It is getting harder by the hour for those so inclined to make the case that it’s best for the country to stop investigating the Trump administration after he leaves office. Fears that such investigations would further elevate Trump and overtake Joe Biden’s agenda — while entirely valid — do not justify ignoring the horrific revelations flying out of the White House in these waning days.
If the facts hold true, Trump and his people attempted, and at least partially accomplished, a form of targeted genocide against the people, and particularly marginalized people, using COVID-19 as the vehicle for policy. Capitalism demanded the nation not shut down and the workers keep working, even in the teeth of a lethal pandemic. Lacking a vaccine for all those months, the only viable solution that satisfied “the markets” was to let the virus burn through the population — particularly disabled, elderly, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, low-income, houseless and incarcerated populations — unchecked.
What is herd immunity? “Absent a vaccine, herd immunity implies that sufficient numbers of people become immune to a disease, such as Covid-19, to make its spread less and less likely,” reports Joshua Cohen for Forbes. “As a result, over time the entire community is protected, even those who are not themselves immune.”
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The problem, of course, is that achieving this level of mass immunity without a vaccine will happen only after massive death among the populace. Groups that have proven to be specifically vulnerable — elderly, sick and immunocompromised people, as well as people of color and low-income people — will die by the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands. By any rational moral code, it is a gruesome and utterly unacceptable avenue to pursue. Furthermore, there may be no herd immunity possible for SARS-CoV-2, a bleak possibility further darkening that path.
For many months now, Donald Trump has been accused of negligence, ignorance, arrogance and stubbornness regarding his utter failure to respond effectively to the pandemic. It now appears horrifically clear that presidential laziness in the face of COVID was a feature, not a bug. They wanted the virus to infect as many people as possible, claiming what lives as it may on the way to “herd immunity.” This avenue required no effort beyond ignoring the agony of the nation, a talent with which Trump is truly gifted.
Conservative estimates of the death toll from any such effort run over a million souls. We currently stand at over 300,000 lost, with a long and brutal winter amid a new COVID spike laid out before us. Accident? Negligence? Or deliberate policy? Recent revelations strongly suggest the latter is the fact of the matter.
“There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD,” reads a July 4 email from former Health and Human Services (HHS) science adviser Paul Alexander. “Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk … so we use them to develop herd … we want them infected.”
“We want them infected.”
Paul Alexander served under HHS assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo at the time of these exchanges, and it was widely accepted that Alexander spoke for Caputo, who spoke for Trump. By October, Scott Atlas was on the scene as Trump’s newest science adviser, and immediately began peddling the herd immunity policy to the president. A quack document called the Great Barrington Report painted a veneer of respectability over a policy many have compared to eugenics.
“Alexander left his position at HHS in September,” reports Chris Walker for Truthout, “following reports that he and others in the department attempted to interfere with a CDC report on coronavirus morbidity. The alterations were meant to help fit Trump’s narratives on the pandemic, and sought to retroactively change reports that the president thought wrongly inflated the risks associated with the virus.”
By then, however, the damage was apparently done. Caputo, Alexander, Atlas and Trump rarely spoke openly of their support for herd immunity and its lethal consequences, but every so often it slipped out.
Trump himself babbled about “herd mentality” and COVID at a televised September town hall, an obvious verbal stumble over “herd immunity.” Only a week ago, Trump said, “I hear we’re close to 15 percent, I’m hearing that, and that’s terrific, that’s a very powerful vaccine in itself.” Calling anything about this pandemic “terrific” is itself abominable, his reference to “a very powerful vaccine in itself” is a clear reference to herd immunity.
All of this, every bit of death and suffering we have endured, appears to have been allowed to happen because it was the only policy capitalism would accept. Shutting down the country until the pandemic is contained could be accomplished if Mitch McConnell allowed legislation to support businesses and individuals as they ride it out; we have the money, and borrowing is free right now. We don’t do that, however, because it is ideologically unsound.
Even the possibility that this was all deliberate policy is reason enough to shut down any talk about “looking forward and not looking back.” If true, this represents one of the greatest crimes ever committed in this country. We cannot turn away from it. We need to know what has happened to us, what was done to us, and why? I suspect the answer is obvious, but I want to hear them say it.