"What's the Worst That Could Happen?"
The Mass COVID Death Toll We're Ignoring and the Pundits Who Mock It
As of Feb. 4, 2022, the United States passed 900,000 deaths from COVID-19. And let's be clear, the death toll is likely much higher and some COVID deaths weren't reported as such. But 900,000 people are still dead. And yet so many want to move on. As if you can when the pandemic is still happening and people are still dying.
They are still dying. This month there were several days in a row where the death toll was around 3,000 people per day. That's roughly the equivalent of the deaths on Sept. 11, 2001. A 9/11 every day. And many more are dealing with the symptoms and debilitating effects of long COVID. But even as people scream “COVID is over” the rest of the country honestly seems to be ignoring the pandemic and the losses.
I keep going back to this video of hard partying spring breakers in 2020, when the virus was widespread and people were trying to stay home.
Remember that time? “Flattening the curve” was the goal. People were losing jobs and places were closing and everyone was trying to isolate to not get sick.
(Also worth noting that Brady Sluder, the spring breaker in the video with the flippant attitude, did apologize for his comments and did again in 2021, urging people to take COVID seriously, but still.)
Think about it: What real collective acknowledgment and processing has there been? Joe Biden had a moment of silence at his inauguration. Maybe that was the biggest nationwide moment, but then the death toll was far lower. The National Cathedral's bells tolled for the 900,000 dead on Feb. 7. But we're not seeing mass funerals. The early images of freezer trucks at morgues are off TVs. Even as each wave arrives and the death toll not only grows but grows at a faster rate, we're seeing less and less of that reality. It's “normal” life, malls are full, people are broadcasting the crowded Super Bowl, concerts and the usual celebrity gossip. Even as the pandemic is killing more people.
And yet everyone is trying to dismiss it.
There's that horrible cliché quote, “one is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.” Sadly it's proving true here. When the death toll hit 100,000, the New York Times did a brilliant, rough, brutal front page acknowledging the dead and the loss. When it hit 900,000, there was a much smaller article. And keep in mind that the 900,000 mark came only two months after the death toll hit 800,000 in mid-December. More than 100,000 more died in two months. This isn’t the pandemic winding down. No one seems to really be considering that thousands are dying daily.
Democratic governors are lifting mask mandates. In Los Angeles, a city councilman running for mayor this month called on ending emergency measures as things were much better, even as cases hit record highs. The County is lifting its indoor masking rule this week even as a new variant rises, and as people are still dying. Spare a thought here for the hospitality workers at huge risk (I've seen the COVID stats for restaurant and bar staff the last two years, it's going to be bad). There's an active push from well off pundits to end masking in schools, even as kids remain some of the most vulnerable; plus, it's not as if ventilation in aging schools have been updated during this pandemic.
This is the same nation that couldn't band together for two months to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the virus. Remember the wild “reopening” protests in April 2020? Instead of struggling collectively—and make no mistake, the working class who could not leave retail jobs suffered regardless, and the deaths they endured have been dismissed—we gave up over mild inconveniences and instead selfishly went out, endangering more and more people and causing nearly one million deaths here. And let's not forget that kids under five still aren't vaccinated and are at risk. And that the longer global vaccine inequality continues, the more variants will emerge. Hell, 167,000 children lost a caregiver or parent thanks to the virus, and after the Child Tax Credit helped cut child poverty, Congress simply let it expire, thrusting 3.7 million kids back into poverty. The sheer lack of will or empathy or concern for the suffering is staggering.
Unless we do something now, actually take real measures, we're just going to be living this over and over. And more people will die. Every lifting of restrictions is seemingly happening as soon as cases start to drop. Not a “wait two weeks and see” situation, just “oh, things seem better, let's stop the programs that are working.” And then things get worse again. And this country isn't learning.
Which brings us to the crowd that's showing truly ghoulish behaviors.
Pundits are calling for lifting all restrictions. They're downplaying the pandemic, saying that it's “over” and to stop worrying about, you know, the ongoing pandemic that's killing or disabling more than one million people. They question why anyone would feel unsafe now. You know who these people are. The type who write toward wealthy centrists who maybe don't want to hear about “woke” thoughts or any policies that might involve messy truths but help people. Or the guys who helped sell the Iraq War and never apologized for the hundreds of thousands who died.
These are journalists and pundits with powerful outlets. More than that, they're on staff with reporters and science journalists who are documenting the suffering. The New York Times recently reported that deaths by Omicron exceed the Delta variant wave. Where are the editors stopping these writers from spouting counter factual nonsense? Things are open. There is no mass shutdown or lockdown (although there should be). Maybe you have to wear a mask, but “normal” life is here, just with far more death.
What is wrong with you?
Wear masks, get boosted, show some empathy. Stop being selfish. Talk to someone about what you're going through. Protect others. Give a damn about someone else.