After three years of lies, misinformation, and general chaos from the highest office in the land, we are now in a pandemic that has people everywhere doubting the institutions that have been the bedrock of our society. There’s a large segment of our population that doesn’t know who or what to believe. We are ripe for all kinds of conspiracy theories.
One coronavirus conspiracy theory I’ve seen popping up says that COVID-19 was manufactured in a secret lab deep in the heart of China. First it was the Chinese government making a new bioweapon, then it was George Soros and then Bill Gates. The last two are mega billionaires who do not like Trump, so it makes sense in the right-wing version “I’ll believe anything” kind of way.
The coronavirus has been around for a long time. We’ve seen it in the form of SARS and other epidemics. COVID-19 is just the latest. Reports were coming out about this disease in November, when China was actively trying to downplay its significance. We also know now that Trump’s advisors were telling him about it in late December and by January were saying this was going to become a pandemic and sweep across America. As we know Trump ignored all the early warnings.
Then there is the variation on the actual count of how many have it and how many have died. The experts believe the number of those infected and the number of deaths are low because of shoddy record keeping and more importantly, a lack of testing. As of today about 1% of Americans have been tested. Plus, the health care industry is only counting people that have had symptoms, or were in contact with people that were diagnosed with COVID-19 and were put into the hospital or quarantined. On top of that they only count the people who have died in hospitals. Those that die at home or other facilities are not counted.
NBC, for instance, found out the government wasn’t tracking infected patients and COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and other long-term medical facilities. So when we read on Tuesday morning (April 14) there are 587,337 confirmed cases and 23,649 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, we should assume those number are quite low. There could be a couple hundred thousand more carriers of the coronavirus and possibly 5,000-10,000 more deaths. And we can assume there are more than the 44,207 reported recoveries.
Yet there is a conspiracy theory out there that says the infected and death counts are inflated so Democrats and their allies can keep the economy closed to make Trump look bad for this upcoming election.
Or, on the left, the numbers are inflated so the government can have a reason to exert more control over the population.
Which conspiracy theory fits your ideology? Maybe it’s both. Maybe Soros and Gates teamed up to inflate the numbers after creating the virus.
In the meantime, we have Donald Trump suspending payments to the W.H.O. and blaming everyone but himself for the lack of adequate testing “It’s up to the governors,” he said, in answer to a question about social distancing from reporter Brian Karem. Karem’s persistence in trying to ask the follow up to Trump’s non-answer with the question about social distancing sent the president into a meltdown. The moment is priceless is the annals of Trump’s press rallies. It’s about 53 minutes into the video.
Trump threatened to walk out of his own press rally. But he wouldn’t do that of course. His ego won’t let him give up all that free airtime.
The other peculiar thing that is happening right now are the number of Trump followers that are bashing Dr. Anthony Fauci for the many times his honest answers about COVID-19 undercut the president’s meandering, nonsensical bullshit. Fauci has been working with infectious diseases for over 40 years. There is no one more knowledgeable on the subject than Dr. Anthony Fauci. If you want somebody to lead an effort to stop a pandemic in the U.S., Dr. Fauci is the guy you want. Everyone wants Dr. Fauci.
Except the Trump sycophants.
There’s a satirist who is a big hitter on Twitter by the name of Jeremy Newberger. He posted this Tuesday: “I am seeing a lot of anti-Fauci sentiment on Twitter and Facebook from the right. Is it his uncanny knowledge of infectious diseases, expertise on pathogenic microorganisms, or his unwillingness to prescribe populist stupidity?”
That about says it all. He has many more entertaining tweets. Trump threatened India if they didn’t send millions of doses of the drug hydroxychloroquine to the U.S. Even though the drug has not been proven to have any beneficial effect on treating the coronavirus. And then there is this: The C.I.A. warned its employees not to try hydroxychloroquine, saying “At this point, the drug is not recommended to be used by patients except by medical professionals prescribing it as part of ongoing investigational studies. There are potentially significant side effects, including sudden cardiac death, associated with hydroxychloroquine and its individual use in patients need to be carefully selected and monitored by a health care professional.” In bold letters they add, “Please do not obtain this medication on your own.”
The FAA forbids pilots from using it with 48 hours of flying.
So, how many Trump fanatics are going to go out and get this drug and then have some terrible side effect from it? Possibly die? There are Trump fanatics on social media demanding Dr. Fauci approve the drug cocktail of Hydroxchloroquine and Azithromycin because someone decided this was a ready vaccine/cure for the coronavirus.
First of all COVID-19 is a virus. Azithromycin is an antibiotic and would have no effect on COVID-19. Antibiotics only work on bacteria. And of course Hydroxchloroquine has not been proven to be effective against coronavirus and has the very serious side effects, like death.
Now the governors of various states — including Gavin Newsom of California — have started mapping out plans to restart the economies in their states, in a measured, cautious way that hopefully won’t cause a second surge of the virus, at least not before there is adequate testing. Newsom had a press conference on Tuesday outlining how a relaxing of physical/social distancing rules would look. He proposed a six-point plan with experts focused on each area:
- The ability to monitor and protect communities through testing, tracking positive cases, properly isolate and support individuals who are positive and/or exposed to COVID-19.
- The ability to prevent infection in high-risk groups, including older residents, homeless and those with underlying health conditions.
- The ability for hospitals and health care systems to handle a potential surge in cases through adequate staffing, hospital beds and supplies including ventilators, masks and other personal protective equipment.
- The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand.
- The ability for businesses, schools and child care facilities to support physical distancing guidelines as well as provide supplies and equipment to workforces and customers to keep them safe from illness.
- Developing guidelines to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as Safer at Home guidelines, if necessary, based on relevant data.
Newsom didn’t say when this would start, but we can assume some time after May 15, the end of Newsom’s extension of the stay-at-home order.
At one of his latest daily press rallies Trump was asked about how he would lift the stay-at-home and social distancing rules. After all, he hasn’t set any rules for anything pertaining to the mitigation of COVID-19. But Trump declared, in his imperial voice, “When somebody’s the President of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be.”
Trump added, “The authority of the President of the United States having to do with the subject we’re talking about is total.” Of the governors Trump said, “They can’t do anything without the approval of the President of the United States.”
Constitutional scholars have been busy ever since searching for some reference in the Constitution and the Federalist Papers that gives the presidency unfettered power.
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York just ordered that everyone must wear a mask when outside their homes. Doesn’t sound like the state of New York will be coming off the protection rules any time soon. Certainly not on May 1.
There are some Republicans who believe the science — to some degree — but also believe vulnerable people need to take one for the team. Like Indiana Congressman Trey Collingsworth who spoke on a radio show about getting the economy moving again. “We are going to have to look Americans in the eye and say, ‘We are making the best decisions for the most Americans possible.’ And the answer to that is unequivocally to get Americans back to work, to get Americans back to their businesses.”
Dying in the cause of getting the economy rolling again isn’t so bad. Hell, millions did it for the Spanish Flu pandemic in 2018! Collingsworth told radio show host Tony Katz, “It is policymakers’ decision to put on our big boy and big girl pants and say, ‘This is the lesser of these two evils. And it is not zero evil, but it is the lesser of these evils, and we intend to move forward in that direction.’ That is our responsibility, and to abdicate that is to insult the Americans that voted us into office.”
Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana was on Fox News saying more infections and deaths is the price we pay to get the economy going. Who is “we”? Is he volunteering to die for the cause?
In the words of Josie Wales (played by Clint Eastwood), “Dying ain’t much of a living.”
I would just like to point this out: As I am a card carrying selfish coward I will not be volunteering to take a bullet for the economy. Start with someone in Trey Collingsworth’s family.
In Wednesday’s press rally Trump started out with a campaign video, but then went on to complain about the appointments of judges and administration officials. My question is: was Trump trying to say Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the Republicans can’t walk and chew gum at the same time?
Trump tried to blame Democrats for slowing up the process, but the GOP controls the entire confirmation process. There is no 60-vote cloture for nominations so Republicans can just blow past the Democrats on every nomination, for judges and administration officials. Maybe it’s other Republicans holding up some of those nominations. Now Moscow Mitch is saying the confirmations will need Democrats.
This president is a train wreck. He’s stopped funding for the World Health Organization at precisely the time we need the W.H.O. He blames the organization for China trying to avoid transparency in the early days of this pandemic — even though there is video of the W.H.O. trying to warn the world and corresponding video of Trump praising China for its transparency, as early as January and as late as the end of February.
President Trump is searching for a scapegoat and he’s settled on the W.H.O. In the U.S. he is focused on states and governors who won’t open up the economy to his satisfaction. On Wednesday he threatened states with a “shutdown” if they didn’t open up the economy to his liking.
Most governors believe — know — there is a lot of work left to be done before relaxing restrictions on the populace. Top of that list is testing for the coronavirus and then contact tracing so the spread of the disease can be tracked and slowed, or maybe even stopped.
Then there’s the Republican Governor of South Dakota, Kristi L. Noem. She called the stay-at-home orders a “herd mentality” and that it is up to individuals to decide for themselves whether to “… exercise their right to work, to worship and to play. Or to even stay at home.”
As a result, Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city has become one of the nation’s biggest hotspots in the nation and Smithfield Foods, a pork processing plant, has become the biggest single source of COVID-19 in the nation.
South Dakota has a population of 884,659 people, as of last year and now they have 1,168 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Smithfield has over 3,700 employees that are now out of work, but they also have over 500 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Another 126 people not employed at the plant, but connected to people that are employees, have it as well.
Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken has improvised his own restrictions, knowing that the communities surrounding his city have no restrictions. People who may or may not be infected will go out to those other communities, shake hands, hug their friends and family, possibly spreading COVID-19. One step forward, two steps backward.
So, this pandemic will continue in this country because governors like Noem will stand strong against taking action because they “are not New York City” or Detroit, etc. It will be interesting — and scary — to watch how quickly the coronavirus spreads through South Dakota and other rural states. Maybe those states will absorb the majority of people that will have to take one for the team and die from COVID-19 in order to support the economy.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent an open letter to her colleagues, and the rest of us. In it she says, “success requires one fundamental from which all actions will follow: we need the truth. To succeed in this crisis, we must insist on the truth, and we must act upon it!”
Pelosi points out several glaring realities, getting back to the central issue in the coronavirus pandemic — testing. “… we do not have appropriate testing. The President continues to obfuscate, saying we have more testing than any other country in the world. The truth is that only 1 percent of Americans have been tested. The failure to test is central to the spread of the virus and its impact on those most vulnerable in our society. The failure to test is dangerous and deadly, and without testing, we cannot resume our lives.”
We need to ramp up the testing. Three cheers to Sean Penn and CORE for helping out in a big way with testing.
As of Wednesday evening, April 15, there are 644,025 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and 32,196 deaths. That’s an increase of 56,688 new cases and 8,547 deaths in the past, roughly 24 hours, since I first started writing this. By the end of this month we could have another 70,000 deaths from COVID-19. By the end of May we could be looking at a death toll of more than 200,000.
The curve is beginning to flatten in key areas, but it’s growing in others. Don’t expect this pandemic to go away any time soon. We can write off sports for the remainder of the year, possibly into 2021. We need to hunker down and let this thing run its course, slowing the spread as we wait for a vaccination. When we have one available, for free, we can say this pandemic is over.
Top photo is a YouTube screenshot of President Trump during one of his Rose Garden press rallies
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.