Among the few things understood about the coronavirus is that it hits old people harder that younger adults and children.
In addition to elder deaths from the virus at home and in hospitals, at least 20,000 deaths due to the virus have been reported in U.S. nursing homes but the number is undoubtedly much higher because many do not release the number of such deaths.
So much else is wrong with the U.S. official response to the virus, I cannot in good conscience focus only on the people – old folks – this blog generally addresses. Everyone of every age is at risk.
Although a few countries and some U.S. states show a slight reduction in the number of new coronavirus cases in recent days, thousands are still dying.
Nevertheless, local governments are allowing certain retailers, some beaches, restaurants and other venues to reopen. And even when governments do not yet sanction openings, there are business owners who just defy officials and open anyway.
Some reports are telling us that even without this loosening of restrictions, the number of deaths per day, now averaging about 1,000, is expected to double by early June.
And I haven't even gotten to those armed, masked men at the Michigan statehouse. I'm still not clear what they were protesting but those gigantic guns they carried were shocking enough to scare me about what could happen.
A better kind of leadership, I am convinced, would bring the country together rather than leave it open to threats of violence. (President George W. Bush after 9/11 comes to mind. Also President Barak Obama after the church shootings in Charleston.)
For myself, I gave up on Dr. Deborah Birx when she declared a few weeks ago that the president has a deep understanding of the science of the pandemic. She confirmed my misgivings about her further when she tried to defend the president's Clorox delusion.
Meanwhile, the closest thing the U.S. has to national leadership that can be believed is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo but he, rightly, is focused on his state.
Certainly we cannot pay attention to President Clorox and anyway, on Tuesday, The Guardian headlined a story thusly: “Trump Gives Up on Virus Fight to Focus on Economic Recovery – and Re-election.”
So I guess we can move on from the fantasy some might have entertained that he would ever have anything useful to contribute to a future triumph over our global health predicament.
In recent days, Trump has also withdrawn U.S. funding of the World Health Organization (WHO), refused to join world leaders in funding COVID-19 vaccine research and announced the intention to “wind down” the White House coronavirus task force.
Here is something else Trump is working on. As reported in Common Dreams (and other places) on Monday,
”President Donald Trump on Sunday said he will not approve another badly needed Covid-19 stimulus package if it doesn't include a payroll tax cut, a policy that would strike a blow to Social Security and Medicare funding while offering no relief for the more than 30 million people who have lost their jobs over the past six weeks.
"'I told Steve just today, we're not doing anything unless we get a payroll tax cut,' Trump said during a Fox News town hall Sunday night, referring to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. 'That is so important to the success of our country.'”
In case anyone is in the dark about what payroll taxes are, they are deductions from every employee's paycheck to fund Social Security and Medicare. Employers match the payroll tax.
It's hard to keep up. As I am writing this on Tuesday, it is being reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, following a Republican lunch, told reporters that the Senate is in no hurry to pass any new legislation related to COVID-19.
I guess that means we can, for now, relax about Social Security and Medicare cuts. More broadly, it means that individual states are on their own without anywhere near the resources of the federal government.
In the history of the United States, I'm pretty sure there has never been such incompetence and dereliction of responsibility. This is a horror show.