supposed communist barbarity. Imagine, forcing people to attend to their health, instead of looking out for big business! The nerve of such people!

But hey, if you think it’s only far-right psychos sour on the prospect of enforced public health, think again. Here’s the New York Times on September 5: “Problems have already appeared. Some residents have complained on social media of long delays in food deliveries. Over the weekend, Chengdu’s Covid testing system — which has been tasked with swabbing all of the city’s 21 million residents every day — collapsed, leaving residents waiting in line for hours.” The falsehood is the same, repeatedly – lockdowns or any rigorous public health measures don’t work and, by implication, neither does anything under communism. Better to just throw up your hands and figure you’ll be another covid statistic. We’re all going to die someday, anyway.

Many no doubt wonder how this lousy deal for Americans could get any worse. You wonder? I’ll tell you: a congress that won’t fund further vaccine research. For months, to its credit, the Biden team has asked for money for this, because they know, as does anyone with functioning gray cells, that covid is here to stay and the best way to save lives is to prevent it. But congress ain’t interested. Too busy enriching its defense contract donors, I guess, with more bombs and rockets for Ukraine. GOP congress critters keep one eye on nutcase anti-vaxxers, a critical clique in their base. Dem politicos are, as mentioned, fully focused on provoking Russia on its borders. Both wings of the bipartisan war party beat the tom-toms for military assault on China, because it might, someday, attack Taiwan, an island as beloved by our congress as Puerto Rico. So no, Biden can’t get any congressional takers for funding putative covid vaccine research.

Meanwhile on June 7, Scientific American reported what anyone with a brain can deduce: “The death rate among unvaccinated people is still far higher than among the vaccinated.” True, the vaccine doesn’t stop transmission or illness. But it does decrease the severity of the disease and the death rate. Given that this virus is now endemic, anyone without a death wish probably received the shot. The article quotes U.S. Public Health Service commander Heather Scobie: “Unvaccinated people 12 years and older had 17 times the rate of Covid-associated deaths, compared to people vaccinated with a primary series and booster dose…Unvaccinated people had eight times the rate of death as compared to people who only had a primary series.” So boosters help, big-time.

Despite such stats, millions still succumb to the anti-vax hallucination. That’s about to get worse. Those numbers will surely skyrocket as the new vaccine, tailored to omicron, now rolls out. The fact that it will not have completed human trials until months after release will doubtless inflame anti-vax suspicions. And it’s probably useless to argue that this has long been routine for the yearly flu shot – it’s tweaked in animal trials then delivered to the public. But anti-vax fanatics certainly regard the flu vaccine with the same paranoia as any other medical innovation, you know, like injections that prevent tetanus, meningitis or diphtheria, so don’t waste your breath.

Peter Marks, top vaccine official at the FDA was cited by the Washington Post August 31, saying the new shots “could better protect people from ‘long covid,’ an unexplained constellation of symptoms that includes fatigue, memory loss and chest pain…” Let’s hope he’s right. Long covid is a curse, and according to the CDC, one in 13 American adults has it. U.S. News says it potentially afflicts up to 23 million Americans. That’s called a public health disaster.

Another covid catastrophe – for the second year, American life expectancy plummeted: “This is the biggest continuous decline in life expectancy at birth since the beginning of the Roaring Twenties,” reported the Post August 31. “Overall life expectancy dropped from 77 years in 2020 to 76.1 years in 2021.” The article adds that “Native Americans forfeited nearly two years of life. White people had the second biggest drop, losing a full year of life expectancy, while Black people lost 0.7 years.” The Post quotes a demographer who notes that in some countries, life expectancy increased, but “That’s not us.” No, it sure isn’t. You can thank our brainwashing with wild-west capitalism for that.

“We’re not going to eradicate the virus,” Dr. Anthony Fauci warned back in 2020. Prescient then, this remark now evokes a “duh” response. Covid is here in the U.S. to stay – permanently. This is a complete public health failure caused by our extreme economic-political arrangement, aka the so-called free market. Just to make sure you got the message about covid’s immutable persistence, Fauci repeated his warning to Yahoo Finance August 30: “We’re not going to eradicate the virus from the face of the earth. I don’t believe we’re even going to eliminate it from this country to the tune of getting zero cases.”

Really, who could think the U.S., with more covid infections and deaths than any nation on earth, is a candidate for coronavirus eradication? You’d need 100 percent vaccination even to begin the eradication conversation, but only 67.4 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, while only 48.5 percent of those received a first booster. Besides, the vaccine doesn’t stop transmission, infection, illness or even death. So no. Humanity lost this one. Unfettered monopolistic America worst of all. We’re saddled with covid for the foreseeable future.

Making matters worse is the stew of confusion average Americans find themselves cooking in. And not just caused by anti-vax quackery. According to the Washington Post August 25, “Twitter labeled factual information about covid-19 as misinformation.” Go twitter. Let the florid psychotics mouth off and make imbeciles of themselves throughout the platform, while the experts languish in twitter jail. Well, nobody ever said social media was about making things better.

“Doctors, scientists and advocates attempting to warn the public about the dangers of the virus had tweets flagged and accounts suspended.” Though twitter later removed the labels and restored the accounts, this mix-up serves only to befuddle a populace already staggering under a huge load of lies, myths and conspiracy madness. According to one doctor/molecular biologist: “It shows you how disorganized the monitoring of information on Twitter is. They’re just in disarray.”

Also in the not-helpful category – on September 2 the free, at-home, rapid coronavirus test distribution program ended. This dangerously effective public health project showered the populace with 600 million coronavirus tests, after it started on January 19. But, surprise! Congress didn’t see fit to continue funding the stockpile. Apparently, Congress succumbed to neoliberal, late-capitalist brainwashing, like most of the country, and now considers the pandemic over. Hello? Thousands dead every week? That doesn’t sound like “over” to me.

To restate the obvious, people still die of the coronavirus in large numbers. Their mourners, NBC reported on August 27, who make the mistake of looking for sympathy online, often get harassed by trolls. “Instead of condolences, some people who post about the death of loved ones receive hateful and mocking comments.” Well, if it’s not one thing with this pandemic, it’s another. This abuse reportedly never happened before covid. It’s a poisonous gallimaufry of monopoly capitalist indoctrination and a killer virus, which lures all the creeps out of the woodwork.

As Jeffrey St. Clair reported August 26 here in CounterPunch: “The U.S. represents 4% of the world’s population, 25% of global covid deaths, 23% of covid cases and 35% of all Monkeypox cases.” The U.S. is a public health fiasco, courtesy of its inhuman economic system. The capitalist ideologues who infest our government are incapable of coping with disease. In a word, they are incompetent. So no, in this country, covid isn’t going anywhere. It’ll keep killing. And it will kill the fools who don’t wear masks or get vaccinated faster than anybody.

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