COVID-19 Pandemic in the USA: A Disregard of Science & Human Rights
July 20th, 2020
Article by G. L. Heins
Artwork by Maddy Meredith
COVID-19 Pandemic in the USA: A Disregard of Science & Human Rights
By G.L. Heins
Oregon Coast, Oregon, USA
In the United States of America there are many differing viewpoints as we all witness the same unfolding of illness and death from the uncontrolled global pandemic, COVID-19. In these difficult times, more than ever, it is important to speak out and contribute to the collective discussions happening around the response to this global threat. My viewpoint and opinions must not be construed as representative of any single US perspective, there isn’t one. That being said, I have lived my entire life in this country. I have lived on the East coast, I have lived on the West coast, and I have been to many cities in between. I know this country and how it works. I love this country, and it saddens me greatly to see what we have been brought to as this virus rages across this great nation. It is important to understand why this spread, which is scientifically quantifiable, can and is being interpreted so differently throughout the country. Until the US finds a way to unite our approach to handling this situation with scientific reasoning and logic, the virus will continue to have free reign, wreaking havoc on our society.
A pandemic is defined, measured, and stopped through rapid and extensive testing programs. Tests help to define the spread of the virus, and identify its particular characteristics such as incubation period, avenues of transmission, and other factors that allow scientists to understand it, define its path and take immediate steps to cut it off. The effectiveness of this effort determines if the epidemic is stopped or if it becomes uncontrolled and develops into a pandemic spreading globally, overwhelming healthcare resources. In the US, slow moving agencies with varying levels of competency and overlapping responsibilities lead by a president who discards science, ignores warnings and spreads toxic advice has allowed the virus to spread rapidly. These factors continue to inhibit rational scientific proactive measures intended to slow its spread. The situation is becoming increasingly unmanageable with each passing hour.
In the US, there are people who are inquisitive and often skeptical of what they read or hear on news broadcasts. These people have taken the initiative to review literature and self-educate on the nature and characteristics of this pandemic. As current events unfold, they have been researching, learning and understanding various factors that define the spread of COVID-19. These people understand what the future will bring and are speaking out. Their voices are lost in the maze of heavily edited social media and newsroom tweets as the pandemic continues its predictable well-defined acceleration. They are rightfully terrified, but they do not represent the mainstream. The majority of people do not conduct independent research but rather obtain their information through online search engines, social media, talk radio, computer/television connections to one or two of a multitude of US news television networks. All of these have in one way or another served to either confuse or blatantly mislead the general public.
Online searches and social media may or may not be reliable and although they are easily polluted with fake news and false information, they at least provide access to varying interpretations. Recently, both have ramped up effort and taken additional steps to curtail fake news. In many cases, the result has been the restriction or at least narrowing of access to varying perspectives. The result is the promotion of a “cleansed” mainstream perspective. Unfortunately, this mainstream perspective may not be the best one. This is because search keywords are being manipulated to lead inquiry back to the very agencies who have botched response efforts from the onset. It’s a complicated fine line to shield inquisition from false information without being detrimental to the flow of valid and cutting-edge research findings and can be subversive in promoting the exchange of valid alternative viewpoints. For example, if one searches “how to manage a pandemic in USA'' the top results are links to the US CDC (Center for Disease Control). The virus spread was not contained in Seattle, Washington and became uncontrolled in the USA in part as a result of this agency sending out faulty testing kits. If the search is changed to “how not to manage a pandemic in the USA”, the result again is a link to the CDC. In fact, the majority or COVID-19 searches result in links to US governmental agencies who have mismanaged this pandemic from its onset. One has to be diligent and creative to break through these barriers.
Facebook, a popular social networking platform is even more disruptive to information flow as it emboldens local “administrators” to monitor news. These individuals have the authority to immediately remove any posts that they judge to be inappropriate or “fake news”. The problem is most administrators have absolutely no background or qualifications that enable them to render an intelligent judgement as to the validity of the posts they remove. Their lack of understanding creates barriers to the free flow of what often is useful information exchange.
Possibly the most widely used venues through which information is obtained is media connection to one or more US news television networks and/or talk show radio. People listen or watch different stations and most have a favorite. The news reported is believed without question. The problem is not all reporting is truthful and there is no requisite for news reported to be based in factual data. Reported news ranges from the far right to left with more in between. There is a wide void in factual integrity and any filters to prevent dissemination of false information are not working. News is being released by networks with agendas driven by wealthy individuals and special interest groups, political parties, or candidates they support. This is hugely problematic and undermines the ability of their audience to make decisions based on factual data. Talk show radio hosts are all over the map in terms of the validity of the facts they present and likewise confuse and misinform loyal listeners.
Let’s take a closer look at an example of this. Fox News, a popular US television network, egregiously misled their audience from late January through February 2020. Fox News correspondents Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Rush Limbaugh accelerated virus spread throughout the nation with their inaccurate and incompetent news coverage of the COVID-19 virus threat. At the time when scientists began raising concerns of a new virus that was rapidly spreading in China, Fox News echoed things said by President Trump and called pandemic concerns a hoax. They went on to depict it as a scheme by democrats and the media to incite fear in order to panic the public and cause a drop in the stock market for the purpose of undermining the reelection campaign of current President Donald Trump. Unbelievable as this may seem, there are still many people in the USA who believe there is no pandemic, that it is a hoax. This failure to accurately report the facts is in part responsible for the mounting loss of life. The harm they incited with this gross misrepresentation of facts is irreversible and frankly criminal.
The result of limiting free access to information, manipulation of facts and just plain faulty reporting has resulted in an enormous population base strongly believing entirely different versions of an unfolding event which is both quantifiable and verifiable. The dysfunctional leadership and inaction of US president Donald Trump is the single largest reason thousands of US lives are now being lost on a daily basis. He could and should have stopped virus spread before it firmly established itself in the country and began its rapid ravage throughout every single state. Instead he ignored facts, disregarded the warnings of top international scientists and went on to repeatedly refer to virus spread as a hoax. Once citizens started to get sick he downplayed the seriousness of the situation and assured citizens that it was under control and would go away soon.
On Monday, March 9, the US stock market plummeted followed by two more plunges on March 12th and 16th 2020, three largest point drops ever recorded. These successive crashes moved the Dow its record high in February 2020 of 29,551 points to a low of 20,188. All gains realized during the Trump administration evaporated and with it the savings and retirement accounts of millions of US citizens. Congress members learned of this mounting global concern prior to the general public. Rather than reign Trump in and demand appropriate action, some recognized that a pandemic would not be good for their personal financial portfolios and took or had their financial managers take immediate actions to protect their personal wealth. Some also provided this “insider” information to their wealthy campaign donors.
There can be no excuses for these selfish and despicable actions. Their responsibilities are to look out for the welfare of those they represent not to profit from their deaths. Such rot must be held accountable by the people who elected them. They should be dismissed from their positions and required to pay every dime that was saved back into a fund for the citizens with an interest rate equative to the number of lives lost. Additionally, they should be required to perform five years of community service at local homeless shelters. We don’t need to pay for their jailing, they’ve cost us plenty already.
What remains is an out of control pandemic in a divided country of millions of confused Americans, some sick, others dying, and most in a state of panicked shock . Many are struggling to understand how this could be happening and what went so very wrong. They demand to know why there is no consistent message and no science-based leadership from their president.
Yet some still don’t get it and believe every word President Trump utters. President Trump has stated on live television that the US was handling the pandemic better than any other country in the world. He also added no one could ever have foreseen this pandemic coming. Everyone I know recognizes both statements as false. Trump was warned and there are unused Pandemic Response Manuals throughout the country, federally as well as in states and counties. In fact, the Pandemic Response Manual in King County, where the virus first appeared in the US, was useless due to a flawed assumption that the data from widespread testing would be immediately available and this information used to guide response efforts. Now over three months into virus spread there still are huge test shortages and problems getting test results to health care professionals in a timely fashion.
Scientists have been warning about the risks posed from a pandemic for years. Two years ago the CNN news network aired a two hour special on what a pandemic would look in this country and what it showed is hauntingly similar to our new reality. Trump disregards all science that doesn’t fit into his political agenda and his supporters do not seem to care or understand. The infrastructure of the country has collapsed, been hollowed and weakened by greed, corruption, ignorance, incompetence and failure. Now we suffer the consequences.
Curerntly, citizens are attempting to cope with lives turned upside down as a result of conflicting or incorrect information and their government’s total and massive failure in responding responsibly to the pandemic. Every single step that should have been taken was not or was botched. Agencies with overlapping responsibilities weren’t communicating and all the countless pandemic response plans, which cost millions of tax dollars, were sitting on shelves collecting dust because they were a product of a previous administration. Blatant incompetence at every single juncture - it’s time citizens start holding governmental employees personally responsible for these horrendous mistakes. Citizens in privately held companies would be fired but it is probable that not one governmental employee will be terminated.
Today, people are sick, dying, unemployed and isolating at home, trying to figure out how long they can feed their families without income. The homeless are crammed in makeshift shelters where social distancing is impossible. Others are exhausted, terrified of becoming ill, of infecting their families as they frantically work, under protected in the overwhelmed health care system or in stores trying to keep up with the demand for food & provisions.
Something like a miracle is desperately needed. A readily available inexpensive cure- a pill that will prevent the virus in those uninfected and cure those who are already sick. What is needed at this time is a rational plan to cope with the rampant sickness, reduce the rate of new infections, and establish “herd immunity". Historically, pandemics play out through the population in waves. The initial trauma of mass deaths causes people to hide in fear at home, which allows the first wave to subside. People emerge, thinking it is over, and the next wave of sickness inevitably follows. The cycle repeats until enough “herd immunity” is established for an equilibrium to be reached whereby the level of occurrence of sickness, when the population is engaged in normal behavior, is acceptable. A vaccination would allow this natural cycle to play itself out without the loss of life that the disease causes. In the absence of a vaccination, the disease itself must be used to create a “backfire” of immunity to break the waves of death through the vulnerable population.
To cope with the rampant sickness there needs to be locations that contain only sick people. For example, it is stupid to have every emergency room at every hospital used for cover-19 suspected cases. Where do you bring a healthy individual with a broken arm or who is having a heart attack? However, you could not have a single ER for this use, because it would be “out of network” for most people who have insurance. Fundamentally, the health care system in the US exacerbates the problem. To reduce the rate of new infections, everyone should wear a mask in public, like they do in China. The entire country needs to be put into emergency lockdown: no travel outside of home for ANY reason except to/from home to work for essential employees in public infrastructure, security, and healthcare.
To get “herd immunity” there need to be thousands of centers setup where healthy, low risk individuals can go to get the disease. Initially limited to essential personal and subsequently expanded to anyone who wants it. Most of the population is between the ages of 10 and 40 with no health issues. Most of these individuals will experience a mild cold or flu with no long term complications. Pay people $2,000 and there will be lines around the block to become infected. Two weeks later the last wave of the pandemic is over because “herd immunity” has been attained.
Short of a miracle, the death rate will continue to soar and economic recovery will take years. It’s already a total catastrophe but will snowball into an apocalyptic disaster if President Trump is not immediately restricted from having any further involvement in future pandemic strategy development, implementation or communication. Moving forward he is the single biggest threat to this country and citizens must make Congress act.