At what point do we start holding people accountable for prolonging & exacerbating this catastrophe?

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We visited a nearby town yesterday. You’d never guess there was a pandemic. To be fair, I haven’t heard of anyone being infected from 2 minutes inside a QT, and perhaps all these people had COVID already. I disagree with the risk-benefit analysis of the anti-mask crowd, but I can understand how someone who doesn’t work in a hospital or listen to the news could feel like life is going on more/less as normal. Honestly, given how much of the US continues to ignore the virus, it’s baffling to me that our hospitals and morgues aren’t much fuller.

I heard someone say this pandemic is the first national disaster in US history that has divided the country instead of uniting us.

I dislike politics. The struggle for power brings out the worst in us, and the temptations of fame and fortune bring out some of the worst among us to compete for positions of influence. Americans will always have political differences, and our system is designed to accommodate that. But I’m not sure our system can survive a country divided into two camps that not only differ in matters of opinion but are also working from competing versions of reality based on opposite sets of facts, and from increasingly incongruent value systems. Our Republic can function if we disagree on taxes, foreign policy, gun safety, and a thousand other issues; it cannot function if we disagree about the validity of every election our candidate (e.g., Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucuses or Trump in the general election) doesn’t win, about slanderous conspiracy claims levelled without evidence against government institutions and entire professional communities, or about the desirability of democratic government itself.

It’s not a cheap shot for someone who values human life to note that of the 25 states with the highest COVID-19 death rates over the past week, only 3 (NV, #15; WA, #24; NM, #25) weren’t won by Trump in 2016. This pattern in the data is nothing new. The list of total deaths per capita since the pandemic’s start is a bit more mixed, but the pattern is clear; NY, NJ, and IL were hit badly early on, and only three other states that went Blue in 2016 make the top 25. Of course, states differ in how urban vs. rural they are, number of hospitals per capita, and the average age, health, SES, and education of their citizens. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that Trump’s America has responded very differently to the pandemic than the rest of the country; all 8 states that have banned school mask mandates are Red, and county vaccination rates are clearly correlated inversely with the percent of vote won by Trump in 2020.

I often wonder where we would be if then-president Trump and his media backers had taken a different approach from the start. “We didn’t start this pandemic, but it’s serious, and we have to deal with it.” It could have been his finest hour. No mixed messages, no ignorant comparisons with seasonal flu, no promoting unproven “cures,” no making fun of masks, no undermining public confidence in our scientists and medical community, no hiring and listening to crackpots who aren’t experts in infectious diseases, no political interference with the CDC, and no lying to downplay the pandemic. Thankfully, his administration did invest in developing COVID vaccines. Unfortunately, when a group spends years sowing distrust in science, those whom they’ve turned against the scientific community aren’t easily convinced to trust the “liars” in lab coats all of a sudden, just this once.

Protestors are targeting hospitals. Health care workers are being booed, cursed, threatened, and physically assaulted. A hospital in Branson has added a panic button to staff badges. What did we think would happen after 18 months of conspiracy-mongering and accusations ranging from fake diagnoses/Medicare fraud to suppression of miracle cures, allowing people to perish for profit, and even murder? How do we think this movie ends when QAnon lunatics are being elected to high-ranking offices; the violent seizure of our Capitol by a mob, including Nazis, who beat a police officer to death and sought to assassinate the Vice President and overturn the election is viewed as patriotic; and 80% of one party believes the last election was stolen despite their side losing >60 election cases in court, GOP-initiated recounts that confirm the original results, and the strange failure of the masterful conspirators to win the Senate and not lose seats in the House?

As a percentage of the US population this group may seem small, but a small percentage of an enormous number can be an enormous number. Suppose just 15% of the US population has fallen into the OAN/Newsmax/Tucker Carlson madhouse; that would be >5 million people. For a sense of the carnage 5 million unhinged zealots can cause, the free population of the entire Confederacy was only 5.5 million. Whatever the number, it’s been more than enough to overwhelm our hospitals and lead to non-COVID patients dying while waiting for a bed.

I wish I knew how to stop this cancer from spreading, but I don’t.

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