“April is the cruelest month,” T.S. Eliot wrote. He was right about last April, but if the numbers hold — and alas, there is no reason to think they won’t — the August before us promises to leave the cruelty of springtime in deep, dark shade.
At the close of July, worldwide COVID-19 infections surpassed 18 million cases. The World Health Organization reports the number of new infections is doubling every six weeks. Here in the U.S., where our government’s main line of defense against the pandemic has been to wish it would go away, the number of total cases approaches 5 million people, far and away the most in the world. Nearly 2 million new cases were recorded here last month alone, and the number of dead has surpassed 154,000 souls.
COVID-19 is basically everywhere now. Portions of the country that have been spared the ravages of the virus due to isolation and low population are now being infected at a high rate, and many of these areas lack even the most basic medical infrastructure needed to combat the disease and preserve life. Any vaccine is months away from being useful, and will not be a silver bullet under even the best of circumstances.
“Gone is any sense that the country may soon gain control of the pandemic,” reports The New York Times. “Instead, the seven-day average for new infections hovered around 65,000 for two weeks. Progress in some states has been mostly offset by growing outbreaks in parts of the South and the Midwest…. Even finding out who has the virus is a challenge, as testing programs have frustrated many Americans with lengthy delays in providing results.”
The rush to reopen schools completely is beginning more and more to resemble a suicide pact most people did not sign up for and will not participate in. A camp in Georgia was forced to close recently after nearly 300 children became infected with COVID there. A single school district in Georgia reports 260 employees currently absent due either to infection or exposure.
A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly suggests that the belief children are mostly immune is dangerous fiction. Meanwhile, school administrators all across the country wrestle with this momentous decision, waiting desperately for guidance that is not coming.
Why is no guidance coming?
The president of the United States is a cruel, self-absorbed, disinterested TV fraud who lives within his own cracked shell like a bird that refuses to depart the egg. Donald Trump is everything we warned he was and more, aided and abetted by agenda-driven lickspittles like his son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose greatest contribution to the COVID fight was the argument that the pandemic can be safely ignored because it was, at the time, only affecting “blue” Democrat-controlled states.
“In an attempt to boost his mood, Trump’s advisers scrambled to assemble a scaled-down political event on a baking Florida tarmac on Friday,” reports CNN, “where Trump addressed a mostly mask-less crowd standing inches from one another…. The event illustrated what White House officials describe as an ad hoc effort to schedule appearances for Trump that allow him to bask in at least some adulation as his campaign rallies remain on hold and after an in-person convention acceptance speech was scuttled.”
That is why no guidance is coming.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress continue to flail against the barbed necessities of the moment, gumming up the works of a new COVID relief package so completely that a desperately needed $600 emergency unemployment supplement has disappeared, leaving millions of workers in peril of hunger and eviction. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have their aid package ready to go, but can only sit and watch in despair as the bodies pile up around the GOP’s impenetrable ideological armor.
The most pressing question for congressional Republicans at the moment is not about helping the people. It is, of course, about power.
The GOP is beginning to encompass the possibility that Trump may be defeated in November, and worse (for them), that the Democrats may take control of the Senate. Thus, like dogs fighting over the marrow in a pile of bones, various GOP factions are jockeying for leadership positions should the worst (for them) come to pass. The COVID relief package currently under consideration has become a pawn in that power game.
That, too, is why no guidance is coming.
The great James Baldwin once said, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
The long consequences of hate, fear and greed have come to a head here in the United States, and the rampages of COVID are but one example of how steep the butcher’s bill has become. As August chews through our lives and livelihoods, followed by September, October, and the terrifying promise of a bleak and lethal winter, pain is something we will all be dealing with. It’s very, very bad now. It is going to get worse.