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An Historical Perspective


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Reading time – 3:18 .  .  .

COVID-19 has at last caught up to our science-denying President. Of course, it was inevitable, given his flaunting of all protections, other than getting tested, which isn’t protection at all. By the time someone tests positive they’re already both sick and contagious.

In President Trump’s case, he did what he always does: He thought only of himself and managed to knowingly infect many others, including hundreds at his Bedminster club. The next episode of his contagion spreading happened Sunday at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He went for a joyride to greet the crowds lining Rockville Pike at the western edge of the hospital campus. He rode in the President’s armored, hermetically sealed SUV, along with his Secret Service detail of 2 agents.

In a sealed vehicle.

As he exhaled clouds of coronavirus containing droplets.

They were all wearing masks, but that isn’t complete protection for the Secret Service agents from Trump’s viral fog in that sealed space. The extra bad news is that whatever infection was passed from Trump to those agents they’re going to take home to their families.

On the other hand, I’m sure Trump appeared to be the strong warrior to his fans on the sidewalk. Being a tough guy is very important to all of them, Trump included. Knowing that helps to explain the schoolyard bully behavior of demeaning others and name calling. For them, putting others down is a strength of character thing. King of the mountain. Manly man. Macho. Puff-up stuff.

When Trump arrived back at the White House on Monday evening he stood on the Truman balcony and saluted Mussolini-style. The last thing he did before turning and walking inside was to strip off his mask, heedless of the infection he was almost certain to spread to others in the always heavily-peopled White House.

From the New York Times Tuesday morning newsletter,

“’Don’t be afraid of Covid,’ President Trump tweeted, on the same day that the White House outbreak spread further and another several hundred Americans died from virus complications.”

This is just the latest series of incidents to generate this question: What would the hair-on-fire Republicans be saying if instead it had been President Obama going for that joyride and entering the White House mask-less?

They’d be apoplectic. They’d be maniacally blurting and frothing. They would be all over cable news and on the Sunday talk shows with their eyes bulging and the veins in their necks throbbing in self-righteous indignation and rage. We know that because we saw that almost weekly for the 8 years of the Obama administration. They even went berserk over Obama wearing a tan suit.

If you close your eyes and listen carefully, you can almost hear their wailing today:

“O’ the fecklessness!” (They liked to use that word when speaking about President Obama.)*

“O’ the betrayal of our brave Secret Service agents!”

“O’ the abandoning of our national security!”

“Woe be unto us from this reckless, feckless Black president!” They’d leave out “Black” but everyone would hear the dog whistle just the same.

That’s not what’s happening in reaction to President Trump’s joyride and his restarted campaign to infect White House staff. The Republicans are absolutely silent about what Trump has done. I guess fecklessness, the lives of Secret Service agents and the White House staff and Trump’s ditching of our national security just don’t matter as much now as they did back in the Obama years.

Or perhaps this is just another Republican spineless moment. Time for an additional Jellyfish Award. And time to vote these invertebrates out of office before they do yet more damage.

Numbers of Note

7.4 million Americans have been infected by the coronavirus. That’s 2.2% of our total population. Of those infected, over 211,000 have died.** That’s a COVID-19 mortality rate of 2.8%. Roughly 200,000 more are predicted to die by the end of the year.

The seasonal flu is not a reportable disease, so the CDC doesn’t have perfect numbers for it. Their best estimates are that in 2019-2020 between 39 – 56 million Americans became sick from seasonal flu (that’s between 11.8% and 17% of our total population) and between 24 – 62 thousand died. That’s a seasonal flu mortality rate of 0.06% – 0.11%.

That means the mortality rate of COVID-19 is at least 25 times worse than seasonal flu.

This pandemic  is not “no worse than the seasonal flu.” It’s deadlier. And it hasn’t and it won’t “miraculously disappear,” especially if we continue to refuse to do what is necessary to beat it.

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*Feckless: lacking initiative or strength of character; irresponsible.

**It’s likely that approximately 80,000 additional people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S., based on several analyses. Precise reporting is quite difficult in the middle of a pandemic; plus, there have been many deaths at home or otherwise away from reporting centers due largely to an overwhelmed medical system.

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Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
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