Covid-A Better Example
I keep thinking of a piece I encountered on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) website on November 24 entitled, "How the Cherokee Nation has curtailed the pandemic." It is an intra-national example of what we might have achieved with better leadership. As of mid-November when the U.S. as a whole had tallied 250,000 deaths, the Cherokee Nation had just 33. In terms of the dead as a percentage of population that's 0.078% dead in the overall U.S. and 0.024% among the Cherokee, a three fold reduction. (I'm using 320,000,000 as the U.S. population and 140,000 as the population of Cherokee Nation tribal citizens in their newly won reservation in northeastern Oklahoma, part of a July 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling designating nearly half of Oklahoma as Native American land.)
The Cherokee people have a long history of ill treatment by the United States government. A people whose land at the time of the colonists spanned a considerable inland territory in the southeastern United States, the Cherokee already had a well-developed matrilineal society, culture and system of governance of their own. In response to the encroaching culture of the colonists the Cherokee developed a writing system and adopted cotton agriculture, Christianity, and aspects of the colonial governance structure. Despite these adaptions to colonial ways the Cherokee were driven west to the Oklahoma territory in the Cherokee removal, essentially an act of ethnic cleansing, carried out under the direction of Andrew Jackson between 1836 and 1939, a part of the story of the Trail of Tears,. (It should surprise no one that Andrew Jackson is one of Mr. Trump's idols.) The subsequent relations between the Cherokee people, the federal government, the Oklahoma Territory and later the state of Oklahoma is interesting reading, but it is beyond the scope of this post.
"How the Cherokee Nation has curtailed the pandemic" offers an internal example of what we could have done as a country. Overall we now lead the world with 285,000 dead from Covid-19 occurring in our one country. Even on a per capita basis as a country we are still dismally outstanding, with 86 dead /100,000 we rank 14th among all nations. The Cherokee experience stands out both because of their history and because their numbers, gathered in the same way as the rest of the country, cannot be argued away. Focused as we are on the Covid that surrounds us, it is hard to pay attention to the success of many countries. For example, Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese Covid deaths of <1 per 100,000, South Korean deaths at 1 per 100,000, and Japanese deaths at 2 per 100,000 (compared with the U.S. rate of 86 per 100,000). Instead we tend to hear the word "spike" or "outbreak" and assume things are as bad or worse in other countries than they are here (or we simply dismiss the numbers as lies).
Tomorrow, December 10th, the "Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee" meets to formally consider Pfizer's application for Emergency Use Authorization for their mRNA vaccine for Covid-19 (click the link for meeting materials) . The meeting runs from 6AM-3PM PST and can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owveMJBTc2I&feature=youtu.be. (This is the same vaccine that the United Kingdom approved and is already offering to its citizens--the same vaccine that the Trump administration declined to pre-orderbeyond 100 million doses.
There is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel of Covid sickness and death we face this winter. In the eventual aftermath this pandemic we need to remember, account for, and improve upon our dismal response to this one to better prepare ourselves for the next one.
Keep to the high ground,