100,000. That is the number of Americans who lost their lives to the coronavirus pandemic, as of the afternoon of Wednesday, May 27. Add to this, 40 million jobless Americans.
The threat of COVID-19 was labeled as a hoax by no less than President Donald Trump. When we first knew about the first three patients who died in the United States deaths in February, he said it was just like the seasonal flu and that it would disappear on its own come April.
The Office of the President had been forewarned by our very own intelligence and health agencies that this could escalate to be a pandemic as early as January. Offers had been made to equip our stockpile with protective masks. The importance of wide-scale testing to isolate those who had been infected to mitigate the spread of the virus had been advised. These proactive measures had been ignored.
Instead, Trump chose not to do testing because he was fixated on his “numbers.” He knew that if he would acknowledge the threat of the pandemic in the United States, businesses could be affected, the stock market index would plummet, the unemployment rate would rise.
These would not be good for Trump’s “numbers,” and consequently, his chances for re-election. And so he chose to create his own narrative, conning his loyal followers that COVID-19 was just another crisis fabricated by the Democrats to kick him out of office.
And so he used this playbook to continue dividing the country, inflaming anger among his base on Twitter and during rallies, interviews and White House briefings. January, February and March were critical months that should have been used to unify the country and pro-actively prepare for the war against the virus to mitigate its spread.
Unfortunately, the truth caught up with him, and when COVID-19 had been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March, Trump declared a national emergency and started his daily coronavirus task force briefing.
He did it half-heartedly, I would opine, because his double-speak and actions continue to reveal his intentions. He even wanted to re-open America by Easter Sunday when the pandemic was in an upward trajectory.
He would continue to do that up to now, encouraging people to pressure state leaders to ease social distancing and other safety measures like wearing masks, and he and his cohorts in his administration would even be the number one stubborn violators of these safety measures that remain to be the only effective way to help mitigate the spread of the virus as we await a vaccine that would work.
He would even make unsubstantiated statements on social media that claimed mail-in ballots would be “substantially fraudulent,” and pushed for people to go to precincts to vote amid the continued threat of the coronavirus pandemic, potentially discouraging people who heed the advice of scientists and health officials to avoid gathering together without social distancing.
Trump and his minions in state government and Congress would force states and churches to re-open, stating that these stringent measures Democratic governors are implementing go against the very spirit of the American people. They want to go back to work.
Unfortunately for the science and fact deniers in government, most Americans do not feel safe to go back to work and expose themselves and their families, especially when the threat of the virus remains, contrary to Trump’s delusional claim, COVID-19 did not disappear on its own. Trump even threatened that those who would not go back to work would lose their unemployment benefits, a big blow to ordinary hardworking Americans.
Who are the most affected by the pandemic?
Quoting from a report by the National Public Radio (NPR) based on the data from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
• The disease has been far deadlier for males than females. For age groups up to 75 years old, about twice as many men and boys have been killed by COVID-19 as have women and girls.
• Older people have died in much greater numbers than those who are younger. Eighty percent of the known fatalities were at least 65.
• Racial and ethnic disparities in who is dying have also become apparent, even while tracking data that Johns Hopkins University has compiled remain incomplete.
In Alabama, for example, 44% of those killed by COVID-19 were black in a state where fewer than 27% of its residents are African American. Similarly, while African Americans make up 14% of Michigan’s population, they account for 40% of that state’s COVID-19 fatalities.
Native American communities have also been hit especially hard by the pandemic. In Arizona, Native Americans account for about 5% of the population but make up nearly 17% of that state’s COVID-19 fatalities.
The University of Chicago’s Cagney said that differences in socioeconomic status — and thus the ability to practice social distancing — are contributing to COVID-19’s uneven lethal impact.
“If you look at the locations where people are disproportionately dying, they are in places that are lower income,” Cagney said. “They are places that likely have multiple residents in a single-unit space. They are places where people rely on public transit and rely on services like big-box locations, where by entry alone you’re putting yourself at risk.”
“I really believed we as a nation would have taken the decision to put in place social distancing and accepted the economic hardship that it’s creating, and that we would have stuck to it to get transmission down to a very low level, said Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
The NPR report pointed to a study done in May 2020 by a Columbia University research team that suggests “the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. could have been considerably lower had Americans been told sooner to stay home and maintain social distancing.”
“Some states in the South are seeing double-digit increases but have no plans to pull the emergency break on their reopening schedule,” Kaiser Health News reported.
Citing Reuters: “Twenty U.S. states reported an increase in new cases of COVID-19 for the week ended May 24, up from 13 states in the prior week, as the death toll from the novel coronavirus approaches 100,000, according to a Reuters analysis. Alabama had the biggest weekly increase at 28%, Missouri’s new cases rose 27% and North Carolina’s rose 26%, according to the analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak. New cases in Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, rose 21% after two weeks of declines.”
UNFORTUNATELY, the president himself and his followers are the very people exacerbating the problem instead of using their leadership position to help solve it and save more lives.
BUT, they are not the only part of the equation.
What can we do as people?
We, the people, have much to say and do to protect ourselves and our nation. We need to make a moral decision asking ourselves this very important question: What is the American spirit that we should allow to rise up from within us to help us win this war against COVID-19?
Do we agree with Trump and his cohorts who — capitalizing on our financial worries and boredom brought about by the “stay-at-home/”shelter-in-place” safety measures — have been pushing that the unyielding spirit of the American people would make us fearless to fight for our personal rights and liberties even if they transgress on other peoples’ right to safety and life, just so we can go back to work and live our normal lives pre-COVID-19?
OR, does the unyielding spirit of the American people go beyond our own feelings, personal rights and liberties to do what we all can do together as one nation and one people?
Let’s ask ourselves: Aren’t we willing to make personal sacrifices like wearing our masks, following social distancing guidelines, stay at home orders and other safety measures? Aren’t we willing to do these to protect and save our lives and the lives of other people?
The sooner we act together, the better will our chances to win this war against the pandemic be.
Let our conscience and our heart be our guide.
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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at [email protected], or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos