Leaders in Covid Death
In the vice-presidential "debate" one question asked of Mike Pence by the moderator, Susan Page, stood out in bold relief:
Vice President Pence, more than 210,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since February. The US death toll as a percentage of our population is higher than that of almost every other wealthy nation on Earth. For instance, our death rate is two and a half times that of Canada, next door. You head the administration's Coronavirus Task Force. Why is the U.S. death toll, as a percentage of our population, higher than that of almost every other wealthy country?
Pence had his approved talking-points ready. Rather than allow listeners to consider any international comparison of per capita death rates, Pence dove into Republican/Fox News diversion. This is the gist: Don't compare us to other countries. No, no, no. Instead, focus on how much worse it could have been if we hadn't taken all the marvelous and timely actions we took! Don't look at the evidence and, if you must look, you must conclude it is flawed and untrustworthy because it conflicts with our narrative. (Read his full response, if you have the stomach for it, at 05:55 in the transcript.)
The question posed to Mike Pence is accurate. The U.S. per capita death rate from Covid is 2.5 times Canada's rate. Canadians live next door. They speak a language we understand. We are not taught to be suspicious of their government systems. For all those reasons it is hard explain away a factor of 2.5 by claiming the statistics are flawed. (Explore more Covid per capita death statistics by country at https://www.statista.com/statistics/1104709/coronavirus-deaths-worldwide-per-million-inhabitants/. Be sure to read the notes.)
Precisely because Canada's numbers are pretty much unassailable, Pence deliberately sidestepped the question. He knows that the 648 Covid deaths per 1,000,000 in the U.S. is a glaring condemnation of Republican "leadership." He also knows that Americans are trained to look inward, not outward, trained to dismiss foreign data as manufactured, trained to think of the rest of the world as backward and undeveloped. Moreover, he trusts our news media (even those outlets he and his boss label Fake News), to highlight stories of new outbreaks of coronavirus and new lockdowns while offering little if any context.
We report nearly 220,000 dead from Covid-19 to date. China reports nearly 5000. That's 648 Covid deaths per 1,000,000 in the U.S. to 3.4 Covid deaths per 1,000,000 in China. (China has roughly four times our population.) That is a rate of death 191 times lower than ours (not just 2.5). That seems an impossible number. The Chinese must be lying, right? We Americans have been trained by a lifetime of nationalist pride and subtle propaganda, so we might be excused for making that the Chinese are lying--but we might better take off the nationalist blinders and have a critical look. After all, to equal our total dead from Covid-19, China (at four times our population) would have to be hiding 880,000 dead bodies, funerals and grieving families. In our world of electronic communication that would be no mean feat even for a country with government controlled media.
Our attention is flooded with antics Trump, his Republican sycophants, and parading militias, so flooded many of us have zero bandwidth left to look outward--and many of us have simply tuned out--just what our would-be autocratic would like. To look outward is to see what a laughingstock Trump's failed leadership has made of us in the eyes of the world.
For a broadening of perspective take the time to read Nine Days in Wuhan, The Ground Zero of the Coronavirus Pandemic. It appears in the October 12, 2020 issue of The New Yorker. The author, Peter Kessler, is an American writer fluent in Chinese with extensive experience and a multitude of personal connections in China. He paints a personal picture of people struggling, a lot like the rest of us, through a pandemic that knocked them sideways, a pandemic which the Chinese government, with the help of its people, fought to a vigilant standstill using technology and techniques we were unable to muster. I strongly encourage reading the article, which I hope is not hidden behind a paywall (a lot of coronavirus coverage is not). The account is breathtakingly straightforward--in marked contrast to the blustery bullshit of Trump and the loudest members of his following, people who, by contrast, are clearly intent on letting Covid-19 rampage through the American population while lying and blaming their way out of any responsibility.
The Trump administration is impervious to verifiable fact. We have 220,000 dead already with no more than ten or twenty million of us carrying antibodies to the disease (a generous estimate) out of a population of 330 million. Under Republican pandemic negligence hundreds of thousands more will die than need to before we have a trusted, widely accepted, widely available, safe and effective vaccine. Vote them out.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. We are a long way from being done with Covid-19. There are about 7.8 billion people on our planet. Of those, the best data suggest that so far only 37 million have been infected with Covid-19. Since nearly 40% of people with Covid-19 never exhibit symptoms and would not be detected without a truly robust testing regimen, it is likely there are a lot of uncounted folks who have been infected. In a generous attempt to account for those cases let's more than double the worldwide number of total infected to 100 million. That still leaves 7.7 billion more Covid virgins for the virus to infect. (Sure, if "herd immunity" is achieved at, say, 60% of the population having effective antibodies, then the virus has "only" 4.5 billion potential hosts to go on a worldwide basis.)