This is the last Morning Jolt until Monday. Please have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. Today we put aside the usual political rigamarole and focus on everything that’s gone right in what has been a difficult and painful year for so many Americans.
Giving Thanks, amidst All This
This year has been a terrible one for many Americans. Start with the pandemic; move on to the sudden halt to the economy forced by the quarantines and lockdowns; throw in the widespread outrage over George Floyd and then the violence, riots, and looting in many cities; wildfires in the West; multiple hurricanes in the gulf; and wrap up with a deep and lingering division over the presidential election. Beyond our shores, the pandemic has inflicted a terrible toll, China cracked down on Hong Kong, and Beirut blew up. We’ve lost beloved figures such as Alex Trebek, Sean Connery, Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and many more famous and accomplished figures.
Oh, and the murder hornets! That nest up in Washington State had nearly 200 queens and had to be removed by a team that looked like the Hawkins National Laboratory containment teams from Stranger Things. Come to think of it, we didn’t even get to watch a new season of Stranger Things this year.
Thanksgiving this year just isn’t going to be the same. Many Americans are deciding to keep their distance from elderly relatives this Thanksgiving and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is drastically altered — Social distancing! No crowds! Repackaged as a television show! — and many traditional Thanksgiving high-school football games are canceled. With so many traditional aspects of the holiday altered or canceled, it’s easy to wonder what we should be thankful for, when everything seems to be going wrong.
We can be thankful for everyone we know who is still around and upright. The pandemic toll has been terrible, the worst calamity to strike the United States in many years, but it indeed could have been worse. We altered our behavior like never before and figured out how to temporarily adapt. Yes, we have had messy fights about masks and when businesses could be open and all the rest. But most Americans aren’t the jerk who walks up to strangers and exhales on them to prove a point, and most Americans aren’t the finger-wagging Karens who gleefully confront strangers about perceived gaps in behavior, or the nut who punched a guy on a plane because he wouldn’t wear a mask. Don’t let the weirdos and outliers featured on the news and social media shape your perception of who we are as a country. Look around your community . . . from a distance of at least six feet away. Most people are doing the best they can.
Yes, Governor Gavin Newsom and many other prominent lawmakers are ludicrous, infuriating hypocrites. But most Americans took simple steps to avoid catching the virus and so far, that’s worked for most of them. A couple of states have shockingly high positive testing rates right now — almost 59 percent in Wyoming! — but in 45 states, at least three quarters of tests are coming back negative. If you haven’t caught it in the past nine months, then the precautionary steps you’re taking are probably working.
If you do catch COVID-19 now, you’ve got better odds and much better options than in March:
An analysis prepared for STAT by the independent nonprofit FAIR Health found that the mortality rate of select hospitalized Covid-19 patients in the U.S. dropped from 11.4% in March to below 5% in June, a threshold the rate has stayed below since. In September, the most recent month available, the mortality rate was 3.7%, according to FAIR Health’s data, which are based on hospital coding information for approximately 100 million people with private insurance, including Medicare Advantage plans.
Patients have also been leaving the hospital faster, according to the data. The average length of stay declined from 10.5 days in March to 4.6 days in September.
The Food and Drug Administration just approved a second antibody treatment for those who get sick with COVID-19, one of the experimental drugs that President Trump received while he was battling the coronavirus.
The Moderna vaccine works and appears to have minimal side effects, the Pfizer vaccine works and doesn’t need to be stored at super-cold temperatures, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine works, is easier to mass produce, and is cheaper. Johnson & Johnson’s could make four. (If testing continues to show good results and the FDA approves, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be a rare case of a product from Chris and Woody Johnson that does not disappoint fans.)
Operation Warp Speed chief scientific adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui told CNN that he expects the first Americans to be vaccinated within a day or two of FDA emergency authorization, which would be December 12 or so. That’s two weeks from Saturday!
In March, we had no idea if a vaccine was possible. Go back and check. Genuinely smart epidemiologists, quoted by reputable media organizations, thought it might be impossible, or that it would take way more than a year.
Whether anyone wants to acknowledge this or not, the vaccine race resulted in another triumph for the United States and its Western allies. Vladimir Putin still hasn’t taken either Russian vaccine, despite the Russian government’s confident assertions that they are safe. China says its vaccine is effective, but other countries aren’t so sure they can trust assertions from Beijing. See, some people are learning the lessons of 2020!
Sometime, in the next few months, you and your loved ones will feel comfortable going into a movie theater or a crowded restaurant or a concert or live theater performance or a sports game. You’ll be comfortable in a crowd — or at least as comfortable as you were before the pandemic. Airlines, hotels, tourism, perhaps even cruise lines will come back — perhaps roaring back.
One side effect of having so many of our usual ways of enjoying ourselves canceled, restricted, or otherwise limited: For some Americans, their personal savings are up significantly. Credit-card balances are down, debts are being paid, and credit scores are rising.
If your 401(k) or other investments got hammered earlier this year, there’s a good chance they’ve recovered. The Dow Jones Industrial Average made up its losses a few days ago and cracked 30,000 yesterday. Maybe you will be able to retire someday!
When we gather this year, many of us will still have plenty — even if we’re going to have more first-time turkey cookers than usual. Earlier this year, some supermarkets seemed to be running low on meat. Now we have oversupply in some areas, and prices have come down.
As of this writing, it appears that all three NFL games scheduled for Thanksgiving will go forward; earlier in the week, between an outbreak among Baltimore Ravens players and the sudden hospitalization of Dallas Cowboys strength-and-conditioning coach Markus Paul, that was not 100 percent certain. This year — knocking on wood — we’ve had truncated and unusual but completed seasons for the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, and, so far, the National Football League. A few games have been postponed here and there. Players have contracted COVID-19, and — again, knocking on wood — seen no long-term ill effects. As late as August, completed seasons didn’t look like a safe bet.
Finally . . . most of us will have sufficient supplies of toilet paper. Last weekend I went out to get paper towels and grabbed the wrong massive package of rolls, so now the Geraghty house is stocked up on toilet paper until roughly 2022. Just think, in late March and early April, that would have made me a billionaire!
ADDENDUM: I could nag you to check out Hunting Four Horsemen on Black Friday, but instead I will probably do my annual roundup of National Review-related books and gifts for Cyber Monday.