Our Governments Have Chosen Capitalism Over Preparing for Next COVID Surge

Climate scientists have been warning for years about the menace of “feedback loops.” A feedback loop takes place when the right set of circumstances creates a situation that feeds upon itself, growing stronger with every cycle.

Current examples include the not-so frozen tundra of Siberia. Human-caused heating melts the permafrost and allows the soil to release billions of tonnes of methane. The atmosphere is heated by the methane, which causes more permafrost melt and releases more methane. We go on and on.

As we near the thousandth day COVID-19, the U.S. is seeing another type of feedback loop. This feedback loop is not made of wind or rain. It is made of people, policy, and an extension of capitalism that you could see coming from a mile away if you had the right eyes.

I can pinpoint the date that this COVID feedback loop began eating itself and us. It was March 20, 2020. On that day, the first of what became a flood tide of jowly capitalists went on the cable news networks with the demand that “low-risk,” low-wage workers should go back to work and just let the virus “burn through” their ranks.

The intervening months have descended into a lethal tug of war between people who believe the science and are willing to take precautions to avoid even more mass death, and the “my freedom” people who are willing to let COVID carry off millions of people rather than subject themselves to the gross tyranny of … masks and reasonable health measures? I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it firsthand. I would have walked out any movie that attempted to sell such absurdity in a script.

The script itself, while absurd, is also simplicity itself: Endure a lethal COVID surge, but don’t prepare for the next one — and meanwhile, actively stand down current defenses so people go to work and spend money because, “It’s over!” NOPE, another mass wave of death followed by another wave of too-late restrictions followed by another surge of bleak depression and despair.

Some of the smoke clears again, restrictions are lifted again in the name capitalist imperative (again), enough people get lulled (again), into letting down their guard. NOPE, a vaccine-resistant subvariant emergesTheoretically, it comes from North Korea and decimates Southeast Asia in the same time as the World Cup. Lather rinse repeat, but this time the culling is largely relegated to people like me — those with underlying medical risk factors — once it reaches these shores, because of course it will, because the last thing we’ll do is restrict air travel …

Today, they’re calling the next COVID-related challenge a “stress test,” a chance to throw open all the doors and see how well things go with virtually no standard precautions in place. “Whatever happens next, we’re living the reality the CDC’s guidance bargained for,” writes Katherine J. Wu for The Atlantic. “The country’s new COVID rules have asked us to sit tight, wait, and watch. We may soon see the country’s true tolerance for disease and death on full display.”

I’m not certain exactly how or when the decision was made to chart this perilous course. It just sort of… happened, like osmosis. A segment of the population found that ever-present permanent high gear of high dudgeon about masks and perfectly safe shots, capitalism whispered “Yeah what they said” through all the available political and social channels.

We find ourselves suddenly on the edge a test we don’t want to take. There is ample evidence to support this. in the public surveysGive one pause. One February Washington Post/ABC NewsA poll found that 58 per cent of people believe that controlling the spread COVID is their top priority. A Yahoo News poll conducted precisely that same week has 51 percent saying returning to normal and “learning to live” with COVID is most important … and if we had ham, we could have ham and eggs, if we had eggs.

I know that polls shmolls are out there, but something is seriously out of syn. David Lim Politico explainsWhat a new COVID surge might look like when it arrives:

Infections with Covid-19 are on the rise in several European countries, according to officials from Biden are monitoring infectionsIn the United Kingdom, cases have jumpedOver the past week, more than 36 % have fallen. The number of molecular tests shipped weekly by major US manufacturers has fallen by more that 50 percent in the past month.

Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories stated that the U.S. is repeating last summer’s mistakes when testing demand plummeted and test makers cut back production. “It’s like we’ve learned absolutely nothing as a system during this pandemic,” Becker said. “I have no reason to believe that wouldn’t happen again because they don’t have the demand.”

The concern about the supply of testing comes as Congress is warned by the Biden administration that it will not provide $22 billion more in funding if it doesn’t. This would mean that the administration won’t be able purchase new supplies of drugs and vaccines, or masks, and test supplies. On Tuesday, the White House announced that it would end federal subsidies that guaranteed free tests for people without insurance because of lack of funding.

This is despite the fact that the administration is preparing to endorseA second booster shot, which is a fourth overall shot, will be given to older Americans to combat the disease. There is precedent for this — polio inoculation requires a four-dose regimen of that vaccine. But hmmm … why would we need another layer of protection if we have this thing in hand?

Answer: We don’t. This weird passage we’ve entered is the COVID policy version of throwing the parachute out of the plane and then jumping out after it. Is that big green thing rushing at you? Yeah, that’s the ground, which currently holds the remains of nearly a million souls lost in this country alone. The BA.2 subvariant Omicron continues to cause hell throughout the world, though it is still not known if this will lead to an actual outbreak. It currently accounts for more than 55% of new cases in New England. This is compared to 34.9 percent nationally. If history is any indication, this wave is likely to come.

We weren’t ready before because it was all unprecedented. We aren’t ready now because capitalism’s whisper campaign combined with toxic right-wing politics were potent enough to buckle the knees of even the most stalwart of COVID policy advocates. After all, it’s an election year. The country fails to live up this year. Uri Freedman’s new benchmark for national strength: The ability take a punch, get knocked to the ground, and then get up again, no matter how many times it takes.

We are not ready to face a new COVID wave. I can’t help but feel the fear and fury of those who believed they had heard something positive, only to find out that it was God laughing at their plans. There will be hell to pay for the feedback loop.