No science is immune to the infection of politics and the corruption of power.
-- Jacob Bronowski, British Mathematician, Historian
I hate talking about this fucking virus.
But it seems like that’s all I’ve done for the last few days.
I'm not trying to add to your anxiety.
Or mine, for that matter. But I have people who are going to die if they get it. Friends going in for surgery tomorrow. Friends with cancer. Elderly members of my family.
I’m not special in that regard, of course.
We all have people we care about who are at risk.
The thing is, I live in an impoverished part of the country.
A hell of a lot of people here don't have healthcare, and if they do it's lousy. They have plans with high out-of-pocket costs that they can’t afford even under the most dire of circumstance. Their plans don’t cover anything but the bare minimum, they’re difficult to use (by design), and expensive. That’s the kind of health insurance plans poor people get.
If they get anything at all.
A significant number of the people who live in this little Southern town, they're sick all the time already.
Because that’s how life is here.
That’s how life has always been. It’s a fixture of this place – and many other places in America.
The medical infrastructure here is, charitably speaking, mostly crap. Much of it is for-profit, or run by religion. People don’t have family doctors, they go to those lousy little pay-as-you-go clinics when their kids get strep throat or step on a rusty nail. Everything else they treat with discount over-the-counter meds they get from the Dollar Store.
I'm surrounded by people who can't afford the flu vaccination.
Now when I said that on Twitter, can’t afford a flu shot, naturally social media went immediately down the rabbit hole and spent the next 24 hours telling me how I could get “free” flu shots at any pharmacy.
Of course, it was never about the flu shot.
And leaving aside the part where a lot of people obviously don’t read the fine print when it comes to “Free Flu Shots (with most insurance),” I used that example only to illustrate a point about poverty.
Poor people don’t get vaccinated, they get sick.
Sure, there are programs to get poor kids the mandatory vaccinations they need to attend public school, but optional vaccinations are a luxury most can’t afford. You can sometimes find the flu shot for $25 or so at places like Costco or a local pharmacy, but for a lot of people that’s a tank of gas or food for a week. So they get the flu, and shingles, and pneumonia. And they go to work with it. Because that’s just how it is when you’re poor.
Another example: In any impoverished area, a lot of people have bad teeth. Or missing teeth.
It’s one of the first thing you notice.
Why? Because it's a hell of a lot cheaper to get a tooth pulled than it is to get it fixed. Poor people can’t afford crowns or fillings or even routine cleanings if they don’t have dental coverage. They also tend to have lousy diets, because proper nutrition and the education to recognize it are also out of reach when you’re on the bottom rung. All the brushing in the world won’t help when you diet is mostly sugars and you’re drinking unfluoridated well water and can’t afford to the see the dental hygienist.
What’s the point of these examples?
What’s the point of talking about poverty in a pandemic?
Because when the government tells you to buy a couple weeks worth of supplies and just stay home if you think you might have been exposed, well it demonstrates that those in charge are profoundly ignorant of reality.
Poor people can’t just stay home.
People who live paycheck to paycheck can’t just stay home.
People here go to work sick, because they can't afford not to.
They send their children to school sick, because they can’t afford not to.
People here get the flu, because it's cheaper than the vaccine. And most of the time it doesn't kill them. They get teeth pulled, or let them rot out of their heads, because it’s the only option they have. People here just live with health issues, until they don't. Because they can't afford anything else.
The point of my comment about flu shots was to illustrate the larger issue.
And I used the flu as an example because the president himself brought it up during his coronavirus press conference two days ago:
Trump: You look at flu season. I said 26,000 people? I’ve never heard of a number like that. Twenty-six thousand people going up to sixty-nine thousand people, Doctor — you told me before. Sixty-nine thousand people die every year — from 26 [thousand] to 69 [thousand] — every year from the flu. Now, think of that. It’s incredible.
So far, the results of all of this that everybody is reading about — and part of the thing is you want to keep it the way it is. You don’t want to see panic because there’s no reason to be panicked about it.
But when I mentioned the flu, I said — actually, I asked the various doctors. I said, “Is this just like flu?” Because people die from the flu. And this is very unusual. And it is a little bit different, but in some ways it’s easier and in some ways it’s a little bit tougher.
Think of that. That’s incredible, Trump says of the people who die from the flu.
He didn’t know.
He didn’t know. That’s the incredible part.
Trump: I want you to understand something that shocked me when I saw it that — and I spoke with Dr. Fauci on this, and I was really amazed, and I think most people are amazed to hear it: The flu, in our country, kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year. That was shocking to me.
And, so far, if you look at what we have with the 15 people and their recovery, one is — one is pretty sick but hopefully will recover, but the others are in great shape. But think of that: 25,000 to 69,000.
Over the last 10 years, we’ve lost 360,000. These are people that have died from the flu — from what we call the flu. “Hey, did you get your flu shot?” And that’s something.
Trump didn’t know how many people die from the flu every year.
Why would he? Because the majority of the people who die from the flu are poor, elderly, infirm, immunosuppressed, etc.
These are the very same people who are vulnerable to the Novel Coronavirus – a disease with a significantly higher mortality rate.
And Trump is using the flu to tell them not to worry, right?
I mean, you see it, right?
Of course, this really wasn’t about the flu. Or even about the coronavirus.
It was about how the privileged profit from poverty.
If you're a selfish greedy predatory asshole like Rush Limbaugh, you tell those poor people the coronavirus is just the flu, just a cold, because anything else makes Trump look bad. Because if Trump looks bad, then Rush looks bad. And trust me, every confederate flag waving son of bitch who doesn't have a pot to piss in down here listens to Limbaugh like he's the second coming of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
And Trump himself?
Trump daily demonstrates that he’s more worried about how this pandemic will affect his reelection campaign, how it will impact the stock market and thus the 401Ks and the profits of those who might blame him for the disaster.
Poor people don’t have 401K retirement plans and stock portfolios.
Trump has spent $28 billion of your tax money propping up the very farmers he screwed, solely to ensure they keep voting for him. But do you see a single penny for poor people? Do you see the Trump administration offering up emergency flu shots or money for food or a week’s wages so that these people might be able to stay home if they’re exposed? Do you see Trump pushing for emergency regulations that would prevent businesses from firing those who stayed home, as instructed by the government?
Do you see Rush Limbaugh pushing for such?
No, you don’t.
The point here is this: when the virus finally does hit that population, what do you think is going to happen?
These are people who get medical advice from Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh and I’ll tell you with 100% certainty what’s going to happen, they're going to keep going to work until they can't.
And they're going infect everybody around them, because that's just how it is. The poor, the elderly, the infirm, the immunosuppressed, the weak and the most vulnerable.
This whole "Don't go to work if you think you might be coming down with something" is privilege talking, the kind of thing people with wealth say. The kind of thing people with Stage 3 Lung Cancer, a person most vulnerable to something like the coronavirus, say when they don’t personally ever have to worry about being exposed, when there is no risk to them, when they value profit over people.
People on the bottom don't have that luxury.
They go to work, no matter what, because there isn't any other option.
They can't afford to buy a month's worth of supplies and bunker up. They can't even afford a $20 flu shot or a teeth cleaning. And conservative pundits are busy telling them it’s all a hoax anyway. Nothing to worry about.
And where do these people work? What jobs do the working poor do? Do you know? Because they’re fixing your fast food and waiting your tables and pushing carts at the local Walmart.
You maybe starting to get the picture now?
And so, the government’s primary preventative measure will fail right out of the box.
If you don't understand this, then you've never seen actual poverty up close.
That’s my point here.
The point isn’t how many people the disease kills or doesn't kill.
Citizens are worried. Right, wrong, it doesn't matter. Americans are worried and it's our leaders’ job to address those concerns sincerely, not call them a hoax and complain about the stock market.
And when it does come?
When the virus spreads into the local population, the ones too poor not to get sick?
Here, the local government can't handle an epidemic. They can't even afford to fix a fucking pothole.
And the state is run by science denying religious nuts who think hurricanes and diseases are punishment from their shitty miserable god for gay people or some such nonsense.
When it happens, with this outbreak or the next, there won’t be enough medical resources and competence to go around.
Those in charge know it.
This morning there was a press conference here in Florida. Turns out, the Florida Department of Health waited 24 hours after finding out about two emergent cases of coronavirus before informing the public.
Because they don’t know what to do, they don’t have any kind of plan, and they they can’t stop it.
This morning, Washington State is reporting five dead from the virus.
Meanwhile, in Texas, a patient infected with COVID-19 was accidentally released from the Texas Center for Infectious Disease and … went to the mall. She spent two hours there in the food court, then went to a hotel, before doctors managed to track her down. Officials say the risk that she infected others is low.
But then, they’d have to, wouldn’t they?
I don’t know, maybe we’ll get lucky and the virus will die out and we won’t get widespread infection.
Maybe we’ll get lucky and researchers will develop a vaccine, get it approved, and get it to the market in the next few weeks – as Trump has repeatedly claimed.
Just a very quick update on the countermeasure development in the form of vaccines and therapeutics. I had told this audience at a recent press briefing that we have a number of vaccine candidates and one prototype, to give you a feel for the timeframe of a vaccine and what its impact might be now and in subsequent years — is that I told you we would have a vaccine that we would be putting into trials, to see if it’s safe and if it induces a response that you would predict would be protective in about three months.
I think it’s going to be a little bit less than that. It’s probably going to be closer to two months. That would then take about three months to determine if it’s safe and immunogenic, which gives us six months. Then you graduate from a trial — which is phase one — of 45 people, to a trial that involves hundreds if not low thousands of people to determine efficacy. At the earliest, an efficacy trial would take an additional six to eight months.
So although this is the fastest we have ever gone from a sequence of a virus to a trial, it still would not be any applicable to the epidemic unless we really wait about a year to a year and a half.
-- Dr. Antony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, at the Trump Press Conference.
Maybe we’ll get lucky and there’ll be enough vaccine for everybody and everybody will be able to afford it and the most vulnerable will get it first instead of the rich and powerful. Sure. Maybe.
But, if this goes sideways, well, then just like everywhere else, there’s not going to be enough resources to save those at the bottom.
The medical system will have to do battlefield triage, save the ones they can and to hell with the rest. We won’t have any choice and the medical experts have as much as told you so.
Don’t think so?
Two days ago Trump held a press conference.
The message was repeated over and over by Trump and the various medical types he pushed at the podium: if you're healthy, you're probably okay. You'll survive. If you're healthy. But if you're not, if you're old, or have cancer, or a compromised immune system, then without significant medical care, you're gonna be in trouble.
Right now, that medical care is available.
But once the virus is widespread, once thousands are infected, once the system is saturated, then what? What’s the plan then?
I'm at ground zero if this thing goes sideways.
Sure, my immune system is still pretty good, reasonably robust, but all the people I care about are at significant risk.
Trump: I think you have to always — look, I do it a lot anyway, as you’ve probably heard. Wash your hands, stay clean. (Laughter.) You don’t have to necessarily grab every handrail unless you have to. You know, you do certain things that you do when you have the flu. I mean, view this the same as the flu. When somebody sneezes — I mean, I try and bail out as much as possible when they’re sneezing. I had a man come up to me a week ago. I hadn’t seen him in a long time, and I said, “How you doing?” He said, “Fine. Fine.” And he — he hugs me, kiss. I said, “Are you well?” He says, “No.” (Laughter.) He said, “I have the worst fever and the worst flu.” And he’s hugging and kissing me. So I said, “Excuse me.” I went and I started washing my hands. (Laughter.) So you have to do that. You know, this is — I really think, Doctor, you ought to treat this like you treat the flu, right? And, you know, it’s going to be — it’s going to be (inaudible). Wait. I want to have — I loved — that was so nice of you to say “thank you very much.”
Reporter: Well, thank you, Mr. President.
Trump: Go ahead. Give me a nice question then. Don’t ruin it. Don’t ruin it with a bad question. Go ahead.
And fucking Nero is up there fiddling conspiracy theories over the stock market and his reelection instead of doing his job.
Trump: Yeah, sure. Sure. I think Speaker Pelosi is incompetent. She lost the Congress once. I think she’s going to lose it again. She lifted my poll numbers up 10 points. I never thought that I would see that so quickly and so easily.
I’m leading everybody. We’re doing great. I don’t want to do it that way. It’s almost unfair if you think about it. But I think she’s incompetent, and I think she’s not thinking about the country. And instead of making a statement like that, where I’ve been beating her routinely at everything — instead of making a statement like that, she should be saying we have to work together, because we have a big problem, potentially. And maybe it’s going to be a very little problem. I hope that it’s going to be a very little problem. But we have to work together.
Instead, she wants to do that — same thing with Cryin’ Chuck Schumer. He goes out and he says, “The President only asked for two and a half billion dollars. He should have eight and a half.” This is the first time I’ve ever been told that we should take more. Usually, it’s we have to take less.
And we should be working together. He shouldn’t be making statements like that, because it’s so bad for the country. And Nancy Pelosi — I mean, she should go back to her district and clean it up, because it’s the number one — if you look at percentage down, that was one of the finest in the world, and now you look at what’s happening.
And I’m just saying, we should all be working together. She’s trying to create a panic, and there’s no reason to panic because we have done so good.
We have a government of corrupt, incompetent, greedy fools. Science deniers, religious nuts, hacks, flacks, goons, loons, and poltroons. Trump daily tells you he doesn't give a fuck about half the country and would just as soon see us eliminated.
This is a guy who can't work a toilet or an umbrella. Who thinks it's the light bulbs making him look orange and not the actual orange goop he smears on his face every day.
This is a guy who thinks wind turbines cause cancer and coal can be burned cleanly so long as you’re voting for Trump.
AND NO ONE DARES TELL HIM DIFFERENT.
Worse, all the people in charge of this crisis, a) don't think it's a crisis, and b) think medicine first and foremost should be for profit and are right now figuring out how they can make bank off the plague.
THEY'RE CERTAINLY NOT GOING TO CALL HIM OUT.
So, yes, I'm a bit concerned.
I’m concerned because all the people I care about are at risk.
So, forgive me if I don't have the greatest confidence in these greedy ass-kissing Rapture monkeys to manage anything but their own stock portfolios with any degree of competency.
This plague or the next, sooner or later, America is going to pay the price for not having a universal healthcare system.
Sooner or later, we’re going to pay the price for putting profit over people.
We’re going to pay the price for electing fools to run our country.
The bill is going to come due.
Nobody is capable of really thinking about anyone, even in the worst calamity.
-- Albert Camus, The Plague