As I write this, the first case of the Brazilian COVID-19 variant has been reported in Maine. Fifteen cases of the UK variant have also been found here, as well as four cases of the South African variant. These variants are all resistant to our current selection of vaccines, so, you know, it’s not going great out there.
Black people in Maine are more than three times more likely than white people to catch the coronavirus, and it feels like the closer we get to the end of the pandemic, the further away we actually are. Every day it becomes more apparent that vaccinations are not going to be the solution to the problem, because the actual problem isn’t the coronavirus anymore. It hasn’t been for a while now.
The problem is how we’ve handled it.
Last May, Yale researches estimated that 17,000 lives could have been saved if New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had honored the lockdown requests of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. Cuomo has recently been exposed as the Trump-like fraud he’s always been, but only after a year of being celebrated as a hero in the face of all evidence to the contrary.
Last summer, Texas removed more than 3,000 COVID-19 cases from its state total. While that news seemed especially underhanded in the moment, the actual villain was positive antigen tests. It turns out those tests have a high rate of false outcomes, despite their FDA approval.
Labor Notes has been reporting on data recently released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and found that, “Somehow, in CDPH’s rendition of things, the 100 outbreaks in child daycare services got lost. Later in the industry sector list you find ‘Educational Services.’ The sub-categories of ‘Educational Services’ include 119 outbreaks in elementary and secondary schools. This is data that was rendered nearly invisible by CDPH, but which the community should be discussing, given the headlong rush right now to reopen schools.”
And, of course, there are the masks. A ridiculous and frustrating point of contention to be sure, but we did start with what could be generously called inconsistent messaging. If you recall, early on during the pandemic, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, chief medical advisor to the president, and most trusted scientist in America, Dr. Anthony Fauci, lied to the American people about the necessity of masks. He eventually owned up to the lie, explaining that he felt the national shortage of PPE at the time required him to mislead the public for the sake of medical workers who hadn’t been equipped to deal with the crisis. Fauci has also said he has no regrets about his dishonesty.
It’s not necessary to get into all the horrifying ways Trump mishandled this catastrophe, as I’m sure you remember them very well, but it should be pointed out that Biden’s already broken his “malarkey” promise. The same day as his CDC press event, where he declared that “Science is back,” he was pushing for schools to lessen student social distances from six feet to three. Since there has been no change in the distance droplets can travel, coupled with the rise in variants and the lack of vaccines for children, that decision brings science back, alright — a few decades backward, at least.
And so here we are, with unreliable, FDA-approved tests; a self-contradicting CDC; the most trusted scientist in America admittedly, deliberately and impenitently misleading the public; state leadership spreading the disease and covering up deaths, and national leadership vacillating, with few exceptions, between absolute absence and comprehensive calamity.
Perhaps some of this is justifiable to you. Admittedly, if I were in Fauci’s shoes, I don’t know what I would have done. But even considering that misses the point. For us to succeed in defeating COVID-19, we need to be able to trust our institutions as well as each other. Given that the population of this country is culturally adversarial against itself and its institutions, this is already a big ask. The ask gets bigger every time we are lied to, mislead or manipulated, regardless of anyone’s ability to rationalize it.
Trials show that vaccines drastically lower chances of dying directly from COVID-19, which is great, but there are still other life-altering effects, like severe lung deficiencies, heart damage and various types of psychosis that the vaccines fail to solve — not to mention studies showing vaccines could drastically decline in efficacy just three months after they’ve been administered.
Again, that’s not even our biggest problem. We haven’t even identified it yet, and there won’t be a vaccine for it when and if we do. So please, keep wearing your masks. Look out for each other and hope beyond hope that we can somehow, for once, stop learning things the hard way.
Samuel James is an internationally renowned bluesman and storyteller, as well as a locally known filmmaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.