The Morning Jolt

Health Care

COVID Isn’t Gone Yet

COVID-19 response specialist Alexandra Vizcarra prepares to administer a nasal swab test at Public Health Madison & Dane County in Madison, Wis., October 19, 2020. (Bing Guan/Reuters)

On the menu today: Yeah, we’re back to talking about the coronavirus pandemic, in part because we were repeatedly assured that herd immunity was imminent, and in part because we were repeatedly assured that media coverage of the virus would disappear after the election. In other news about a deep-rooted denial of reality, the president of the United States contends that voting machines changed votes for him into votes for Biden across several states.

This Pandemic Isn’t Over until We’ve Been Vaccinated

Back on September 15, as the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus approached 200,000, I wrote a piece detailing how voices both inside and outside of government had kept assuring us that the pandemic wasn’t that bad, that almost everyone was overreacting, that the threat to public health was overstated, and that herd immunity was just around the corner. I argued that wrong conclusions, driven by unrealistic optimism, had exacerbated our poor response to the virus. Some readers declared that I was “weirdly negative and sour,” that I had gone off the rails by observing that the death toll from the pandemic at that point equaled 67 times the death toll of the 9/11 attacks, and that I was a fearmonger.

That was eight weeks and almost 50,000 dead Americans ago.

When does it stop being “fearmongering”? When does it become time to acknowledge that maybe this virus was something worth a little fear — or at minimum, clear-eyed apprehension?

I was also confidently assured by the likes of Eric Trump that “after November 3 coronavirus will magically all of a sudden go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.” At the end of October, President Trump said during a rally, “That’s all I hear about now. Turn on TV, ‘Covid, Covid, Covid Covid Covid.’ A plane goes down, five hundred people dead, they don’t talk about it. ‘Covid Covid Covid Covid.’ By the way, on November 4th, you won’t hear about it anymore.”

The implication from their remarks was that concern about the pandemic and calls for social distancing, avoiding crowds, mask-wearing, frequent handwashing, etcetera all around the world were mostly an effort to stir up public fear before the election to ensure Donald Trump’s defeat.

Except we’re more than a week after Election Day, and the virus has not magically suddenly gone away and disappeared, and we are still hearing about it. Eric Trump and the president made those confident predictions because they don’t know much of anything about anything when it comes to this pandemic — even after Trump was hospitalized with the virus. They have consistently wish-cast their way through this pandemic and given the public one sweeping assurance after another that turned out to be wrong.

We’ve seen some good news on several fronts. The news that the Pfizer vaccine is 90 percent effective is wonderful, and a sign that the light is now visible at the end of the tunnel. (The Pfizer vaccine does have the complication that it must be kept at an extremely cold temperature and requires two doses. Other vaccines that are still in development by companies such as Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and GlaxoSmithKline will only require regular refrigeration.)

But until that vaccine starts getting injected into our most vulnerable populations, we’re still in for a difficult stretch. The weather is turning colder in most parts of the country, people are spending more time indoors and in closer quarters, and the virus is spreading more quickly. The virus doesn’t care what time of year it is, whether it’s a holiday, whether you’re at a Black Lives Matter rally or a Trump rally or a Biden election-celebration party. It just wants to jump from one human body to another.

Yes, most people will pull through okay, and probably 40-some percent will be asymptomatic. But we’re now considerably north of 1,000 deaths per day on weekdays nationwide. Maybe we’ll reach 2,000 new deaths per day, maybe we won’t. Little of this pandemic has been predictable.

What is indisputable is that we are in significantly worse condition now compared to a month ago. On October 12, 35,072 Americans were in the hospital for COVID-19, and 1,666 were on ventilators. Yesterday, 67,096 Americans were in the hospital for COVID-19, and 3,459 were on ventilators.

Somewhere along the line, “We have to take this seriously” became widely interpreted as “We need to lock down society again” and vice versa. Social distancing, wearing masks when around others in public, avoiding crowds, and frequent handwashing ought to be enough.

Americans have seen too many cases of on-again, off-again lecturing about wearing masks and social distancing over the past nine months. Andrew Cuomo has already reached the merchandizing stage of celebrating his effort against the virus. (Cases in New York State have almost doubled in the past month.) The White House Office of Science and Technology issued that infamous press release that listed “ending the COVID-19 pandemic” as one of the administration’s accomplishments. The first steps at reopening were characterized as “human sacrifice” — think of that idiot dressed up as the Grim Reaper to harass people lying on the beach more than six feet away from others outdoors in Florida — and then the Biden celebrations in the streets were characterized as “exciting catharsis.” Gatherings the media like are rarely described as a potential spreader event, while gatherings the media don’t like are “killing Grandma.

In light of this ludicrous double standard and scientific illiteracy, very few Americans will agree to give up their Thanksgiving gatherings, even if it involves elderly relatives. It is hard to begrudge them; they live in a country where almost nothing about our quarantine restrictions make sense. Most strip clubs are open while most public schools are closed.

America’s leaders aren’t demonstrating good examples and the media are shoehorning every bit of data into Goofus-and-Gallant tales of good and wise Democratic governors and bad and foolish Republican ones. The top five states in deaths-per-million population are New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Louisiana.

But the virus doesn’t care about any of this. It’s just going to keep jumping from human being to human being, whenever it gets the opportunity. And people will keep giving the virus the opportunity.

I suspect there is a nice smooth line connecting the dots between believing that all of the doctors and health experts recommending wearing a mask are lying to you, and believing that the death count from the CDC is a lie, and believing that hospitals falsely claim people died of coronavirus to make more money, and believing that the COVID-19 is akin to the mundane flu, and believing that Pfizer withheld a working vaccine until after the election to ensure Trump didn’t get credit, and a habitual knee-jerk rejection of anything that doesn’t match your preconceived notions and what you want to hear. And maybe all of this is just down the street from calling for Fauci to be beheaded and for his head to be put on a pike in front of the White House “as a warning.”

Speaking of Denial of Reality . . .

The president of the United States, yesterday: “REPORT: DOMINION DELETED 2.7 MILLION TRUMP VOTES NATIONWIDE. DATA ANALYSIS FINDS 221,000 PENNSYLVANIA VOTES SWITCHED FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP TO BIDEN. 941,000 TRUMP VOTES DELETED. STATES USING DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS SWITCHED 435,000 VOTES FROM TRUMP TO BIDEN.”

It’s the old “Diebold machines stole the election in Ohio for Bush” conspiracy theory, but on a larger scale and in reverse.

While we’re connecting those dots about people having a pattern of instinctively rejecting any information they don’t want to hear, maybe we should throw in believing that there is a vast conspiracy of people who run elections to use software to switch votes from the Republican nominee to the Democratic nominee. The members of two working groups overseeing the election just issued a statement that is sweeping, definitive, and crystal clear:

“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. Right now, across the country, election officials are reviewing and double checking the entire election process prior to finalizing the result.

“When states have close elections, many will recount ballots. All of the states with close results in the 2020 presidential race have paper records of each vote, allowing the ability to go back and count each ballot if necessary. This is an added benefit for security and resilience. This process allows for the identification and correction of any mistakes or errors. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.

“Other security measures like pre-election testing, state certification of voting equipment, and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) certification of voting equipment help to build additional confidence in the voting systems used in 2020.

“While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too. When you have questions, turn to elections officials as trusted voices as they administer elections.”

The scenarios the president describes would require large numbers of Republican state, county, and local secretaries of state, state attorneys general, county clerks, boards of elections, and poll workers to participate in this vast, secret effort to switch votes from Trump to Biden.

ADDENDUM: If you’re not a subscriber to NRPlus, it’s worth it, just for Charlie Cooke’s takedown of the mainstream media’s coverage of — or perhaps it is better described as a substitution for — Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. “Until recently, the news shows merely featured ‘political strategists.’ In 2020, they absorbed them.”

Also in the newest print issue, I have an article looking at the “Never Trump” movement and the 2020 election, and come to a conclusion that will probably disappoint both “Never Trump” fans and its most vociferous critics: “Never Trump” wasn’t big enough to sway the presidential election one way or another, even if you define “Never Trump” as every voter who voted for a Republican governor or senator but not for the president himself. If every last voter who voted for a GOP senator or governor had voted for Trump as well, he would have gained . . . another eleven electoral votes: Omaha, New Hampshire, Vermont, and the rest of Maine. That would change what is likely to be a 306-232 electoral college split into a 295-243 split.

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