Tuesday, March 31, 2020

America's Cocktail. Equal Parts of Denial and Death.

Paul Krugman writes that his fellow countrymen don't realize that America is on the "worst trajectory" of any developed nation wrestling with the coronavirus and that includes Italy.
I’m not sure that people understand, even now, what that kind of exponential growth implies. But if cases kept growing at their current rate for a month, they would increase by a factor of a thousand, and almost half of Americans would be infected. 
We hope that won’t happen. Many although not all states have gone into lockdown, and both epidemiological models and some early evidence suggest that this will “flatten the curve,” that is, substantially slow the virus’s spread. But as we wait to see just how bad our national nightmare will get, it’s worth stepping back for a few minutes to ask why America has handled this crisis so badly.
...Among advanced countries, the United States has long stood out as the land of denial and death. It’s just that we’re now seeing these national character flaws play out at a vastly accelerated rate. 
About denial: Epidemiologists trying to get a handle on the coronavirus threat appear to have been caught off guard by the immediate politicization of their work, the claims that they were perpetrating a hoax designed to hurt Trump, or promote socialism, or something. But they should have expected that reaction, since climate scientists have faced the same accusations for years. 
And while climate-change denial is a worldwide phenomenon, its epicenter is clearly here in America: Republicans are the world’s only major climate-denialist party.
...decades of science denial on multiple fronts set the stage for the virus denial that paralyzed U.S. policy during the crucial early weeks of the current pandemic.

About death: I still sometimes encounter people convinced that America has the world’s highest life expectancy. After all, aren’t we the world’s greatest nation? In fact, we have the lowest life expectancy among advanced countries, and the gap has been steadily widening for decades. 
This widening gap, in turn, surely reflects both America’s unique lack of universal health insurance and its equally unique surge in “deaths of despair” — deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide — among working-class whites who have seen economic opportunities disappear. 
Is there a link between the hundreds of thousands of excess deaths we suffer every year compared with other rich countries and the tens of thousands of additional excess deaths we’re about to suffer from the coronavirus? The answer is surely yes.
...while America is a great nation with a glorious history and much to be proud of — I consider myself very much a patriot — the rise of the hard right has, as I said, also turned it into a land of denial and death. This transformation has been taking place gradually over the past few decades; it’s just that now we’re watching the consequences on fast forward.


Lulymay said...

Add to that the prevalent gun culture, and the recipe for disaster gets even more cluttered.
Sold our place down there and scurried home in February, Mound, and it looks like our timing couldn't have been better even if we are presently confined to barracks.

There are thousands of seniors living cheek by jowl in RV parks down there year round and when the temperature gets up around 100 deg. they all congregate in their rec hall to play cards and even cook their meals. Mobile accommodation and park models are not cheap to have the air conditioning running 24/7.

Troy said...

The USA is fucked. 100 to 200 thousand deaths from Covid-19 might be optimistic.

At the rate the US is going, it'll probably be about 4 million infected for this current wave. However, the USA has maybe 60,000 ventilators, maybe 160,000. However, ventilators tend to operate at 95% usage rate already without Covid-19 numbers involved, so there's probably only 3 to 8 thousand available ventilators for Covid-19 patients at the start of this crisis. More are being manufactured, but the states are in such disarray due to lack of federal intervention that many hospitals are unlikely to get these machines in the time needed to stave off a great many preventable deaths.

4 million infected should mean 200,000 will need ventilators at the height of this crisis. So that's 192,000 to 197,000 thousand already consigned to death due to lack of access to the care they'll need.

40% who are on ventilators survive. And people with Covid-19 tend to take upwards of two weeks on the machines. So that's roughly another 3,000 to 5,000 deaths, pushing mortality to around 200,000 people. That's probably where the CDC is getting its numbers 100 to 200 thousand deaths estimate.

However, I don't think only 4 million will be infected. It could very well get much higher, but I don't even want to consider those numbers: 20 to 30 million. Suddenly then, that's millions who'll need ventilators, and hospitals will be competing for machines that may see production of perhaps 50,000 ventilators in 100 days.

At this rate, the USA medical system is going to collapse. It's not prepared to deal with the 4 million figure, much less anything higher.

Add in to all this the suddenly millions of homeless starting tomorrow. Millions without shelter, money, and food, and there's suddenly an overheating boiler situation happening.

Rural said...

Mound, I will admit that your selection of clips are sometimes somewhat …. disconcerting, for lack of a better description this one included , but I fear accurate. The future of mankind that you have highlighted in numerous posts on numerous subjects that you try to educate us on in your ongoing efforts is scary as hell but perhaps could be classed as a public service. Take care not to overwhelm us with bad news, the human mind can only take so much bad news at one time... which is part of the problem perhaps? That said keep on 'educating' us eh…...

Lorne said...

And even as the bug overtakes them, Mound, hordes of Americans, aided and abetted by a prevaricating president, will continue to deny the truth. Right up to the bitter end.

The Disaffected Lib said...

A recurring thought is whether we need a firewall between our countries. How else will we accommodate two populations that are so alike in many ways and yet so different in a few ways that matter so greatly?

Some of the trends we have experienced through our mutual dependency, issues such as social safety nets, inequality, trade and protectionism, have been troublesome. Being, by far the smaller partner, our bargaining power is inevitably diminished. Not just once have we had to defend our healthcare when efforts have been made to bring us into an American-style system, the system that is now so dramatically failing the US.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Lulymay, I have to say that sounds nightmarish. Perhaps being a devout curmudgeon has its advantages.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Troy, your assessment is grim and, I genuinely hope, overstated. Having said that, who can prove you wrong? Uncertainty and unwelcome surprises are to be expected when one takes a massive medical/science issue and subjects it to political whimsy. Trump is like a wonky GPS, constantly 'recalibrating.' The contagion would be destructive enough with competent leadership but America doesn't even have that.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Rural, I'm not unaware of the tone frequently conveyed on this blog. I do wonder sometimes why anyone reads it. And yeah, the Stones' "Ventilator Blues" was pretty dark. That was from 1972. It's tough watching a heroin addict in a music video.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Lorne, I came across a feature report this morning about the people of Appalachia in Kentucky where remoteness has temporarily spared them yet everyone knows the contagion is coming.

The coal mines closed, these people are truly down on their luck. Health authorities are fearful because of the high rates of smoking, diabetes and black lung disease among a community in which few can afford health insurance.

They know when the virus sweeps into their town that they're defenceless. These are the same people Trump seduced with promises to bring back their jobs in the coal mines.

As I read that graphic account I had to think about how we feel hard done by that we face weeks of social distancing and self-isolation.

Trailblazer said...

Daily I am meeting people who are becoming concerned about the USA's inability to even look like it's doing anything about the virus, let alone contain it.
We , Canada, are at the mercy of a brainwashed people who worship private health care, even if it kills them.
The Trump administrations slowness in taking action seems to have been driven by private health care providers and drug companies jostling to bleed the maximum profit from the situation.
Listen to Trumps responses and count the times he refers to the private sector taking the lead in helping his fellow Muricans!
The USA is a dysfunctional society.
Time to build a wall; well maybe not but we have to be less reliant upon them and subservient to them.


The Disaffected Lib said...

TB, I too cannot understand how so many of our southern cousins are unable to discern their own circumstances. As Krugman mentions, many believe they have the highest life expectancy. It's the curse of American Exceptionalism. Once you consider yourself in all things superior then, no matter how bad the situation gets, you have the comfort of knowing it's better than what the other guy is getting. History shows they're not the first society to be convinced of their own natural superiority. Uber Alles in Der Welt. And, yes, I think a substantial minority of Americans have been effectively brainwashed.

John B. said...

I thought of that old explanation of the special significance of bobby traps that are designed to maim rather that to kill: you'll tie up a lot more of the enemy's time when he has to care for a wounded guy than it would have taken to bury him if he had died. The higher death toll that would result from a steeper curve might well serve some bottom lines better than the flatter one would.

The Disaffected Lib said...

John, you seem to be suggesting that the pandemic could be weaponized to rid a nation of the non-productive elderly and the poor and marginalized who will have difficulty getting basic healthcare if infected. Now that would be diabolical, akin to how Stalin used famine against the Georgians.