America Is Condemning Its Most Vulnerable to Covid Hell
The desperate rush to pretend the pandemic is over punishes at-risk populations.
On February 9, I wrote a piece titled America Officially Surrenders to Covid. I argued that while both ruling parties have always prioritized money over lives, until recently they at least pretended to have a pandemic strategy. But the Omicron wave marked the end of that charade:
As the White House signals total surrender to the virus, the Democratic Party has dropped all pretense to being the party of science, openly joining the GOP in treating mass death as an acceptable price for capitalism (and electoral politics).
This crass political calculus on the part of the duopoly sentences society’s most vulnerable citizens to Covid hell:
Jack, a fourth grader, has cystic fibrosis, a progressive genetic disease that causes persistent, damaging lung infections, making it harder to breathe over time. Like other immunocompromised, disabled and chronically ill Americans, Jack was taking measures, like masking, to dodge infections before the pandemic too. But with Covid-19 still rampant, it's not as easy. Even though he's vaccinated, the virus poses a serious, potentially deadly, risk to Jack.
Jack isn’t alone. Millions of Americans, young and old, are susceptible to severe coronavirus infection — and long Covid.
Science writer Ed Yong points out that “close to 3 percent of U.S. adults take immunosuppressive drugs, either to treat cancers or autoimmune disorders or to stop their body from rejecting transplanted organs or stem cells.”
The math is staggering:
That makes at least 7 million immunocompromised people—a number that’s already larger than the populations of 36 states, without even including the millions more who have diseases that also hamper immunity, such as AIDS and at least 450 genetic disorders.
The desire to get past pandemic life is understandable. But tossing caution to the wind when the virus is still killing thousands of people is reckless and immoral.
Ditching even the most basic precautions condemns at-risk citizens to suffering and death. NY Times reporters Amanda Morris and Maggie Astor write about the cruel effects of abandoning mitigation measures that protect those who need it most:
Millions of Americans with weakened immune systems, disabilities or illnesses that make them especially vulnerable to the coronavirus … have seethed over talk from politicians and public health experts that they perceive as minimizing the value of their lives. As Year 3 of the pandemic approaches, with public support for precautions plummeting and governors of even the most liberal states moving to shed mask mandates, they find themselves coping with exhaustion and grief, rooted in the sense that their neighbors and leaders are willing to accept them as collateral damage in a return to normalcy.
“I can still see your world, but I live in a different world,” said Toby Cain, 31, of Decorah, Iowa, who has lymphatic cancer and went through six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation during the pandemic, making her especially vulnerable to Covid-19.
A system that enriches billionaires while shunning older adults, the disabled, immune-compromised, those who can’t get vaccinated, and other at-risk populations is broken beyond repair.
It would be awful enough if politicians were the only ones treating vulnerable people as throwaways. But millions upon millions of Americans are unwilling to take the simplest measures to protect their fellow citizens from a deadly virus, one that can have debilitating long-term effects. Is it really that hard to wear a mask to potentially spare someone else the agony of coronavirus?