Staring Down the Coronavirus Pandemic

Since the Coronavirus outbreak has compelled us to retreat from our social lives and stay at home, I’ve mostly been confined to my house save for the occasional walk. Indeed, I’ve adjusted quite well to quarantine. But there are still things I miss. For instance, I miss going to church. I miss going to a library, Barnes & Noble, the movies, my grandma’s, and so many other places. However, I can be grateful that I could social distance and not worry about going out too much. Since aside from a morning walk, I usually stay indoors anyways. And I’m not the one in my house going out for groceries or visiting my grandma either.

Yet, what has occupied my mind since I started social distancing hasn’t been how I’ve been faring since I know if I come down with it, most of it pertains to how much our national embarrassment has epically fucked up. When it comes to Donald Trump’s presidency, rock bottom always appears to have a basement. But he is a man who’d rather blame God for his own misdeeds than take any responsibility for them. Yet, since that will get him in trouble with the Christian Right, he’ll blame literally anyone else that goes against him. Anyway, Trump has handled the Covid-19 situation about as abysmally as you’d expect. For God’s sake, the guy has had since January to do something about it. Actually he had plenty of time before that. Not to mention, he continues to incur massive damage in coronavirus response efforts because he’s more concerned with his own image and getting reelected.

The US problems in handling the coronavirus pandemic began in April 2018, when the Trump administration started disbanding the pandemic response team while repeatedly calling for CDC budget cuts. By the time the coronavirus came to the United States, officials had to rebuild a coordinated response team they had dismantled a couple years before. You don’t have to be psychic to realize that such actions are terrible ideas. After all, the Obama administration set up the pandemic response team in order to prepare for one, which experts said would be inevitable. Nonetheless, doing away with some regulation, agency, or any other government function, it doesn’t lead to anything good. Unless it deals with something that’s incredibly obsolete.

As early as November 2019, national security experts warned Donald Trump about Covid-19’s expected spread throughout the United States. In January, trade adviser Peter Navarro warned the White House that the novel coronavirus could kill half a million Americans, shortly after the cases began spreading through China. As time passed, Trump minimized the problem in his messaging, did little to address testing shortages, and delayed declaring a national emergency to unlock aid funding. Furthermore, Trump and the federal government repeatedly ignored opportunities to mitigate the virus’ spread through extensive testing. Hell, he’s even called the coronavirus a hoax on many occasions. And while his tune has changed in recent weeks (though I’m not so sure about that), experts say the early sluggish response will likely have lasting effects on the virus’ spread in communities and how deadly it’s become.

In January 2020, the Trump administration restricted travel to China, the day after the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency. Though Donald Trump often cites this as an early, decisive move on stopping virus, it was already spreading within US borders. And at best, the government only bought time it didn’t use particularly well. Given that we have a complete sociopath in the White House whose chief worry is mainly his own self-image. And beyond that decision, Trump has mostly downplayed the coronavirus’ severity from the beginning and largely failed to take early widespread actions that could’ve slowed the disease’s spread in the country. Instead, Covid-19 is now projected to kill tens of thousands of Americans. Yet, as US officials warned of major disruptions ahead by late February, Trump insisted that the virus was contained in the US and that, “it’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” Except that it totally did the opposite.

Even in March as people began dying in Washington state and elsewhere, Trump administration officials assured the public that the US was “way ahead of the curve” on preparing for the virus, saying that “the vast majority of Americans are not at risk for this virus,” and the Trump campaign refused to cancel campaign rallies. Finally, in mid-March, Donald Trump agreed to recommend social distancing around the country and declared a national emergency, which unlocked $42.6 billion in funding to help states get more resources as medical supplies in some states were already running thin (like he had any choice). Nonetheless, supplies are still difficult to come by, which experts have said is partly due to Trump’s dismantling of the pandemic preparedness team before the crisis. Nevertheless, Trump stated that “I don’t take responsibility at all,” in the nation’s slow response. So he’ll blame someone else whether it’s the Chinese, WHO, Democratic governors, Dr. Anthony Fauci, or anyone else that could serve as a convenient scapegoat.

Still, while social distancing has been official Trump administration policy, that hasn’t stopped Donald Trump from inciting chaos in the country. Tweeting sentiments like “Liberate Michigan,” and other states with governors he doesn’t like, he has encouraged anti-social distancing and anti-stay-at-home orders rallies in the United States calling the state-based measures too draconian. Fox News has also promoted these protests on air. Funded and organized by conservative groups like Freedom Works, these ill-advised events have somehow attracted thousands of people. Some of these have posted links and images on Facebook downplaying Covid-19’s seriousness. While other leaders have advocated against following CDC guidelines, like a ban on big gatherings and recommending face masks. While these protests draw some Tea Party parallels, some take the feel of 2016 Trump campaign rallies with participants wearing MAGA hats and waving flags emblazoned with Trump’s stupid face. Some may wear masks. While many do not nor do they stand 6 feet apart from each other. They’re also quite selfish since they complain about needing to buy fertilizer for their gardens, new furniture, or a haircut. Some want to go golfing, a massage, or their nails done. You’ think these protestors want businesses to open back up so they can go back to work. But it’s not the case. Rather they’re protesting to demand other workers to return to their jobs to endanger themselves in order to serve them and their nonessential desires. For these same people will never protest for better wages, or more worker protections. They’re just fighting to force poor people to go back to doing their hair and selling them makeup, furniture, and other fancy things. Let us note that these people are selfish and irresponsible assholes who don’t care if people die just as long as they get their stuff.

In any case, these anti-lockdown protests tap into Donald Trump’s main message on the coronavirus pandemic: Blame the governors for this crisis, not him. As Trump ratchets up his reelection efforts, his argument is an effort to put the brunt of responsibility for the coronavirus catastrophe on his political opponents’ shoulders while maintaining he has “total authority” over the pandemic and the states facing it. It’s an argument that resonates in rural, redder parts of the country, which the pandemic hasn’t hit as hard as blue, urban areas yet. It’s a message of division designed to pit Republican-voting areas against their Democratic-voting neighbors, even rural Republicans against urban Republicans. All this to activate the white rural Trump voters of 2016 and whom he’ll need again in 2020. For some on the right, the plan seems simple: vilify Democratic governors and agitate the end of shutdown orders. Then “reopen the economy” and spur a massive turnaround in the nation’s economic projects just in time for Donald Trump to cruise to reelection in November. Should the pandemic recede, he can claim entire responsibility. But if people keep dying, he can just blame Democratic governors.

Fortunately, that strategy is more likely to blow in Donald Trump’s big orange face. The public (including a vast majority of Republicans), largely supports social distancing measures. While new polling suggests half of Republicans are concerned that stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures will be lifted too quickly. In fact, research shows that Americans began social distancing before their government urged them to do so. And they likely wouldn’t stop if they were lifted. Thus, the anti-shutdown protests don’t mirror public opinion. Not to mention, in order for Trump to benefit from their potential impact, the coronavirus needs to spare rural American (which it isn’t). Besides, in many rural areas, even a relatively small number of coronavirus cases can stretch rural hospitals and health networks to the limit. Not to mention, coronavirus rates in Idaho and South Dakota are also increasing.

Nonetheless, the coronavirus pandemic has revealed how messed up the United States really is. Though a virus doesn’t discriminate in who it infects or kills, black people, Latinos, low wage workers, the elderly poor (well, poor people in general), those our healthcare system has historically neglected, and those pummeled with our racism. Though we are all in this together, not everyone is exposed at an equal risk. If you live in a dense urban center, depend on public transportation, work in a low wage and unpredictable job without enough protections or adequate health insurance, you are undeniably most “in it.” Not because you didn’t shelter fast enough or washed your hands enough times. But because we live in a country with a story riddled with redlining, undervalued care, and the insidious legacy of slavery.

Yet, even worse, this pandemic has been absolutely crushing to low income workers who are either risking their lives to keep society going and feed their families or are unemployed. A recent survey from Pew reported that just over half of low-income adults in the US had someone in their household who had either lost their job or hours. Making matters worse, just 23% of low-income people had enough money saved to cover 3 months’ expenses in case of financial emergency. And as of April 2020, 22 million people have filed initial claims for unemployment insurance over the past several weeks. However, this Pew study suggests those already in difficult financial circumstances ahead of the pandemic are bearing the brunt of economic damage. And not surprisingly, many Americans weren’t in as strong financial position as they may have appeared. Thus, we shouldn’t be shocked that 53% of low-income workers reported that they’d have trouble paying some of their monthly bills. In addition to Covid-19 fatalities being disproportionately prevalent among people of color and those in poverty, all this puts additional pressure on family members who still have jobs to keep working and possibly fall ill themselves. Grocery stores have reported that employees have started to die from Covid-19. And so have public transit workers responsible for getting people to work.

So when the pandemic ends, should we go back to normal? Oh, hell, no. Because as the coronavirus has ravaged our country and overwhelmed our healthcare system, we are confronted with some stark realities of inequality and economic duress. We may call our “essential workers” heroes, but after it’s over, will we remember them and treat them as such? With that, I’m not so sure. After all, we’ve referred to first responders as such on 9/11 and it took 18 years to pass a law guaranteed to fund their medical care for their injuries. We’re often told to support our troops as they go off to war and remember their sacrifice whenever they die or march in a parade. Yet, the VA is an utter bureaucratic clusterfuck that might be run by 3 of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago friends behind the scenes, while veteran homelessness is a thing. And if they’re found undocumented, well, their service record won’t save them from possible deportation. Now we’re putting healthcare workers, maintenance workers, drivers, grocery, gas station, and pharmacy employees, garbage collectors, and other “essential” people on the heroic pedestal. Many of them work for low wages with no health benefits and no form of paid leave of any kind. They’re also spending considerable time away from their families and possibly exposing themselves to the virus that might eventually kill them. If we want to anything to honor these heroes’ sacrifice, perhaps we should remember what they did for us and maybe make sure they’re treated as valued members in our communities. Some ideas include at least establishing healthcare as a right and providing a single-payer public option for those earning below $1 million per year, raising the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour, mandating paid sick leave, safer conditions, and collective bargaining rights so they can organize regardless of their employer’s union stance. When it comes to crises like this, normal won’t save us. Rather let the coronavirus provide us the opportunity to build a better world and get Donald Trump out of the White House in November. Seriously, he’s a psychopath who’d willingly have people get sick and die for the economy and increase his reelection chances.

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