Heaven Help Us All
by Kevin Seraaj, J.D., M.Div., Orlando Advocate
Like it or not, the hallmark of former President Trump’s legacy will be the devastation caused by COVID-19. With 403,063 dead and 10,511,075 recovered out of a total of 24,290,413 confirmed cases, that leaves 13,376,275 people infected and not recovered. That’s a lot of infected people potentially infecting other people.
To bring the pandemic to an end, every country has to bring the curve of daily cases down to zero. In today’s climate of mistrust and distrust in the USA, the herculean effort needed to accomplish that feat may very well be beyond us all.
First and foremost, the CDC reports that the much more contagious, mutated coronavirus strain first detected in the UK has arrived in the USA. This strain is believed to be more contagious than any other, and while the vaccine is thought to be effective for all strains of COVID-19, Operation WarpSpeed, the plan for quick roll-out of the vaccine, is experiencing severe dysfunction.
Here in Florida, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.K. variant has popped up, and in fact, we have the highest number of this mutated virus than anywhere else in the nation (46). California is second with 40. This is not to say that these numbers represent the only cases in either state. Scientists are sure there are more numbers that have not yet been confirmed. Because this variant is much more aggressive and contagious, it could propel the total numbers of active infections into the stratosphere– and along with it, the total numbers of deaths.
President Biden faces a daunting task in dealing with COVID-19 in the days ahead. With the death count mounting and over 400,000 deaths to date, officials from the Centers for Disease Control are warning that the U.S. will top 500,000 deaths by the end of this month.
Biden has a plan, but it will take a considerable amount of voluntary compliance to pull it off. Use if the word “mandated” in any connection with the virus will likely reignite the passion of the still existent Team Trump and deepen an already huge divide in the nation.
From the days the former president first insisted the virus was completely under control, the nation’s commitment to fighting COVID-19 was troublesome. We have not done what needed to be done. Countries like New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, and China– yes China– took swift and decisive action and successfully controlled their outbreaks. Public-health experts point to several common strategies among these successful countries: universal masking, robust testing and contact tracing, and a clearly communicated, consistent national plan.
At a time when the U.S. should have been adopting a strategy designed to bring all Americans together to deal with a serious problem, Trump was ignoring critical data and arguing with scientists, causing a rift within the nation over a supposed “coronavirus hoax” that resulted in haphazard implementation of safety protocols, and the encouraging of superspreader events like his campaign rallies where thousands of people gathered without masks or social distancing requirements.
But why beat a dead horse?
Shutting down the nation now (no, not “again,” since the nation was never ‘shut down’) seems a lot like “too little, too late.” What is needed now is a strategy for overcoming the extreme polarization that exists in the nation to enable Americans to come together to confront this problem in a unified manner– so that we actually protect one another from infection. Whether we can do this much-needed coming together, given the deep racial and political divide that exists, is doubtful. But unless we all take steps to prevent the spread of infection, we simply will not win this war. As the infection numbers increase, so, too, do the numbers of the dead.
By his words and actions, Trump created mistrust and distrust of both the government and the healthcare industry. His diminishing of the virus became a breeding ground for conspiracy theories about Covid-19, resulting in deep divisions in the country over the reasoning and purpose of governmental restrictions, and a disdain for mask-wearing and safety protocols. And into that swamp of disillusionment he led his 75 million followers.
Unfortunately, many more will die before the hearts of the people are brought to agreement. Changing the mindset that produced the attitudes and behaviors that brought us to this point will not be an easy undertaking for the new Biden administration. But it must be done.
Heaven help us all.