The Pandemic so far:
The first 160 plus days of the Covid19 Pandemic have been rough (especially for NYers in early going). It isn’t just from the actual bad news. The day-to-day life under shelter-in-place has been unpleasant, especially here in the city. It’s been depressing to note how many people in my part of Brooklyn are not masking or staying indoors. Brooklyn has seen harrowing stories of mass death–a mere two miles from my door is a funeral home that was stacking up bodies in unused chapels, and throwing as many as a hundred bodies in unrefrigerated UHaul trucks. Chances are no one will be prosecuted or even sanctioned. The NYC morgues were completely overwhelmed by the crush of bodies, and in early April, two Brooklyn Hospitals were forced to rent refrigerated trucks because their morgues were overwhelmed (article on bodies here). Other bodies are being mass-buried at Hart Island, the city’s potters field. My zipcode in Brooklyn was at one point the epicenter of the epidemic, with more cases than anyplace else in New York, which meant it was the epicenter of the world epidemic. By late April, I was hearing ambulance sirens much of the day. While many of the 911 calls went for people who’d already passed away at home, the EMT crews were too busy to do low-speed transport of the dead–there would be calls waiting for them by the time they went to the ER. At one point, there were two ambulances stopped on my short street at the same time. I don’t like living in the center of an epidemic.
The Conspiracy Bromides Attack: As bad as this was, the fear-mongering and conspiracy mindset of people on social media was worse. People in Florida and Arizona and other places were convinced the virus wasn’t serious or at least it wasn’t as bad as everyone said. I was posting about the risk only to be told that the pandemic wasn’t ‘real’. I disparaged the idea of making one’s own masks and was excoriated for it. Sorry–people’s lives depend on a decent mask (including one that could be thrown away after exposure) and our economic partners (places like Spain and South Korea) were handing out surgical masks for FREE. As someone pointed out, in WWII the US was producing a first-line combat aircraft PER HOUR. So 70 years later, we can’t make surgical masks in quantity? Surgical gowns? And as for keeping track of this pandemic, if Trump thinks there’s an overcount, he’s got a whole bunch of newly-hired census takers who could take a few more trainings and keep track of the bodies. Today I learned that a research project in Italy indicating that denial about COVID19 is a mental health issue.
And the ‘COVID’s no big deal’ bromide has spawned plenty of other bromides in the GOP world. From the first, Trump has been saying this was all a ‘Democrat Hoax’ and fake news even as his assertions crumbled. I could do a whole series of pages about the contradictions. And as much as Trump has been wrong, he’s not the sole author of driving false narratives about COVID19. Bill Gates creating a vaccine? If it works as well as WIN95, we’re still screwed. George Soros and the Rothschilds haven’t been mentioned much, but that may be temporary. The CDC says flu is worse than COVID? The CDC has never done a census of flu deaths, basing their six figure death rates on guesstimates of how hospitals might have undercounted cases. An MD with seven years’ experience in Emergency Rooms founds the comparisons between infections from COVID19 and ‘conventional’ flu misleading. You might want to read his account. Meanwhile, If the GOP wanted to know the ‘real count’ of COVID19 cases, they could do a census of the cases on the federal dime. And there’s been huge ‘whataboutism‘. I’ve been seeing claims about COVID that are so outlandish, I almost have to think the lies have been hardwired into our minds. Yes, more people die from (take your pick) heart disease or automotive mayhem or any of a host of other issues you could name. As an activist has to respond, fine. YOU take on heart disease etc. and let the rest of us worry about a disease that’s growing exponentially. A few weeks ago, we crossed into 100,000 COVID19 deaths in the US alone. The nation’s attention has been taken up by the police murder of George Floyd and related acts of brutality against black men, but COVID virus continues to infect people. Now the states that laughed at NY (like Florida and Arizona) are being overwhelmed by new cases. Florida is now the epicenter of the epidemic, with 15,300 new patients added in one day. And as a country we’re sliding into a second wave of COVID19 infections.
I never bought into the ‘theories’ about COVID19 being a “plot” by Democrats or George Soros or Bill Gates or the CDC. I’ve seen everything here–that Bill Gates already has the cure (or the vaccine) but wants us all to have microchip implants first, that the pandemic is another arm of the plot of AGENDA 21 to force us all under One World Government (and George Soros has a hand in it!), that all news media is helping the One World Order to exaggerate the casualty rate, etc. None of it makes sense, but we live in a world where journalism has all been reduced to ‘fake news’ (except for the drivel from Fox or OANN).
Another ‘theory’ posted by COVID deniers is that the lives taken by COVID are nothing compared to those taken by unemployment. The reasoning is that people who are unemployed tend to be more vulnerable to death. We are at something like 50% unemployment in the US. The argument is that historically, large numbers of Americans die with each percentage increase in unemployment. My counter-argument is that we could save people by simply extending benefits to them. Suicidal depression naturally follows loss of employment in the US, which has never been as generous with its social spending as our trading partners in the G20. Ditto the case that our higher death tolls during mass unemployment have to do with the fact that (unlike our trading partners), unemployed people lose their health insurance. What would happen to that US death rate if the unemployed kept full health insurance? What would happen if our unemployment rate was managed as it is in much of the EU? In the EU, companies under pressure cut hours before they fire people. Employees have less compensation, but they still have their jobs and they still have their health insurance. It would be great if the US would follow those ideas, but ‘small government’ libertarians control too much of our body politic for that to work.
Is there a ‘conspiracy’ about CORONAVIRUS and the US Response that is true? –There is one conspiracy theory about COVID that isn’t just a theory. I alluded to it back in March, and (as if by accident), Dr. Guy McPherson’s recent posts have also called out the predicament. For those of you not keeping up with the Doctor’s work, he’s contributed new papers to peer review. He isn’t optimistic about our prospects. But somehow I now discern that he’s being read in DC.
COVID FACT of the Day: Regardless of what is happening in the pandemic, President Donald Trump is determined to restart the economy and send everyone back to work. WHY?
Restarting the industrial economy is a stunningly bad idea according to Dr. Fauci, who’s pushing against reopening with all his strength (not much in this White House) https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/12/opinions/fauci-testimony-trump-administration-response-filipovic/index.html. Economist Robert Reich has seconded this. Reich is no pathologist, but he makes a compelling case for taking a slow approach to re-opening that is at complete odds with the President’s. The reasoning of reopening is specious–The US is hitting ever climbing numbers of new cases (55K a DAY) and the promised testing has not come through. There’s an economic hit to be sure, but our trading partners have avoided huge damage to their economies while protecting citizenry. And our G20 trading partners have partially reopened–a combination of masking, social distancing, quarantining of the infected and sealing of the borders have reduced infection rates to acceptable levels. Meanwhile we ‘Muricans are no longer allowed, to travel to the EU. And NAFTA allies Canada and Mexico are also blocking us from traveling. Not fixing our COVID pandemic is costing us money before we even start to face up to costs of mass shelter-in-place costs.
CLIMATE FACT OF THE DAY: Diminishing the Global Dimming/ Aerosol Masking Effect is the biggest threat posed by COVID.
If you haven’t been paying attention, Global Dimming (also the aerosol masking effect) is in and of itself an extinction level threat. I’ve written about it on my blog, but my work is derived from that of Dr. McPherson. Simple explanation:
- Burning fossil fuels releases lots of particulate into upper atmosphere;
- Particulate reflects solar radiation back out into space. This keeps the planet cooler than it would be otherwise;
- If you stop burning fossil fuels, the particulate falls out of the sky and more solar radiation hits the planet, increasing heat;
- If you shut down industrial activity and thereby decrease particulate by a significant amount (over 20%), global average temperatures will increase by upwards of 1.1 C, blasting past the 2 C limit outlined at the Paris COP21 meeting as the absolute limit we couldn’t exceed.
A bit before the Coronavirus epidemic, McPherson began writing more peer-reviewed articles. He also tried to point out the convergence of effects of global warming (and reducing CO2 output through limiting industrial production) with loss of Aerosol Masking effect. He’d even written an appropriate essay in 2018 about the issue. A longer essay predating COVID 19 that explains the issues is here. In March, McPherson had a brief ‘King for a day’ moment of optimism about the possibility of bringing a cessation of aerosol dimming while slowing the greenhouse effect. It didn’t pan out, unfortunately. So here we are.
“This didn’t have to happen this way” (one of Peak Prosperity’s Chris Martenson’s favorite end statements).
CONSPIRACY: TRUMP WILL RE-OPEN THE ECONOMY AND END COVID 19 RESTRICTIONS EVEN THOUGH IT WILL KILL MILLIONS.
First, we know that Trump’s advisers are telling him that reopening will cost lives. Fauci has said that we could be facing 100,000 new cases a DAY if we don’t get serious about addressing Coronavirus. ‘Getting serious’ would include stopping the rush back to normality. Trump isn’t listening. And if the US is seeing 50,000 new Coronavirus cases a day, we’re on the road to over a million cases before the end of August. The US is losing scads of money every day owing to the pandemic. But you don’t solve that by sending people back to infectious work and school. You solve it by taking the hard choices on masking and quarantine and shelter in place. Yesterday (7/13) New York announced that for the first time since March, the state had ZERO NEW COVID 19 DEATHS . That’s in large part because NY took the pandemic seriously. A fight against COVID across the US, fought on the same intense level as countries like Taiwan and South Korea have fought it, could bring numbers down and make a safe reopening possible in a matter of a month or two. But Trump’s base is not going to mask. I wrote about this a week ago. A large proportion of the ‘Covid 19 is a hoax’ crowd is composed of people who are voting for Trump in 2020.
WHY WOULD TRUMP REOPEN IF IT WOULD CAUSE MASS DEATHS?
One aspect of Trump’s leadership has been misunderstood for years. Trump may think global warming is a complete hoax, but his underlings do not. Trump administration attorneys have twice made the case (here and here) that it’s too late to stop Global Warming and we’re looking at doom by or before 2100. But when you have Arctic temperatures of 100f in June, maybe things are moving a bit faster. Shutting down industrial civilization to cope with COVID 19 might doom the world. What’s an orange-haired POTUS to do?
- keep industrial society running full blast (reopen schools and restaurants and churches) and hope that herd immunity kicks in to slow down the death rate before an aggrieved populace take to torches and pitchforks?
- keep industrial society going full blast and hope that the virus changes and becomes less lethal? Or perhaps the scientists magically produce a vaccine that can stop the infection? In other words, count on dumb luck?
- Take the word of the scientists and shut down American society for a month so that safe practices (masking, quarantine, social distancing) slows infections down to a controllable number? Take the grief from an angry public and try to get working people more personal aid to get them through the worst economic crash ever (worse than the 1930’s)
It’s pretty clear which way Trump leans.
So that is the conspiracy. Trump and his minions know that shutting down ‘Murica to beat the pandemic puts us on a path to extinction level global warming. Being honest about that is a bridge too far–Trump’s career is based on denying that global warming even exists, let alone exists as an existential threat. So the Trump Trolls will continue to deny that COVID is also an existential threat. As multiple scientists who’ve accepted the inevitability of global mass extinction must understand right now, the people in power have all known for a long time that this was our fate. The economy is due for a massive crash, but if we lose the Arctic Ice this summer from accelerated global warming, that’s the least of our problems.
THAT is the conspiracy. The small number of people who’ve understood the climate disaster we’re facing intuited what was going on. But we’re society’s Cassandras.