Reflections on a Virus

 Dr. Anthony Fauci, our navigator on the sea of pandemic, was visibly frustrated at one of President Trump’s daily press conferences.

As an expert in national health issues, at the helm of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases for some thirty-six years, he rarely spars with journalists.  But when a reporter attempted to parlay Fauci’s statement from another day – when he agreed to a hypothetical question that an earlier lockdown of the nation would have saved more lives – into an indictment of the Trump Administration, Fauci didn’t take the bait.  Even when Fauci explained the trickiness of hypotheticals and defended the president, the reporter further suggested perhaps Fauci wasn’t speaking “for himself.”  At that, he shut her down with: “Don’t even imply that!”  [watch “Dr. Fauci lashes out…” YouTube, April 13, 2020]

We all know the news media has split along party lines.  Today’s headline in the NY Times reads: “G.O.P. Aiming to Make China the Scapegoat.”  Implied is that Republicans (read: Trump) are the true culprits in this pandemic and China is to unfairly take the rap.  Isn’t this a classic case of blaming the victim – for being ill-prepared, for not locking down 325 million Americans before a single coronavirus patient appeared here?  Was Italy’s leftist government prepared?  The current 23,600 Italian deaths would proportionally translate into 162,500 dead Americans.  Milan, an epicenter of the virus, lost 5-times more people than the bombings of World War II.  Why isn’t Prime Minister Conte being strung up at a Milan gas station?  Instead, he has a 77% approval rating!

It is absurd to blame Republicans or Democrats for what Red China has wrought.  Invest seven minutes to watch the PBS NewsHour from August 11, 2016 and see why China puts us all at risk.  See the putrid rivers and ghastly markets.  See the Chinese tourists visiting bat caves in shorts and flip-flops. [https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/southern-china-hotbed-disease-development]

Red China is incontrovertibly the source of the virus and the disinformation.  FOX News is trying to build a case that the virus came out of a lab in Wuhan, not the live animal market.  Dr. Fauci was asked his opinion and stated that all the genome studies reveal an animal-to-human spread, rather than a lab accident.  The Chinese have been producing epidemics for centuries without the need of labs.

As to the course of this pandemic, let’s see what happened with the so-called Spanish Flu of 1918.

I recall my maternal grandfather telling us how he caught the flu and was nursed back to health by his future in-laws.  Some 675,000 Americans succumbed to that flu.  It came in three waves.  The first was the mildest and started in Kansas in April 1918.  The second came that September and the third in January, 1919.  By March, 1919 it was gone.  It was global (50 million dead) and scientists are unsure of its origin (it wasn’t Spain!), but the First World War was the perfect incubator, with bond rallies and millions of men ensconced in trenches, camps, and ships.

The only medicine available was aspirin, and it was overprescribed to a level beyond toxicity – 30 grams – when over 4 grams is considered unsafe today.

President Wilson (D-NJ) was absolutely useless: “[He] took no public note of the disease, and the thrust of the government was not diverted [from the war]. The relief effort for influenza victims would find no assistance in the Food Administration or the Fuel Administration or the Railroad Administration. From neither the White House nor any other senior administration post would there come any leadership, any attempt to set priorities, any attempt to coordinate activities, any attempt to deliver resources.” – [John Barry, The Great Influenza, 2005]

What is amazing about that pandemic is how quickly people returned to normal life.  Remember, it was an era before antibiotics in which wholesale deaths from infections and diabetes were common, so life was a gamble even in quiet times.  Also, the end of the war in November, 1918 brought celebrations and a mass return of jubilant war veterans amidst the plague.  Still, there were by-elections in November, 1918 and for the presidency in 1920.

Although there was a recession until mid-1921, returning vets married and rushed to buy new marvels like radios, cars, refrigerators and washing machines.  It led right into the Roaring Twenties prosperity and the stock market craze.

Tomorrow, caution will be our word, but no doubt, our Millennials and iGens will show us the way back to normal. -JLM

1 thought on “Reflections on a Virus”

  1. There has been a tremendous outpouring of moral support for Italy from around the world in its battle with the Coronavirus (Italophilia is still alive and well it would appear!). An Italian song “Bella Ciao”, from WWII, which was sung by Italian partisans fighting to free Italy from fascism and nazism, has been adopted and sung all over Europe and elsewhere as a symbol of solidarity and hope for all people. In the U.S. , in spite of truly valiant efforts by countless people, there are those who are politicizing the Coronavirus crisis, and whose “theme song” could appropriately be called “Ciao Trump”.

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