Monday, August 23, 2021

The window for beating COVID has closed, meaning the virus is here to stay, and we'll have to "dance" with it -- thanks largely to white nationalistic Evangelicals

(Getty Images)

Many Americans probably have been dreaming of a day in the not-too-distant future when we've beaten the coronavirus, and life can return to normal. That, however, is not likely to happen, according a report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta at CNN. Bottom line: The virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, are here to stay, and we are going to have to learn to live with them -- or, in many cases, learn to deal with the deaths they cause. That sobering news arrives as another report suggests those who wish to play the blame game have an appropriate target for finger-pointing. As for Gupta, he writes:

What's becoming clear is that we, locally and globally, are not going to be able to stamp out the coronavirus completely. Experts predict it's going to become endemic, possibly joining the other four or so common cold coronaviruses in circulation.
"We're not going to eradicate this coronavirus like we've done with smallpox; it is something that I think is going to settle into a more seasonal pattern, like the flu and colds ..." said Linsey Marr, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and an expert in the transmission of infectious diseases via aerosols.

"But right now, because it's novel and so many people are not immune to it, it's really ripping through the population. But I think five years from now, we will have much greater immunity either through vaccination or natural infection," she said. That means we are going to have to learn to "dance" with the virus -- a safe co-existence -- without constantly stepping on each other's toes. 

The Gupta report comes less than two weeks after award-winning author Kurt Eichenwald tweeted that COVID-19 now was a "forever disease." From the Eichenwald tweet, dated 8/8/21:

Scientists are whispering - and some are saying out loud: COVID is now a forever disease. It was allowed to rage unchecked for too long in 2020 because of politics & stupidity; the only way to stop it in 2021 was a rapid-fire, government-wide, dual-party vaccine push. GQP...1

Eichenwald and his sources, it appears, were right on target.

Many articles, and probably quite a few books, likely will be written about that time back in 2021 when we had the tools (vaccines and masks) and the leadership (Biden) to permanently beat COVID, but we blew it. For now, we are left to fill in the blanks on the story, and this is what I take the Gupta story and the Eichenwald tweet to mean: We had a window when a disciplined, society-wide attack could have wiped out the virus. But too many Americans allowed their white, conservative, insular thinking to override any concern about the common good -- and now, with the Delta variant raging around the country, the window of opportunity has closed. Here is more from the CNN Gupta report:

Dancing with Covid-19

Like with other diseases, this requires tight control -- giving the virus as little freedom as possible so as not to set the stage for the surge of sickness and death we experienced last winter. It also means finding a balance between the extremes -- on the one hand, lockdowns that trigger economic and personal chaos, and on the other, putting the rights of individuals above the good of society as a whole -- and moving toward the middle. That way we can more safely enjoy all of life's pleasures -- family gatherings, live sports and arts events, travel, indoor dining -- with only minor inconveniences, like vaccines and masks, during times of substantial viral spread.
"Let's be creative with making adjustments to life, rather than saying it's all or none, because that was kind of the feeling last year," said Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.

So, what can and should we be doing now and into the fall to make sure we follow the path to living well with the virus? Over the past couple weeks, we spoke to experts in the world of pandemic preparedness, infectious diseases and virology to try and get guidance on how to best and most safely live our lives going into the fall. Many of these experts live with the same concerns as everyone else, including managing the safety of unvaccinated children, and balancing the risk, given the Delta variant, with a deep desire to live a more normal life.
While nearly everyone is reluctant to make predictions nowadays, there was agreement on five strategies to be put in place. I have included our conversations, their specific reasoning, and the evidence to bolster the claims.

Osterholm and Marr recommended good quality masks, such as an N95, KN95, KF94, or a cloth mask that has a dedicated filter layer in the middle. Osterholm added these masks should be in plentiful supply now, compared to early in the pandemic.

Here is a summary of key steps experts shared with Gupta:

1. Vaccinations
2. Masks
3. Masks + ventilation = safer schools
4. Rapid testing
5. Reassess exposure risk
As for the blame game, an article at Salon suggests fingers should be pointed squarely at the " nationalistic white Evangelicals" among us. Writes Phil Zuckerman, under the headline "Staunch atheists show higher morals than the proudly pious, from the pandemic to climate change": 

We can start with the global pandemic. COVID-19 is a potentially deadly virus that has caused — and continues to cause — dire woe. Surely, to be moral in the face of such a dangerous disease is to do everything one can — within one's limited power — to thwart it. No moral person would want to willfully spread it, bolster it, or prolong its existence. And yet, when it comes to the battle against COVID-19, it is the most secular of Americans who are doing what they can to wipe it out, while it is the most faithful among us, especially nationalistic white Evangelicals, who are keeping it alive and well. Taking the vaccine saves lives and thwarts the spread of the virus. So, too, does sheltering in place as directed and wearing protective face masks. And yet, here in the U.S., it is generally the most religious among us who refuse to adhere to such life-saving practices, while it is the most secular who most willingly comply. For example, a recent Pew study found that while only 10% of atheists said that they would definitely or probably not get vaccinated, 45% of white Evangelicals took such a position.

The Wall Street Journal has more on the Evangelical response to an existential threat:

More than six months into the country’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign, evangelical Christians are more resistant to getting the vaccine than other major religious groups, according to newly released data.

Some 24% of white evangelicals said in June they wouldn’t be vaccinated, down from 26% in March, according to a study from the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan group that studies the intersection of religion and public life, and Interfaith Youth Core, a nonprofit focused on interfaith cooperation.

Evangelicals of all races make up about one-quarter of the U.S. population, and health officials say persuading them to get the shot is crucial to slowing the spread of the Delta variant fueling recent increases in Covid-19 cases.

The percentage of white evangelicals who say they have been vaccinated or plan to get the shot as soon as possible was 56% in June, up from 45% in March. That is tied for the lowest figure among groups included in the survey, along with Hispanic protestants, many of whom are evangelical.


Anonymous said...

LS, this news really makes my day.

legalschnauzer said...

Journalism sometimes involves being the bearer of bad news. In this case, the news really sucks -- and it was so unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

When will Biden or Fauci or someone at the national level acknowledge this?

legalschnauzer said...

Good question. I think it will be awhile. My sense is that a lot of Americans are deeply invested in the notion that live will return to normal, maybe later this year or early in 2022. Now, scientists seem to know it's definitely not going to happen in that time frame, and it's probably never going to happen.

legalschnauzer said...

If you click on the link to the CNN story, it has a fairly generic, unclear headline that really doesn't get to the gist of the story -- and they bury the lede in the third and fourth paragraphs. It's like they were trying to break the news to us gently, fearing we weren't ready to hear the truth -- and CNN might be right about that.

I believe an earlier version of the CNN story had an even more obtuse headline, so I think they were very careful with this story -- as if they didn't want to believe it themselves.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Trump get booed down in Alabama the other night for mentioning vaccines?

legalschnauzer said...

Yes, they had quite a shindig at a farm outside Cullman, a town well-known for its history with racism. This is from

The rally came amid a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic that is filling state hospitals and exhausting health care workers. Few people in the packed crowd wore masks.

Trump told the crowd he had received a vaccination and urged them to do the same. But he quickly followed up by saying it was their choice to get the shots.

Anonymous said...

Charles Barkley had it right when he called the anti-vaxxers "idiots."

legalschnauzer said...

Yep, "The Round Mound of Rebound" has always had a way of cutting to the chase.

legalschnauzer said...

Here is a report from Salon re: Trumpapalooza event in Cullman, AL --

Trump booed for pro-vaccine comments at rally

Former President Donald Trump finally did what Democrats have been urging him to do for months: tell his supporters to get a vaccine, and highlight his own experience as a recipient of the shot (which, it's worth stating here, is safe and effective).

He made the comments at a rally Saturday in Alabama, but the crowd didn't take too kindly to the plea — booing Trump roundly.

"Take the vaccines! I did it, it's good!" Trump said, as some attendees started to boo.

"No, that's okay. That's alright. You got your freedoms, but I happened to take the vaccine," he continued.

"If it doesn't work, you'll be the first to know, okay?"

That last line garnered a few scattered cheers, at least.

Anonymous said...

No surprise at all that churchy types are slow to show concern for the well-being of others. The pews are filled with phonies every Sunday.

legalschnauzer said...

I wonder how many ministers preach an anti-vaxx message from the pulpit.

legalschnauzer said...

CNN tweet re: Dr. Sanjay Gupta --

Dr. Sanjay Gupta says “there’s no question that things could have been different” if President Trump was more transparent about the severity of Covid-19 in February.

“This was a failed strategy, and people paid for it with their lives,” Gupta added.

legalschnauzer said...

CNN tweet about programming tonight re: covid:

Dr. Anthony Fauci and top doctors from the Biden Covid-19 team join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta for Coronavirus: Facts and Fears. Live Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET

legalschnauzer said...

More from Dr. Sanjay Gupta:

“The data and the numbers don’t lie,” says Dr. Sanjay Gupta about the surge in Covid-19 cases in the US. “The United States is the worst-hit country in the world when it comes to coronavirus.”

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how you can try to compare corona virus to small pox. Everytime some one compared it to the flu, they got shouted down. The vaccine for small pox was actually effective. The vaccine for covid is only partially effective. Given an vaccinated person can catch covid again, there was nothing that could have been done. Humans will survive this and add it to the roster of desires we can tolerate. At least now I understand why some people went crazy over flattening the curve, they thought it meant eradicate not simple slow down the spread.

Anonymous said...

Some say that Moronism in all it's various permutations is the most prevalent religion in Uh-Merica.