21 April 2020

Bringing on the second wave

We're number one!  With over forty thousand dead, the US is now the world leader in covid-19 mortality, having probably overtaken China's actual death toll, never mind the absurdly-low figures admitted by the regime there.  Some countries such as Italy and Spain have had more deaths relative to population, but at least they've managed to "flatten the curve" and bring the pandemic under some degree of control.

But haven't we?  Probably not, and there's no way to be sure.  The amount of testing being done in the US is so grossly inadequate that the official figure for total infections -- about 800,000 as of today -- is completely meaningless.  There could be millions.  There probably are.  In a few locations where social distancing has been extremely strict, the rate of deaths (somewhat easier to measure accurately) appears to be slowing, which suggests that the tough measures are working there -- but for the country as a whole, we simply don't know.

And even though the first wave of the pandemic is nowhere near being under control, a combination of mass public stupidity and Republican malevolence is already about to trigger the second.

Trump has repeatedly minimized the problem and ignored the experts to insist that precautions need to be relaxed so the economy can start growing again.  Republican state governors have followed suit by rolling back such precautions or, in some states, not implementing them in the first place.  Many churches around the country have defied closure orders and made themselves into amplifiers for the pandemic.  The spring-breakers who flooded Florida's beaches before they were closed seem to have started several outbreaks of infection in the places they went back home to.

The latest wrinkle is a series of small, astroturfed protests in the capital cities of states with strong lockdown policies.  Given the crowded conditions at these events, they'll likely lead to new infection clusters in the places these wingnuts go back home to, just as the spring-break crowds did.  And the intent is to create the illusion of a wave of mass support for relaxing precautions, even though in fact Americans overwhelmingly oppose doing so.  It's a massive slap in the face to the health-care workers whose hard work and sacrifice have managed to achieve whatever progress has been made.

At least a third of our country's population labors under the mental sway of decades of militant anti-intellectualism and science-denial emanating from fundamentalist pulpits and right-wing fake-media propaganda outlets.  With their president, their red-state governors, and their pastors all chivvying them along, they are not going to listen to Dr. Fauci or the scientific establishment.  They'll go back to church, back to the beaches, back to everything else they're so furious about having to stay home from.  It's already starting to happen.  And among those populations, the pandemic will explode.

Most other advanced nations don't suffer from this problem to anything like the same degree because, to be blunt, they have less religion, better education, and a greater deference to expertise.  I know it's contrary to the American character to be deferential to anything, and by and large this is a positive trait -- but in dealing with a biological crisis, it's just a matter of common sense to recognize that people with years of medical or scientific training and experience understand the problem better than preachers, politicians, or businessmen.

This must-read post by David Frum lays out the Republican strategy.  Their hope is that they can re-open the economy (and thus improve their chances in this year's election) while mostly limiting the resulting rise in deaths to the poorest working-class element of the population whose jobs put them at the most risk of infection -- people who don't vote Republican anyway, largely belong to minority groups, and are deemed expendable.  Those workers, after all, will be the easiest to force back to work because they have the least resources.  Limit the benefits available to the unemployed, and they'll have no choice.

It won't work.  First, if these wealthy parasites think that a bunch of janitors and meat-packers and warehouse workers aren't smart enough to figure out they're being sacrificed on the altar of the stock-market Moloch, they've got another think coming.  They will figure it out right away and there will be strikes and mass demands for safer conditions.  It's already happening at places like Amazon.  Normally, in a time of high unemployment, such workers would simply be replaced -- but that's going to be harder when the job comes with the serious risk of a horrible death by disease.

Second, it's not going to be possible to confine the rising death toll to those groups.  It's the fundie and Trumpanzee masses who genuinely refuse to recognize the reality of the covid-19 threat and refuse to take precautions against it.  They're the ones who are behaving in ways that will expose them to infection in the second wave, and will grow more emboldened to do so by the rhetoric and actions of Trump and other Republican leaders -- and the rural population skews older and less healthy than the urban.  Given the incubation period of the virus, they will spread it among themselves for some number of weeks before the resulting rise in symptomatic infections becomes visible enough to warn them of the danger -- and by then it will be too late.  Especially if they continue to resist social distancing and lockdowns out of stubbornness, covid-19 will "wash over" the deep South and rural America, while the blue cities tighten up their precautions to minimize viral spill-over from the affected regions.  The death toll could even reach into the millions as earlier worst-case scenarios projected.

Frum says that Trump's fall-back plan for this eventuality is to inflame the culture wars so as to re-direct his followers' anger toward his opponents.  I don't think that will work either.  It's true that Trump's talent for blame-shifting, and the stupidity of fundamentalists, have both tended to exceed expectations at every turn -- but the second wave in red America will simply be too devastating, and too obviously linked to the premature relaxation of precautions, for the usual bullshit to work.  Yes, the Trumpanzees have stood by their man through endless outrages, but those outrages have almost all involved inflicting pain on somebody else -- immigrant children, gays, minorities, women who need abortions -- and, if anything, they voted for him because they expected him to hurt the people they hate.  They haven't yet been through a situation where they themselves suffer mass misery and death because of his incompetence and cruelty.

And as icing on the cake, all of this will not do much to re-start the economy.  The stupid people may be a third of the population, but they don't generate anything like a third of the economic output.  The mostly-blue cities are the engines of the economy, along with the states they dominate politically.  If the west coast and the northeast, Chicago and Dallas and Atlanta and Miami, remain locked down, the national economy is not going to recover.  If anything, as Dr. Fauci recently warned, premature relaxation of precautions will delay economic recovery.  Certainly the cities will not re-open as long as the second wave of the pandemic is on the rampage outside the gates.

Natural selection still works -- on people stupid enough to let it.


Blogger Lady M said...

"Bloomberg News reported on April 17 that small-business-relief funds are disproportionately flowing to red states, not blue ones. In South Carolina, 56 percent of small-business applications have been approved. In Texas, 58 percent have been approved. In Utah, 66 percent have been approved. In Kentucky, 69 percent. In Kansas, 79 percent. In Nebraska, 82 percent.

In Washington State, however, only 44.6 percent of applications for small-business aid have been approved. In New York State, only 40.1 percent. In California, only 38.4 percent. In the District of Columbia, only 30.4 percent."

This needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

21 April, 2020 06:08  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Lady M: Absolutely -- along with the fact that the administration is basically stealing medical supplies bought and paid for by blue states.

21 April, 2020 06:19  
Blogger Lady M said...

I agree - if the Trump administration thinks this virus will be contained to poor people, they have not been paying attention at all. Also, by opening up the economy, if Trump thinks we are going to start shopping, going to restaurants, and vacationing at Mar-a-lago, he's nuts. He can open up but I am staying at home home, wearing my mask, and avoiding (by 6 ft.) anyone I don't live with - I have been reading what this virus can do to ones body and what the long health implications might be and I say "no thanks".

21 April, 2020 06:21  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Oh, IMPOTUS is still using mafia-style tactics to reward his minions and punish his enemies. It’s transparent. The problem, like you say, is that the economy will not recover and the second wave of COVID-19 will hit those red states. That then will pass on the virus to other communities.
Not to mention that opening some states will only hurt people: because the lockdown has been lifted, small businesses will not be able to ask for rent forgiveness. It’s a clusterfuck of stupidity. Also this:
“Most other advanced nations don't suffer from this problem to anything like the same degree because, to be blunt, they have less religion, better education, and a greater deference to expertise. “

That about sums it up.


21 April, 2020 07:02  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Hold on, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

21 April, 2020 09:50  
Blogger Mary said...

I’m so weary of stupid people in the US and by that I mean the trump idiots, religious nuts, racist rednecks and this"nobody tells me what to do even if it’s for my own good" attitude.

Sometimes I feel caught between a rock and a hard place. I don’t want any more people to die or get sick from this...none, but I don’t want trump to be able to crow either, that it was because he perfectly with much stable genius, lifted the stay at home orders and blocked immigration of all these nasty unwhites and see it worked...GRRRR

21 April, 2020 12:17  
Blogger Mike said...

I was reading an article yesterday where a doctor in a hospital said let's test a few random patients. They both had the virus. They tested 9 more. 8 out of 9 had the virus.
When I have to go to the store, about 80% of the people are now wearing a face covering of some sort. I try to stay far away from the non-wearers. I wish mask wearing was mandatory but Missouri has a Republican governor that's getting ready to try to force open everything. The Metropolitan areas won't cooperate.

21 April, 2020 13:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orange man bad

21 April, 2020 21:13  
Blogger Victor said...

I'd like to make a suggestion:

Instead if calling them the "Red States," how's about we call them the "Hold My Beer States?"

22 April, 2020 05:47  
Blogger Oblio said...

Well-said and spot on. It is wholly infuriating to watch this slow-motion and completely predictable disaster unfold, but it is indeed morbidly funny and NOT in the HA-HA way, knowhatImean? I find it most interesting that no one at the daily press MAGA-meets has called out tRump for saying for over a month that 'We don't want or need mass testing', only then to turn around and make it a part of the official 're-open' strategy, and then within 1 day to sabotage that strategy plan with his 'Liberate' messages to his idiot hordes. Most likely it'll be a female reporter to ask if its raised, but she'll get cut off by that Bloated A-hole POTUS who will first insult her and then lie his stupid face off. GAWD... I despise tRump.

22 April, 2020 12:05  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Lady M: That's the smart thing to do. Just lie low and let all the wingnuts go out to get their haircuts and viruses.

Sixpence: Trump's malevolence is hopelessly outmatched by his stupidity. Unfortunately in this case they both work against the public interest.

Debra: Well, the more I stay at home, the less bumpy it will be.

Mary: We have far too many stupid people, that's for sure. And there's no way all this ends up giving Trump anything to crow about. I do feel sorry for the innocent people who will get hurt too, but frankly I don't care about the Trumpanzees and fundies. They're profoundly hateful people.

Mike: It's very likely that the number of infections is far higher than anyone realizes. Then again, a lot of the tests themselves aren't very accurate, so we're basically flying blind.

Anon: Quite.

Victor: They deserve it -- but I wouldn't let them hold my beer.

Oblio: Thanks! Trump is floundering so badly, I suspect he's in a state of underlying panic. Nothing in his background has prepared him at all to cope with a situation like this. He can't bully or intimidate a virus -- so he'll do it to whoever else is handy.

22 April, 2020 16:56  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

Yesterday the Mayor of Las Vegas offered up the people of Las Vegas to be a control group...basically saying that let's see what the mortality rate really is if we open businesses back up and don't socially distance anymore. Good grief, I can only hope this crazy moron doesn't get re-elected.

23 April, 2020 13:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mary K: I've been reading about that (and thought of you). She's insane. Well, Trump himself has sometimes backed down after nationwide horrified reactions to his plans. One can only hope she'll do the same, now that she's getting attention far beyond Las Vegas.

23 April, 2020 14:09  
Blogger Martha said...

I have friends (and I use this word carefully) that are saying all this virus stuff is a hoax and that Bill Gates, amongst other people, are trying to inject 'chips' in us through vaccines to control us. One woman thinks airplanes flew over cities and sprayed us with this 'virus'. Oh my flippin' goddess, I tell you, I've heard it all so far. Or so, I think. All this craziness is making some people rebel and wreak havoc. Only until they contract the disease in a heavy way or lose a loved one to it will they believe it's a real virus. And even then, maybe not. This is not the time to relax measures and just go back to normal. What would that do to our healthcare systems and our healthcare workers?

24 April, 2020 11:03  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Martha: I've seen the vaccine/chip thing promoted in the comments sections of religio-wingnut sites several times. Nobody else there seems to find it implausible. But remember, a lot of these people believe Hillary Clinton is running a Satanic cannibal pedophile ring out of the basement of a pizza parlor that doesn't have a basement. They're not exactly sane.

25 April, 2020 01:22  

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