Our country passed an unfathomable milestone as we recorded over 800,000 deaths in the United States from Covid-19. The most in the world. Many experts believe that the real number is much higher. Ironically, we are passing this horrendous marker just about exactly one year after the first American got the first dose of a vaccine that can prevent, or at least significantly reduce the impact of, the disease.
On 2 April 2020 I wrote about the pandemic in depth for the first time. At that point, the President’s Covid Task Force under the direction of Dr. Deborah Birx was projecting 240,000 deaths (total!) from Covid, if we did everything perfectly. Her projection was that if we did not, then we could lose over 1.2 million Americans. The shrieks and cries and accusations of scare tactics, hoaxes, and socialism (yes, socialism) surrounding these projections and the steps needed to protect ourselves were unleashed far and wide. It was thought to be a gross exaggeration meant to hoodwink us all into becoming “sheep.”
And yet, here we are. The combination of the delta and omicron variants of the coronavirus could easily leave between 837,000 and 845,000 dead by 8 January 2022 according to the CDC ensemble forecast (a combination of multiple models). Many fear that by spring, we will have lost over a million Americans.
For comparison, our last big pandemic, the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu, caused about 675,000 deaths in the U.S. In those days, there was no vaccine, and scientific understanding of the disease was woefully inadequate compared to today.
The good news is that we can protect ourselves. As everyone should know, a series of three vaccines significantly reduces the chances of serious illness. Wearing masks aids in stopping the spread of the disease. And on, and on. We know the routine, like it or not. We thought we had it beat, but we don’t and I am not sure that any responsible scientist or physician is willing to say when we return to pre-Covid days. Perhaps never.
To me, one of the two most inexplicable developments of the last two years is the politicization of efforts to control the spread of Covid and to protect individuals. Mind numbingly stupid. I am gobsmacked whenever I think about how many lives are lost through a stubborn refusal to comply with measures that in years past would be welcomed rather than vilified. Studies indicate that without the vaccines, an additional 1.1 million Americans would have died by the end of November 2021 and there would have been 10.3 million additional hospitalizations. As it is, about 300,000 Americans died from the pandemic before vaccines were available. That means that about 500,000 American deaths from Covid were largely preventable. Vaccines were made available to all adults on 19 April 2020 and yet the death toll continues to rise. An unvaccinated person is six times more likely to test positive than a vaccinated person, nine times more likely to be hospitalized, and fourteen times more likely to die.
The U.S. has over a sixty percent vaccination rate. But that still leaves over 100 million people unvaccinated. I do not get it.
Politicians and media pundits that push people to protect their “freedom” and fight against masks, vaccines, and common sense steps to protect themselves have blood on their hands. Even as they get themselves vaccinated. Shameful. Unfortunately, in one sector of today’s politics, shame no longer exists.
I will never understand it.
“This is deadly stuff.”
Donald J. Trump on 7 February 2020 to journalist Bob Woodward
In the course of writing his book Rage, Bob Woodward talked directly with the president eighteen times and recorded those conversations with Mr. Trump’s permission and knowledge. The tapes and available excerpts from the book clearly show that Mr. Trump knew from the beginning that the coronavirus was deadly and yet he continually took no action and played down the threat through much of January, February and March. In important ways he still ignores the severity of the crisis.
Mr. Trump clearly is not responsible for the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but his belated and inconsistent response cost tens of thousands of Americans their lives.
The timeline of Mr. Trump’s private statements to Mr. Woodward, matched up with his public statements about the state of the pandemic, demonstrates his callous disregard for American lives and his deliberate deception to prevent coherent actions in the early days of the crisis.
For example, Mr. Trump was briefed by his National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien that “this will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency. This is going to be the roughest thing you face.” His Deputy added that this was going to be at least as bad as the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50 million people worldwide.
The briefing was given to him on 28 January 2020. On 7 February he told Mr. Woodward,
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu. This is deadly stuff.”
Meanwhile on 26 February he compared the coronavirus to the flu and talked about how much worse the flu was in our country. He downplayed the threat and again compared it favorably to the flu on 9 March.
On 19 March he told Mr. Woodward,
“Now it’s turning out it’s just not old people, Bob. Just today and yesterday some startling facts came out. It’s not just old — it’s plenty of young people.”
On 24 March, 6 May and 5 August he downplayed the threat to young people and focused primarily on the threat to senior citizens. In fact, during an interview in August he said,
“If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely — but almost immune from this disease. They don’t have a problem. They just don’t have a problem.”
There is more, but you get the idea. I suppose it should not be surprising that a president that lied over 20,000 times while in office continually lies about the pandemic. But the brazen, uncaring, callous way he treated our society is breathtaking. In the excerpts of the tapes that I have heard, I am struck most of all by the nonchalance and indifference in his voice. He truly does not care.
His avowed reason for lying to all of us (he calls it “downplaying” the impact) is that he did not want the public to “panic.” That would be hilarious if the results were not so horrifying. This from a president that creates fear and campaigns on panic be it “MS-13 caravans” flooding the border, or “destroying the suburbs” or a hundred other things he has injected into our lives.
The only panic he was trying to prevent was a panic in the markets on Wall Street. He tied his reelection to the economy and he was afraid that if he told the truth, if they took the required precautions early, that there would be an economic impact. He thought he could ride it out and therefore took no action.
Put this in perspective. According to a Columbia University study, if social distancing efforts had been put in place even just one week earlier (8 March instead of 15 March) 36,000 lives in the U.S. would have been saved and there would have been 700,000 fewer infections.
That is still a month after Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward that “this is deadly stuff.”
Remember, since he was briefed in January about how the coronavirus spreads, Mr. Trump conducted campaign rallies, belittled people that wore masks, pushed for restaurants and bars to open, recommended injecting bleach into bodies, pushed hydroxychloroquine and generally brushed off all of the known precautions to stop its spread.
Based on his words and actions in pushing to reopen the economy, millions of Americans forswore masks and social distancing, gathered in bars, partied hearty, and otherwise facilitated the spread of the disease and the consequences we still feel over seven months after Mr. Trump knew the dangers inherent in this new disease.
Every American, Trump supporter or not, should be outraged. It is not hyperbole to say that his actions and inactions, with full knowledge of the threat, resulted in the loss of life.
Just as bad, his staff and advisers had the same information and said nothing. Shame on them all. They are just as guilty.
Mr. Trump failed in his primary duty as president. The president first and foremost must put the health, safety and security of all of us above all else. He still refuses to do so. His enablers continue to lie for him, cover up for him, and allow him to put himself above all. He insults us by saying he was just trying to be a “cheerleader” for our country. His enablers say he was just doing what any good leader does by projecting a calm demeanor. They even dare to compare him to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Hogwash.
Their words and actions are despicable. Tell that to the families and friends of the nearly 200,000 dead Americans.
He lied and people died.