The Greatest Trick COVID Ever Pulled Was Convincing the World It Didn’t Exist

Last week saw a slew if surveys released, each trying to get a pulse on top U.S. concerns. According to a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos pollInflation tops the list regardless of party affiliation. A Pew ResearchThese results mirror the poll: Inflation is by a mile the biggest concern. An AxiosExamining the top topics searched on the internet, we find that the Amber Heard Johnny Depp trial is the most popular. Elon Musk and Joe Biden are the top two spots.

Respondents to the PewSurvey found that COVID-19 was the most concerning item on their list. The ninth item that was deemed concerning was COVID. FiveThirtyEight.COVID was also last on The Axios list. These numbers varied according to political affiliation — 59 percent of Republicans told Axios they believe the pandemic is already over — but the gist is impossible to miss.

Despite the fact that we are still suffering from the same disease that struck us in February 2020, those who sought to downplay or dismiss its severity and threat have succeeded in achieving the rhetorical high ground. It has not disappeared and returned. it never leftIt grows every few more months when we let our guard down, because capitalism must be fed.

These priorities were mirrored in Congress on Thursday, where the Senate failed to muster 60 votes for cloture on a $48 billion bipartisan aid package aimed at helping restaurants, small business, gyms and music venues that are still struggling with the pandemic (because the goddamn pandemic isn’t over). Only five Republicans voted for the bill. This bill was approved by the Senate after a bipartisan vote of approval for $40 billion in military aid for Ukraine. It’s too bad we can’t just bomb or shoot the virus; we always have enough money for war, and the “right people” would get paid again.

Facts: In 2022, 175,000 people died from COVID. The collapse of an already poor testing program makes it almost impossible to determine where we stand with the virus. However, even with less data, we are still registering more than 100,000 new infections every day. “Federal health officials warned on Wednesday that a third of Americans live in areas where the threat of Covid-19 is now so high that they should consider wearing a mask in indoor public settings,” reports The New York Times. “They cited new data showing a substantial jump in both the spread of the coronavirus and hospitalizations over the past week.”

Eric Topol, professor molecular medicine and Executive Vice President of Scripps Research, says the truth. is far more grim:

The real number is likely to exceed 500,000 per day, which is more than any wave of US before it except Omicron. It is absurd to think that cases are irrelevant. They are infections that lead to more cases, Long Covid, sickness, hospitalizations, and death. They are also the foundation of new variants.

Meanwhile, the CDC propagates delusional thinking that community levels are very low (as my friend Peter Hotez called the “field of greens”) while the real and important data convey that transmission is very high throughout most of the country. Not only does this further beget cases by instilling false confidence, but it is conveniently feeding the myth that the pandemic is over — precisely what everyone wants to believe.

We see a very unfavorable picture of (1) an accelerated evolution of virus; (2) increased immune escape from new variants; (3) increasing transmissibility, infectiousness, and (4) substantially less protection against transmission by vaccines. (5) Some reduction in vaccine/booster protection against death and hospitalization; (6) high vulnerability to infection-aquired immunity; and (7) possibility of more noxious variants in the future.

Why, then, does an increasing segment of the population, goaded on by a complicit media and some wildly irresponsible state and federal government agencies, seem to believe we’ve put this thing in the rear-view mirror? It can be argued that a significant portion of the population has capitulated to right-wing demagoguery on the issue, and are telling pollsters they believe it’s all over in order to signal whose “team” they are on. This phenomenon is not only a matter of extreme partisanship, but it is something that cannot be ignored.

It is equally possible that the population is just as shocked and depressed after dealing with COVID for more than two years.

“In just two years, COVID has become the third most common cause of death in the U.S., which means that it is also the third leading cause of Grief in the U.S.,” writesEd Yong The Atlantic. “Each American who has died of COVID has left an average of nine close relatives bereaved, creating a community of grievers larger than the population of all but 11 states. Normal circumstances would predict that 10 percent of those who have lost loved ones will experience prolonged grief. This is a rare, intense, incapacitating, persistent form of grief. But for COVID grievers, that proportion may be even higher, because the pandemic has ticked off many risk factors.”

There is an even darker motivation at work that is more important than all. The vaccines have served the relatively healthy bulk of the population admirably, for the most part, and even those who endured “breakthrough” infections were able to weather the onslaught. This is altogether positive, but it also sets millions of people with more acute health issues into a separate, isolated place, and that isolation only grows every time someone announces the worst of the virus is over except for those who aren’t “well.”

“If someone’s death fits with population-wide trends — if they were older, chronically ill, or unvaccinated — their loss is explicable, and therefore dismissible,” Yong continues for The Atlantic. “At the other extreme, [young children]Whose deaths don’t fit with population-wide trends are also dismissed as statistical outliers who inconveniently complicate accepted notions of safety.”

Put plainly, those within the population whose medical condition puts them at greater risk of COVID infection and death — I am one such — are an inconvenient pothole in the road to “All Is Well!” The hard push to rose-color the grim data stumbles over people like us. There are millions of people like you; you may even know some of us. If you are one among us, you will have noticed the brittle positive story as it passes you by, like a freight train. Even though you experience the same levels of fear and peril that you experienced three Februarys back.

“White House Chief Medical Officer Anthony Fauci said last month that the ‘full-blown pandemic’ is nearly over, and we will be transitioning to a phase when individuals will make their ‘own decisions’ about risk,” wrote Elliot Kukla for TruthoutMarch. “As a high-risk immunocompromised person, that sounds to me like code for no longer trying to protect high-risk lives. Already, the elderly, chronically ill, and disabled are at greater risk as mask mandates are lifted and quarantine times shortened. We’re stuck at home, often not even able to make it to necessary medical appointments, as public society becomes too dangerous for us.”

You don’t want to be the bearer for bad tidings. Here is the science. It is within the bodies of the immunocompromised, along with the sufferers of “long COVID” and other inconvenient groups, that new variants have tended to find their birthing bed. A new, vaccine-resistant variant could emerge from any of us if we are sicker. It has happened many times before and it will again with increasing ferocity, until the science that saved us becomes the science playing catch-up in an entirely new abattoir.

Your well-being in the short and long term is a reflection of your own well-being. Recognizing this is what they call “enlightened self-interest,” and it can be a powerful tool for good.

There are other ways around this. just waiting for us to pursue. Congress is not abandoning funding for new treatments and testing. Nor is it ignoring the ongoing plights of those who were already sick before this terrible plague. We cannot wish COVID away, but if we close our eyes to those who were already unwell before the pandemic and who live today in towering peril, history will remember this as the era when the so-called “greatest nation on Earth” got sicker and sicker even as it allowed hundreds of thousands of people to die because they were inconvenient to the advertising.