18 March 2020

The long haul

Our Earth is in the grip of pestilence -- but is there anywhere to flee?

There is no escape to be had by running to some more favored country.  The virus has spread almost everywhere, and what few places are free of it will be infected soon enough.  Further, the least-affected countries are not likely to welcome refugee hordes from less fortunate lands, for obvious reasons.

And make no mistake, the United States is going to be one of the worst-hit places, because we are among the least-well-equipped to cope with the problem.  We are the only advanced nation with millions of uninsured people.  We are the only advanced nation with no laws mandating paid sick leave for all workers, forcing millions of people in shit jobs to keep going to work no matter how sick they get.  Our present leadership is of unparalleled incompetence.  We have only three hospital beds per thousand people, compared with eight in (for example) Germany.  The Trumpnotized third of our population has been refusing to take the threat seriously or take basic precautions, an attitude many seem to be clinging to even while Trump himself begins to accept reality.  The creation of super-concentrated crucibles of infection at our major airports is just the current example of the kind of gross stupidity and blundering that has marked the administration's response and will continue to do so.

If there is any silver lining to this disaster, it's that it may finally force us as a nation to confront the pitiful rotted-out reality behind America's truculent Potemkin rhetoric about "the greatest country on Earth".  Read this -- it's important.  The coming tsunami of misery and death will be all the more tragic if we fail to at least learn from it, and from those who handle the onslaught better than we do.

Fortunately the private sector and some of the states have stepped in.  More and more employers (including my own, as of this week) are implementing work-from-home.  Large gatherings are being prohibited and venues closed -- although we as a society must provide some relief for the restaurant, hotel, etc. employees whose livelihood is now threatened due to no fault of their own.  Some areas are "locked down", under more or less permanent curfew except for essential outings.

That's the only place to flee.  Your home.  And be prepared to stay there.  Almost all the time.  For a long time.

For make no mistake, this is going to continue for months, not weeks.  If these stringent precautions are relaxed while the virus is still in circulation, the same pattern of exponentially-spreading infection will just start up again.  It may not be possible for normal life to resume until a vaccine is generally available, which could easily take a year.

And a lot of people won't be able to do it.  As people go stir-crazy sitting at home surrounded by mountains of toilet paper, wishful thinking and self-deception will set in.  Some will turn to quack remedies or religious gobbledygook to gain a false sense of protection. Some will persuade themselves that the problem is exaggerated or it's all a sinister plot of some kind (crank conspiracy theories are already spreading among the mental-bottom-of-the-barrel population).  Some will abandon cause-and-effect thinking for irrational fatalism ("if I'm gonna catch it, I'm gonna catch it").  The point is, people will want to evade precautions and will find rationalizations for doing so.  And such cases will keep the epidemic going.

It's going to get ugly in other ways.  Religious ravings about sin and divine punishment will get louder and crazier.  Problems like domestic violence will increase among cooped-up people.  Some will channel their anger and frustration into scapegoating minorities or other unpopular groups.  Authoritarians will seize on the crisis as an excuse to impose censorship or grab guns or whatever other kind of control-freakery they've been yearning to impose all along, no matter how irrelevant it is to the problem.

But we're in this for the long haul.  It's not a few weeks of crazy.  It's a new normal.

Update:  A new scientific paper projects US deaths as high as 2.2 million if stringent precautions aren't maintained until the vaccine is available.  On the likelihood of the whole country observing such precautions, see the comments on this Christian site's report on the paper.  Fundie churches are likely to be infection vectors.  Congress's new bill mandating paid leave excludes millions of workers.  The impending disaster makes a mockery of politics-as-usual.


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Oh, the wingnuts will scream bloody murder. I just read of an idiot saying than San Francisco had that spike in sick people because of the gay men who live there. Their stupidity has no limit.
And this is a Kakistocracy. You are right, the Trumpnotized will refuse to admit that IMPOTUS is an inept, unprepared, ignorant, vain piece of shit and will kill many people in their wake.
The myth of the best country on earth is going to be shattered. And Americans only have themselves to blame.


18 March, 2020 03:45  
Blogger Mary said...

I read the Atlantic piece....excellent.
I love your posts...so intelligent and well written...
The religious nuts and the 35/40 % trumpers are the real plague and there’s not a damn thing we can do about them other than self isolation from them, as well and do this quite successfully I might add, as I am picky about my friends.😊

18 March, 2020 06:10  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Yeah, I figure 2020 will basically be a write-off. Then we'll see what happens.

18 March, 2020 07:06  
Blogger Leanna said...

I just can't watch when Anus Tangerinus decides he hasn't been on TV enough so he has to parade his fat bloated butt out to the White House garden to preach his incoherent and ignorant rants so that his base won't forget him in November. It's a shame that many of us may not live to vote but I do hope to hell it's his idiot base that doesn't survive this mess. Stay safe and healthy, darlin and have a magical day.

18 March, 2020 08:22  
Blogger Anne Johnson said...

I'm a public school teacher, working from home until at least April 1. Already this interlude has shown me that, the stresses of my job notwithstanding, I'm not ready to call it quits. I'm not going anywhere until my food runs out, and that may include my workplace if I can't lay my hands on some disinfectant before I go back.

18 March, 2020 09:58  
Blogger jono said...

Nice link (Atlantic)! Well, our best free market, for profit, insurance company controlled "health system" in the world isn't up to the task at hand. No surprise there! It will certainly be interesting to watch things unfold or unravel as the case may be. Wishful thinking would have me hope that everyone will come together to deal with it just like an alien attack or something. My skeptical side just laughs hysterically.

18 March, 2020 12:42  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

I knew things were going to get bad but things got really bad for a lot of people this week here. A whole huge amount of people were fired from work, including my daughter. Hotels, casinos and other places closed and in some cases people were sent home with no pay for the next 30 days. Some of those people get to work from home but from what I'm hearing it's not many. At least not here. At my daughter's call center job they fired everyone but managers and her friends at other call centers had the same thing happen. She tried for unemployment and was denied because the company has been fighting it and is saying most of the people were let go for bad attendance. It's ridiculous. So our daughter moved back in with us. The store shelves are bare, thankfully we have enough food to last us a while and are going out each week to get more of the things we run out of but it's hard to find. Things are going to get worst.

18 March, 2020 13:34  
Blogger W. Hackwhacker said...

Infidel -- as always, a great read. If this case study in catastrophic mis- management isn't enough, on its own, to blow Trump's ass out of the White House after November, then nothing is enough. Sadly, uncounted thousands,if not millions are going to suffer the consequences of his incompetence in the meantime.

As always, thanks for the links and your generous spirit!

18 March, 2020 15:53  
Blogger Geo. said...

When our current president campaigned for office and I saw his mouth go from rictus to sphincter and back again over and over, I knew trouble loomed. That's all it took. He knew how to fire people: eliminate the sensibly uncooperative and, however improbable,
mindless, slavish toadyism is the solution. Even deductive reasoning can be corrupted.
Those of us who are older (I'm 70) who worked 1/2 century for this country that was already great, can't even get our M.D.s on the phone. I tried real hard today. Logic leaves me with only 2 possibilities: I am easily expendable; the country has been seized by an international conglomerate. Run!

18 March, 2020 17:02  
Blogger The New York Crank said...

I'm sorry, but whenever your blog calls us an "advanced nation" it is dead wrong. Each application of that descriptor was followed, often the same sentence, evidence that rather than being an advanced nation, we are a backward nation. a Third World nation, or what Trump calls a "shithole country." I quote:

" We are the only advanced nation with millions of uninsured people. We are the only advanced nation with no laws mandating paid sick leave for all workers, forcing millions of people in shit jobs to keep going to work no matter how sick they get. Our present leadership is of unparalleled incompetence... We have only three hospital beds per thousand people, compared with eight in (for example) Germany... The creation of super-concentrated crucibles of infection at our major airports is just the current example of the kind of gross stupidity and blundering that has marked the administration's response and will continue to do so."

I rest my case.

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

18 March, 2020 20:29  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: It's a grim reality of the situation. Some people will look for scapegoats, and for the religious nuts, gays will always be a popular one, no matter how much they need to twist reality to do it. We all need to push back hard against their bullshit whenever it appears.

Mary: Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it.

Stupidity and ignorance are the plagues that make all other plagues possible. We've seen it on a small scale with the anti-vax movement, and now it's going to get worse.

Debra: 2020 will be remembered as the year of covid-19. A write-off is the right way to look at it.

Leanna: I can't say I much care what happens to the Trumpanzees; the problem is that they'll overwhelm and crash the healthcare system on their way to the cemetery.

Keep safe.

Anne: You should probably assume that the situation will last long past April 1. It's likely to be several months. Schools may need to go to some form of online teaching.

19 March, 2020 02:34  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jono: The Atlantic article expressed what I've been thinking for a long time. Sometimes it takes a sudden crisis to expose the weaknesses which have been building for decades. By then, though, it may be too late to fix things.

Mary: They accused people of bad attendance? What slimebuckets. This kind of situation brings out the shittiest side of some people, unfortunately. I hope the government comes through quickly with some relief in cash as they've discussed. It's people like your daughter that most deserve it.

Hackwhacker: Thank you, and thanks for your prolific posts chronicling this mess. Yes, a lot of people are going to suffer terribly. I worry most about the elderly, and about all the marginal workers who are finally being pushed over the edge.

Geo: It was sheer luck that we got through three years without a major crisis where we'd need the leadership this idiot can't provide. Now our luck has run out.

Crank: Well, I don't think we're quite there yet, but we've fallen way behind. Even several Third World countries have universal health coverage now. We still don't.

19 March, 2020 02:43  
Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Remember the Democrats’ stimulus spending?
The Right howled. Now they want stimulus spending.
Remember when Socialists said, “We’re all in this together”?
The Right howled. Now they say, “We’re all in this together”.

19 March, 2020 07:32  
Blogger Lady M said...

We are standing at the precipice of the bell curve - do we spike or flatten? Given the number of people who still think it is a hoax, we'll spike. I cannot even get my husband to stay in the house. He is off to the store again today. Our country is so unprepared and we have a president who has convinced people not to trust science or the media. We are in serious trouble.

19 March, 2020 09:03  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Dave: Republicans can fake decency by adopting Democratic-style policies, but their hypocrisy remains.

Lady M: That's a very scary situation. It's almost impossible to protect yourself if you're sharing a house with someone who won't observe precautions. See my new post today, however.

19 March, 2020 12:12  
Blogger Blue Heron said...

There's always Antarctica...

20 March, 2020 08:04  
Blogger Martha said...

Good points. I've seen the conspiracy theories surfacing even amongst friends of friends on Facebook. (eye roll) And some are just not taking it seriously enough. They will be a big problem.

21 March, 2020 05:15  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Blue: Well, viruses don't generally do well in extreme cold.....

Martha: Thanks. I guess conspiracy theories are inevitable about something like this. At least some of them are entertainingly crazy.

21 March, 2020 07:16  

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