The Winter of Our Discontent: the Pandemic Chronicles part II

The year 2020 left the human aspect of the planet in disarray. Disastrous natural events coupled with the usual accompaniment of fatalities, mishaps and bad luck seemed to make that particular year more personal than others. Then there was the pandemic. What was usually acknowledged as “business as usual” became a struggle to survive and in many cases devolved into tragedy and mourning. The world at large was faced with its first deadly pandemic in a century. It rapidly became evident that despite all of the modern advances in technology, information and the wisdom of the ages it didn’t really matter. Humanity still suffered and died. Viruses spread by opportunity and the cunning talent of mutations, human society provides them fertile ground to exercise this and fulfill their destiny. In fact, the only edge our species has against viruses is the ability to mutate our own genes faster through the benefits of medical science. 

As the past year faded into the new, 2021 brought some promise in the United States. A new President, two qualified vaccines and above all, it was no longer 2020. Then January 6th came crashing down with all of the sound and fury of a glacier collapsing into the sea. Riot and sedition were the rule of the day as furious protesters took the country’s political matters into their own hands, invading the nation’s Capitol building to disrupt the process of electoral vote ratification. The mob was overwhelmingly white and middle-class, considering the amount of chaos and damage done things could have turned out much worse for the rioters. Many brought up the point that if they had been by majority darker skinned it would have. America’s first white temper-tantrum of the year earned the obligatory condemnation from the media and expected political aficionados. The election results will remain the same, the accomplishment of the protesters (other than federal criminal investigations) is to declare the legitimacy of the rise of a third party in America’s political game: QAnon. Ironically, the protests leading up to the riot as with all enraged conservative political rallies were super-spreader events. America was experiencing a spike in cases as a result of the holiday season which saw larger gatherings and less discipline. However, the rise in cases did not reach the catastrophe level that some had expected. One exception was the state of California which was in dire straits with record numbers, overflowing ER’s and a problem with cadaver storage. 

The Long Road Home

The great danger now faced by all communities is the false sense of security that the announcement of anti-virus immunization offers. Quantities are extremely limited, even in western countries such as the U.S. and the rollout plans so far have been poorly executed. With the entrance of the 46th President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, the country finally has a plan to deal with the pandemic. Donald Trump’s administration was poorly organized and he spent the majority of the past year refuting recommendations from experts on his own staff such as Dr. Fauci, openly flouting pandemic protocols, and gutting the country’s healthcare systems in the wake of the spreading threat. The result saw the United States quickly occupy the world’s highest virus infection and death rates, figures that can be tracked day to day at the WHO site. If the U.S. is to loosen the grip of this pandemic it needs to take it seriously. Despite resistance from medical professionals and the lead of Europe and Asian countries, professional sports has resisted suspending league play in the name of making money. The entertainment industry has otherwise completely collapsed as moviegoers and live events are nowhere to be found in a landscape filled with paranoia and restrictions. 

Even with a plan in place and vaccine distribution beginning for caregivers, first responders and at-risk demographics, it will take months for a majority of citizens to be vaccinated and even longer for a population the size of the U.S. to reach a “herd immunization” level. This is not taking into consideration the challenges of convincing everyone of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. Also getting it to the country’s rural populations presents a technical issue as it must be refrigerated and is only usable for a short period after removal from cold storage. Statistics already indicate a higher mortality rate among minority communities. It has decimated the Navajo Nation along with many other tribal communities. 

Unlike wars and international conflicts, a virus has no boundaries and it is able to thrive in a multitude of environments. The greatest weapon we can wield as hosts and vectors is discipline. However this is a fact that is lost upon many American citizens. They will continue to defy common sense and as a result they, and those around them, will suffer and die unnecessarily. 

The Dark at the End of the Tunnel

    The pandemic will end, eventually. It is just apparent that it will end in the United States of America last. Next holiday season while the Chinese, Germans, French, Australians, Iraqi, Indian, Somalian, Phillipine, etc. are celebrating the season and New Year, Americans will still be resisting wearing masks while they home-school their kids and prepare to put more loved ones in the ground. Where did it go so wrong for the world’s most powerful, wealthiest, spoiled nation? Some may say it was early on, but unfortunately it’s a lot more complex than that. Lawrence Wright has a good idea of the ways that the country and government failed itself and citizens and he brings up some good points. But this isn’t something that boils down to just a single moment or individual affecting the whole. Any country’s subsistence is the result of countless moving parts and factors that affect those parts. To say that Donald Trump deserves all the blame for the failure of our medical system and support network is absurd. But Trump definitely played a part and many who followed him chose to view the pandemic as a point for political contention instead of a health crisis. In a year as politically polarizing as the election year of 2020 was, Covid-19 took the stage with candidates as just another talking point. 

    It is natural to want to point the finger of blame, because this is the easier way to quantify what has happened to the world. Human society is always been quick to anoint a scapegoat which, ironically, has almost always been the wrong approach to a dire situation. The best way to approach problem solving is to assess the cause, effect and likely solutions to reach the best possible result. In the case of Covid-19, humans are the cause, effect and also the best means to resolve the health threat of infection. This means that the solution to resolving infection rates and reduce mortality was to assess our own behavior and change it accordingly. As I have outlined here and is recorded with raw statistics, the United States failed at a higher rate than any other developed (and many undeveloped) nations. What this proves is that access to all of the resources that this country has is not enough to win a war or stop a deadly outbreak on their own merits. Ultimately our individual well-being must be determined by our own actions, and when we allow our political allegiances and the opinions of others to steer our judgement then we have acceded that control.

    We have seen what it will take to overcome the pandemic and initiate a return to normal. Whether we make the choice to do so remains to be seen. 2021 could be a year that America steps from the shadows of a year marred by disease and discord, or it could reinforce the fact that as a society we must either face the image in the mirror or continue to live (and die) in an illusion.

United States of America: R.I.P. 500K and counting…

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