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The Utterly Exhausting, Infuriating State of Covid-19

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Life as we know it came to an abrupt halt across the Bay Area on March 17. At the time those sweeping shelter-in-place orders were issued, most people understood that the benefits far outweighed the inconveniences. After all, we didn’t want a repeat of the traumatizing scenes we’d just witnessed in Italy. 

So we dutifully pushed and shoved for the last rolls of toilet paper, stocked up on food (and booze), pulled our kids out of school and said farewell to coworkers, friends and family for what we thought would be little more than a few weeks. But the weeks became months and March became August, and suddenly we were wishing the state of the U.S. looked a lot more like Italy. 

This virus has infected just about every facet of life on a global scale, and yet, even with all the available camaraderie of shared experience around the world, the U.S. often feels like an island. COVID-19 is still tearing through the population like an angry ex on a rampage and the subsequent economic crisis is literally destroying our health and way of life. 

We are failing, miserably.

That’s not hyperbole, it’s a fact proven in objective but grim statistics. And it is nothing short of infuriating.

We failed to act early, or ever, as a unified front with a national plan to tamp down the illness and the chaos. We’re still floundering with a first wave as a country and residents are struggling to stay above water without a clear lifeline in sight. We’re scared, we’re broke and it increasingly feels like our lives and livelihoods are dispensable. 

As of Wednesday, more than 157,000 people have died from COVID-19 in just the U.S. As a nation that makes up less than 5 percent of the global population, we’ve somehow managed to rack up 22 percent of the world’s coronavirus deaths and more than a quarter of the total infections. It’s mind boggling how that’s possible when we weren’t the first nation to get hit by the deadly disease, when we had months of warning and time to at least try and prepare.

But Donald Trump, who recently sat down with Jonathan Swan of Axios for a devastating interview, said the country has the virus “under control.” Losing nearly 160,000 people in basically less than five months is the opposite of “under control.” When pressed on the country’s death toll, Trump said:

“It is what it is.”

Again, dispensable.

‘It is what it is’ is a phrase people use when they’ve given into a situation, when they can’t find a way to change circumstances and learn to accept the reality. As president, Trump’s acceptance of the deaths is criminal — it is literally his job to change the circumstances, but he’s instead gone out of his way to exacerbate the impact of the “the plague” he wasted months dismissing, claiming it was nothing more than a flu that would magically just “fade away.” And worse, he’s convinced his base to be as ignorant and dangerous as he is. 

There’s a mutiny of anti-maskers and people who refuse to keep distance, and their consistently defiant actions negate sacrifices so many of us have made. So, while they’re out there spreading their droplets at will, the rest of us are still stuck trying to do what’s right in an increasingly challenging situation. They are prolonging the process, stretching this nightmare out and risking our lives as a political party trick. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, upwards of 30 million people are unemployed and more than a million new claims regularly pour in weekly. The surging cases and chaotic response have small businesses nearing permanent closure, essential workers choosing early retirement over health risks, hospital beds reaching or at capacity, medical professionals exhausted and traumatized, cities and counties going broke to provide resources and testing, students who can’t go to school and evictions pending. Not to mention, arguably the most consequential election in history hangs in the balance.

The situation we are in is definitely not ideal or worth any amount of political leverage, as has been suggested. Democrats didn’t summon the “plague” — it showed up at our doorstep and fucking called ahead. Our ‘leaders’ just ignored the call.

At this moment, there are politicians arguing vehemently against financial rescue so many of their constituents desperately need. Rent is overdue, utilities are about to be shut off, jobs are scarce and people are afraid of the risks associated with being essential workers. There aren’t a lot of options or opportunities right now. Still, the GOP is pushing against a sufficient unemployment extension, state funding, SNAP benefits and eviction protection. The $1 trillion HEALS Act is pathetic slap in the face when people need help the most.

How does anyone believe anyone else, on the right or left, would cheer this on? How does this moment benefit anybody?

Even so, “Get Covid” was just trending Sunday on social media. This is America.

There’s no soft way to say that the dire reality in the U.S. is a direct result of the nation’s division and unhealthy aversion to facts and science. This virus is a beast that requires people to meet the moment with common sense, sacrifice and compassion. It requires government to lead boldly without partisanship and in accordance with data. 

Again, we are failing. We can either pull it together or we continue to fall apart. It’s that simple. What’s at stake is literally everything. 

On a personal note, I am a journalist who writes often about the local impact of COVID-19 for another outlet. I spend hours pouring over data from each of the nine Bay Area counties. I try like hell to make statistics understandable, to make the information actionable, to try and impress on people the importance of doing the right thing, for our families, neighbors and medical professionals. It’s hard to live in that data day in and day out without getting sad and overwhelmed, and on some days, it’s impossible. I, like everyone else, am just a person at the end of the day. And I am tired, and sometimes very, very angry.

There is no winning for anyone as long as we let this virus win. I can’t wish back job opportunities I lost when the shutdown caused massive layoffs. I can’t manifest an adult path for my boys who just graduated high school. I can’t give my girl a real senior-year experience remotely. I can’t see my best friend or hug my mother. I can’t blow off steam over a few beers at a bar, hell, I can barely pay the rent. And I’m not special — I’m not alone with those grievances and hardships. I just wish we’d truly grasp how ‘in this together’ we really are, how dependent we are on the actions of those around us.

Anti-maskers are prolonging the impact of COVID-19, pushing the U.S. over a financial and health cliff. (Photo courtesy of PxFuel)

Like my fellow citizens, I’ll do my best to keep moving, putting one foot in front of the other and hope for the best. But it would be terrific if the best in all of us could rise to the occasion so we can get out of this alive with our elders by our side. 

And for fuck’s sake, please wear a mask!

 

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.

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