By: S.L. Frisbie, IV for Polk News-Sun
S.L. Frisbie IV Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame Member, 4th-Generation Polk County Newspaper Publisher
One week ago, the United States reached 100,000 deaths in the Covid-19 pandemic, a milestone that seems incomprehensible in the most sophisticated and arguably one of the healthiest nations in the history of the world.
The first death was recorded on Feb. 29, and within weeks more Americans had died of the coronavirus than were killed in the entire 14 years of the war in Vietnam.
Put another way, 33 times as many Americans have died in the pandemic than were killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Relying largely on research (and partly on my own memory), I offer these remarkable facts from this most remarkable tragedy:
- The World Health Organization declared the global spread of the virus to be a pandemic on March 11.
- By mid-March, Americans began quarantining themselves in their own homes, and learning to exchange fist bumps and elbow nudges in place of handshakes.
- Schools at all levels quickly closed, and within a few days began conducting classes on-line. An entire generation of students suddenly became home-schooled.
- The first response from the White House was the president’s declaration that only about 15 cases had been reported in America, and that one day soon the nation would wake up and discover that the pandemic was miraculously over.
- The president tried to keep a tour ship loaded with sick passengers from docking in the United States because it would increase the number of Americans shown to be ill in pandemic statistics.
- One of the president’s earlier suggestions was that since household cleansers are effective in killing the virus on environmental surfaces, perhaps they should be considered as medicines to be ingested for prevention. The American medical community — at least in the White House — went into meltdown. President Trump finally said he was just kidding. Nobody laughed.
- Information coming from government sources on the spread of the disease and the number of deaths was so inaccurate that the New York Times became the nation’s most authoritative source.
- In Florida, it took a lawsuit to get the state to release information on nursing home patients who were dying from Covid-19.
- Trump said it was up to governors to decide the best way to fight the pandemic, but declared that he had the authority to override their orders to suspend church services. The following Sunday, he spent the day on the golf course.
- The White House press secretary, challenged at a press conference to cite the president’s legal or constitutional authority to overrule governors on church services, replied by asserting that White House reporters obviously didn’t want to go to church.
- Trump placed Vice President Pence in charge of a task force to chart the nation’s response to the pandemic. One of its first orders was to call for the wearing of masks in public places. Both Trump and Pence proudly defied that policy.
- The president threatened to shut down Twitter (without citing his legal authority to do so) despite the fact that it is his medium of choice for his endless late night rants.
- Some Republican members of Congress — including both of Florida’s United States senators — actually urged the withholding of federal relief funds to “blue states,” those which generally vote Democratic. Florida is a Republican-leaning “red state,” but by no means a sure thing, and its electoral votes are crucial in a presidential election. Perhaps I’m missing the point, but I can think of few more effective ways to alienate Democratic voters in this and other states than by punishing the states in which their party is strong.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. He and Mary got tested for Covid-19 a few days ago, and the results came back negative. In a culture in which “positive” traditionally is considered “good” and “negative” is considered “bad,” it took a few moments for it to soak in that in medicine, it’s just the opposite. If his college math professor had considered all his “negative” classroom test results to be a good thing, he wouldn’t have flunked the course.)
Reprinted with permission from Polk News-Sun