RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

writing for godot

Why Anti-Pandemic Control: from the Right

Written by Steven Jonas   
Thursday, 26 August 2021 09:13

By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH


"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, Aug., 2018)


I have been writing columns on the Trump/Right and the COVID-19 pandemic since the spring of last year. As I said in my first one (March, 2020): "An Ounce of Prevention --- and Trump Could Have Been on a Glide-path the Re-election," anyone with a conventional public health background already knew by that time, about 8 weeks after the knowledge of the break-out of the then epidemic of the disease from Wuhan, China, what fairly simple and straightforward steps needed to be taken to get the disease under some reasonable form of control. (It happens that while I am not an infectious disease specialist/epidemiologist, based just on my Master of Public Health degree and my Board Certification in Preventive Medicine, with a career in academic preventive medicine, I was one of those who had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done, in terms of the health of the public.)

Actually, as it turned out, based on a series of (recorded) interviews with Bob Woodward, President Trump knew too --- or should have known because he certainly understand the basic epidemiology of the disease: it is a respiratory one spread primarily by droplets through the air. As I said then:

"Many things can be said about the revelations in [Woodward's] book, and not only about the fact that Trump knew very well what the nature of the COVID-19 threat was, early on, [but nevertheless] just happened to tell the nation, over and over again for months that it 'would eventually just go away.' "

But as we know well, Trump and his enablers, from the Republican Party, through Fox et al, to the Right-wing on the internet, did exactly the opposite. Right from the beginning he, and Trump and other Repubs. were indeed telling us that "it was just going to go away." The Hannity message (which I heard live, more than once) was that the "whole thing" was a Democratic hoax, designed to try to make the President look bad. And so on and so forth.

So why did he, and his numerous Republican/FOX/and-other-enablers do what they did? As the pandemic got worse and worse over the course of the Spring of 2020 I (and many others to be sure) puzzled over this one. And recall, that in addition to downplaying the pandemic for as long as he could, and for pushing false hopes like hydroxychloroquine, with Little Scotty Boy Atlas standing behind (and with an embarrassed-looking Dr. Birx sitting off to the side) Trump was pushing something they labelled "herd immunity" --- that isn't.

The Trump/Atlas version had no basis in scientific infectious disease epidemiology and control. To get the population as a whole --- the "herd" --- resistant to the disease would require high numbers of people to get infected, with some major proportion getting sick, and another proportion dying, to create a situation in which so many people would have had the disease that the "herd" would as a whole become immune to the disease, in the population. In infectious disease science, herd immunity --- first discovered among cows being immunized against bovine tuberculosis many years ag ---] is a product of mass immunization, not mass disease, whether in cows or humans.

After some months of such puzzling about "why" Trump was doing what he was doing, I finally came to the conclusion that what Trump, who knew (or at least knew at the time of the Woodward interviews in February, 2020) what the nature of the disease was, but carried out policies like making sure that a consistent national testing and contact tracing program, through the use of the Defense Production Act, was not implemented (courtesy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, actually), was actually after. And that was planned chaos.

Everything, and anything, that Trump did vis-à-vis the pandemic was done with both eyes firmly fixed on the election. And because he knew that he was behind, even in the Electoral vote, he figured that the most chaos there was, the more he could use the Office of the Presidency to control it (that is the chaos, not the disease) and thus he would look more "Presidential," and that would help him in the election.

Remember when Jared Kushner came up with an apparently pretty good plan for mass testing, but then dropped it because at the time only Blue states were getting significant numbers of cases and who would want to benefit them? Uh-oh, Jared, guess you never learned that viruses do not recognize state lines, especially when the wind is blowing. And then, when "Operation Warp Speed" failed to produce a vaccine before the election? Remember? Trump just lost interest in it (except for getting the injection himself once a vaccine became available, but neglecting to let the country know about that fact). And indeed, he very quickly pivoted to being anti-vaccine, which is why so many Red states have such low vaccination levels.

Then, as soon as it was clear that Biden had won, what the Trumpublicans wanted to do was anything that could make it harder for President Biden to get the pandemic under control. And this is what we are seeing in so many Red states, not only in terms of low vaccination rates --- vaccination seeming to be some kind of Democratic Plot to take over not only the bodies but the minds as well of the population. As is very well (indeed painfully) known there are actually governors like Ron DeSantis of Florida who have politically weaponized COVID-19 policy --- to make it into an anti-disease control policy --- to use against President Biden (who is doing everything he can to try to get the disease under control).

So when President Biden chides DeSantis for ordering school districts NOT to order the simplest measure for limiting the spread of this highly infectious air-borne disease, mandatory mask-wearing, DeSantis comes back with "you should be paying attention to the border." Ron has learned the Trumpian WMD ---- Weapon of Mass Distraction --- lesson well. Hey Ron, one thing has nothing to do with the other (that is, even if the border situation were as bad as DeSantis, Carlson, Hannity, et al describe it, and it isn't. The key section heading in the cited report is: "The Biden Administration Continues To Expel Most People.")

And then DeSantis adds something about required masking for schools (which at least some school districts in Florida want to implement) being like having a "biomedical security state." No one, he says, should be able to force anyone to wear a mask to attempt to control the spread of COVID. "The decision belongs to the parents," he says. Actually, Ron, it doesn't. In your state it belongs to the school boards. If a school board says "mask," children are required to comply, regardless of a parent's view. And of course it is the school boards that Ron is going after. So, trying the old WMD trick again, Ron.

And then further, on a wider policy issue, this "deny the school boards their choice in this matter" is from a Governor, and there are so many like him, who totally supports denying women any choice in the matter of the outcome of pregnancy. If one form of a "biomedical security state" --- like simply requiring mask wearing to go to school --- is bad, why is another form of "biomedical security state" --- like one that has the State taking over a woman's body and managing pregnancy outcomes in the absence of any input from the future mother(s) --- good?

And so on and so forth, for Republican Governors from Super-spreader Ron DeSantis (FL) (remember the Glorious Spring Break, 2020) to Greg Abbott (TX), who is on the way to making Texas schools a universe of super-spreader loci --- schools do not have to inform parents if there has been a case at their child's school --- so much for "choice" (Wade and Khemlani, Yahoo Finance, Aug. 7, 2021) all the way (geographically) up to Kristi Noem (SD, that's Governor, not all the way up to Nome, Alaska), and their legislatures too. No mandatory vaccination, no wide offerings of or programs for voluntary vaccination, no mandatory masking (which again, is the easiest way to help control the spread of this air-borne, respiratory disease). But why, which is the question I asked at the beginning of this column? What DeSantis is advocating makes no sense. Actually, any governor, and state legislature for that matter, that understands how the disease spread (that is through the air and the transmission rate is which apparently is getting worse with the Delta variant ---- and who knows what might be around the next disease-corner) would get a lot of credit.

BUT: A) many of their constituents have been taken in by the fiction --- that goes all the way back to Trump/Hannity in February 2020 --- that the whole thing is a Democratic hoax to get at first, Trump, and now the Repubs. in general: B) The Leader (yes, that's English for Der Fuerher, intentionally) is focused entirely on the "stolen election," (and do not forget that Trump began developing the Stolen Election Myth during the 2016 campaign). So why should they be focused on anything else, C) Big Gummint is bad (except, as has been pointed out, when for example it bans freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy), and D) in the Red states, for whatever reasons, anti-vacc./anti-mask/anti-just-about-anything that actually controls the disease spread, plays well with Republican voters, especially Republican primary voters.

SO. From the Trumpublican point of view, let's go for chaos. WHY? Because it gives us another weapon that we can use against those evil Democrats, as noted above, clearly demonstrated by DeSantis' attempt to switch the focus from disease-prevention to the problems-at-the-border. And of course, down the road, if the disease continues to spread, and the virus continues to muster, believe me the Trumpubs. will figure out a way to blame it all on Biden and the Democrats. And oh yes, Republicans have in the last few decades become more-and-more anti-science ---- as in fighting anything that can deal with climate change --- so in fighting the science on controlling COVID-19, they are just being consistent.

A final thought on Trump/anti-vaxx/anti-mask reasoning. A pro-Trump pastor in the South proclaimed that he was against requiring school-children to wear masks in church because so doing would prevent God's love from entering them through their mouths. One wonders. How does that pastor know that God is not in favor of mask-wearing (as well as vaccination)?


This column was previously published at: your social media marketing partner
Email This Page


THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.