There is a great deal of talk about “loss” as we slog into the newest month of this long COVID winter. The lost lives — more than 441,000 people in the U.S. alone — are top of mind. The loss of livelihoods as businesses crumble under the weight of the pandemic. The loss of food and home security, a new truth for so many as hunger and eviction stalk millions of people everywhere.
Yet “loss” itself is a passive word; it’s what happens to your lap when you stand up — poof, it’s gone. The fact of the matter is those lives, livelihoods, and bare sense of security at the table and in the home were not “lost.” They were stolen from us over a deliberate run of months that saw the previous administration ignore, obfuscate and outright lie about the quiet massacre that continues to devour the nation.
By now, the world that does not watch Fox News knows that very early on, Donald Trump was aware of the dangers of this pandemic but refused to act because it might make him look weak. Moves to curb the spread of the virus, such as invoking the Defense Production Act, were not deployed because they were deemed ideologically unsound: How can government be an agent of positive good if “government is the problem,” according to Ronald Reagan.
There is no squaring this circle: They allowed base capitalist motives to drive the bus, for no other reason than to avoid making capitalism look bad.
“But the vaccines!” Trump’s defenders will bray. “We got them done so fast, we did that, that happened because of us!” The push to see these vaccines into existence is commendable, and the fact that the science and medical communities actually pulled it off is nothing short of astonishing. This is not to be denied… yet that’s the one thing Trump and his people actively did to curtail this thing. Everything else, all the other necessities like testing, contact tracing, masks and fundamentally responsible leadership by example, all were left to rot by the roadside for purely personal and political reasons.
When the Biden administration came into the White House, they discovered that Operation Warp Speed — the plan to get vaccines massively distributed — was little more than a few wisps of smoke. Shipments of vaccine are spoiling because there was no network to distribute them. The elderly are made to wait in day-long lines to receive the shots. Communities of color are finding themselves far at the back of the line.
Across the country, the Trump-fed hope that the vaccine would save us (and his reelection hopes) crashed headlong into the reality that we can’t get the vaccine because Trump’s people failed to organize the process.
That, amazingly enough, is not even the worst part.
“Top Trump officials actively lobbied Congress to deny state governments any extra funding for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout last fall,” reports the scientific news journal STAT, “despite frantic warnings from state officials that they didn’t have the money they needed to ramp up a massive vaccination operation. Without the extra money, states spent last October and November rationing the small pot of federal dollars they had been given. And when vaccines began shipping in December, states seemed woefully underprepared.”
Reaction from those affected by this wrecking ball nonsense was swift. On December 4, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the Association of Immunization Managers sent a harsh letter to Surgeon General Jerome Adams:
“Recent communications by senior Administration officials to Congress … indicate that this Administration and some members of Congress do not support our request for substantial additional resources for vaccine administration and infrastructure.
We believe that it is neither a partisan nor political statement to share the very obvious fact that the vaccination of 330,000,000 Americans safely and effectively will take far more than the $340 million currently allocated to local, state, and territorial governmental public health agencies.”
Not only did they ignore and disdain the threat of COVID-19. Not only did they comprehensively fail to prepare for the necessities of vaccine distribution. They actively lobbied to strip funding from states that were trying to get things organized.
We need to stop talking about “loss” when it comes to the Trump administration’s handling of COVID-19. Sitting at a bar, dining at a restaurant, going to a concert, taking our kids to the park, crowding around the family table for a holiday meal, all the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands and friends who are gone forever… these were not “lost.”
They were stolen. Never forget that, and never forgive it.