John Colson: Shall we all play Pandemic Roulette?
Hit & Run
Let’s take a look at our newest global game-show, Pandemic Roulette, as dozens of states (including Colorado) and countries move to reopen their gasping economies despite warnings that doing so makes everyone more vulnerable to a second wave of infections of the novel coronavirus (aka COVID-19), which this week passed the unhappy milestones of nearly a million infections and more than 55,000 deaths in this country alone.
The last time we played this kind of game was about a century ago, when the world was whipsawed by a similarly devastating and deadly viral infection known (erroneously, I must say) as the Spanish Flu of 1918-20.
Back then, a virulent and deadly form of the seasonal flu virus infected some 500 million people, roughly a third of the population of the world at the time, and killed possibly 100 million, in three distinct waves. And while no one knows for sure where it got started (most experts doubt it started in Spain), the universally accepted fact is that the spread of the virus was accelerated by the packed masses of soldiers fighting throughout Europe in World War I.
Today, thankfully, we don’t have a named world war going on, though there are enough regional conflicts and wars underway that some believe we might as well call it a world war.
What we do have, unfortunately, is a worldwide crisis of migration as huge numbers of people flee their home countries due to a variety of reasons. This may not have the disruptive effect of a world war, but it does pack large numbers of people together in ways that make for a very friendly environment for a lively little bug such as coronavirus.
In the U.S., infections and deaths among outsized proportions of the black and Latino communities have led to an examination of the socio-economic conditions that affect those populations disproportionately (poverty, malnutrition, overcrowding, lack of access to medical care, to name a few).
And then there is the sad fact that we, in the U.S., really have no idea of the depth of the virus’ penetration. Sure, it has hit the urban areas hardest to begin with, and the medical establishment is now warning that rural areas, including small towns, can expect a spike in the numbers of cases and deaths.
But we still are testing for the virus far too slowly to truly know how many people have even been exposed, much less the number of actual infections, largely thanks to the fumbling, bumbling response at the federal level.
True, the feds have come up with trillions of dollars in relief funding, though there have been widespread complaints that some of the money has been misdirected, benefiting big corporations and big business as a class more than small businesses, the poor and the marginalized who have a much more critical need for the help.
And to have this all happening even as we gear up for a mighty consequential election season has not helped. The veritable lockdown of the past several weeks has, in effect, suspended normal campaign activities for most candidates.
President Donald Trump, of course, realized at some point that the weekly White House coronavirus briefings might be just the ticket to replace his ongoing campaign of periodic rallies, which he has shamelessly used since he took office to keep his name in the news and in the hearts of his “base.”
Predictably, though, he blew it with the briefings, having spats with his advisers and issuing inaccurate information about supposed “cures” and just about everything virus-related before turning to his favorite subjects — extolling the “great job” his administration is doing on every front, picking fights with the media for reporting on the malfeasance of his administration, and spewing inaccurate information about such a wide range of topics the reporters could not keep up.
I find it politically fitting that Trump and his henchman in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), are both in trouble over things they have said recently.
Trump’s dangerous insistence on promoting bogus “cures” for the coronavirus, and the avalanche of criticism that came afterward, had led to his seeming discontinuation of the coronavirus briefings, which were never much help anyway.
And McConnell, who’s said recently that blue states should consider going bankrupt rather than expect financial or other assistance from Washington, may well have written the script for his own demise as the senator from Kentucky and chief Trump ally in Congress.
And that’s the way it is on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in our Brave New World.
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Some days, I miss being back in the saddle. I miss making memories.