Unless something truly extraordinary intervenes, we are on the cusp of what could become the bleakest winter in living memory. There are 166 days standing between us and a time when most of the country will be back into something akin to warm weather. The remainder of November, followed by December, January, February, March and April, almost 24 weeks of the long, cold dark and the menace of COVID-19, will be the collective fate of much of the country.
“In earlier surges, infections were concentrated in cities such as New York and Chicago, or populous states like Florida and Texas,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Many of the outbreaks then were linked to travelers returning from overseas or so-called superspreading events such as conferences, weddings and rallies. Now, it is everywhere. People are becoming infected not just at big gatherings, but when they let their guard down, such as by not wearing a mask, while going about their daily routines or in smaller social settings that they thought of as safe — often among their own families or trusted friends.”
The COVID pandemic is worse right now than it has ever been, worse by huge and horrifying numbers. Fewer people have been dying because the medical professionals who began this fight wearing trash bags (because … Trump) have, in the intervening months, amassed a compendium of battlefield knowledge they lacked in March. The death counts are back to over 1,000 a day now, however, and with nearly 200,000 new infections expected each day in the next few weeks, the morgues may be lined with refrigeration trucks in big cities and small towns around the country soon enough.
Doctors are quitting, as are some nurses — the titanium backbone of this discombobulated national health care “system.” Many health care professionals are getting sick as this surge overwhelms hospitals again — and again, this is only the beginning of winter. Even doctors in private practice, far from the mayhem of the emergency room, are hanging up their spurs.
We all know why we’re here.
We’re here, in large part, because of a “president” who has minimized this crisis from the beginning, and in the howling center of this new crescendo, cares only to tweet “I WON THE ELECTION!” from the depths of his own midnight.
We are here because of people like Donald Trump’s favorite COVID “expert,” Scott Atlas, who pushes the slow genocide of “herd immunity” while telling states like Michigan to “rise up” against necessary health strictures. The fact that basic precautions have been recast as an affront to liberty, and that people in positions of responsibility are choosing to grandstand on this brazen lie with lives on the line, is how countries collapse from within.
We are here because Trump’s zoo of captive Midwest officials and those who follow them continue to fall over themselves trying to outdo the deadly folly of the other, even as those states suffer the hardest hit from this latest spike… and it is a spike, my friends. By most interpretations, including that of national COVID expert Anthony Fauci, this is still the first wave; it arrived and never ended, because people like those Midwest officials won’t allow it to, because Trump.
And we are here because a large portion of the country has been hypnotized by this rogue-duck president and his ersatz promises of greatness. Too many people squat within their cozy information bubble, listening to the bombastic lies from Fox News and reading the bleakest conspiracy gibberish at Breitbart. Too many people think they’re heroes because the radio tells them they’re patriots for not wearing a mask. Pushing back may feel empowering, until you’ve pushed us all over a cliff.
This is allegedly a nation of rugged individualists. Well, rugged individualists should take responsibility for themselves and their actions. When this thing is over — and it will be, someday — a few million people are going to have to walk on a road of bones before confronting the face they see in the mirror. I envy them not.
At this juncture, however, the only person perhaps as worthy of purest loathing as Trump is his chief enabler, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “If Donald Trump is the Devil waiting at that moonlit crossroads to tune our guitar at the cost of our souls,” I wrote almost two years ago, “Mitch McConnell drove him there and paid for the gas.”
Millions of people remain out of work today. The effect of the first and only stimulus package McConnell allowed for a vote has all but dissipated. Those unemployed millions face the termination of their unemployment insurance at the end of the year, just when the eviction moratorium is set to expire.
When this COVID spike reaches its apex, the country may well be forced into another full shutdown. If McConnell and the Senate do not pass a robust aid package, the economic cost will be unimaginable. Restaurants currently praying for the snow to hold off so their lifeline of outside seating can continue may well be broomed off the sidewalk when the hammer falls, and thousands of other businesses that cannot operate without customers will disappear.
The answer for this is not to pretend it isn’t happening and stack corpses before the altar of can’t-stop capitalism. The answer is for McConnell to allow a large stimulus package to the floor for a vote, one that protects essential workers at places like grocery stores who will be risking their lives so Mitch can have strawberries with his breakfast. The answer is to offer financial protections to the sectors of the populace, including both individuals and businesses, that have been most brutally affected by the pandemic.
McConnell can do this, and he can do it today. The “lame duck” session of Congress has officially begun, and there isn’t a blessed thing on Earth keeping Mitch McConnell from helping his country… except Mitch McConnell, who needs to keep the GOP base fired up so the Georgia runoffs break his way, which means coddling the crossfire hurricane in the Oval Office, which means perpetuating all the fictions that sustain this administration, which means no stimulus, because obviously we don’t need one, right?
Besides, trashing the economy before January 20 will mean Joe Biden’s administration will be buried to the neck before they get through the door, and that’s what matters to Mitch. That’s all that matters.