In his famous poem, The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot calls April the “cruelest month.” If Mr. Eliot were alive today, he would call December 2020, the “cruelest month ever.” In that month, about 77,572 Americans died from complications connected with Covid-19.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, new cases of Covid-19 in December amounted to over 100,000 a day. Since the pandemic commenced, 20 million Covid-19 infections were reported in the U.S., with 6.3 million cases in December alone.
In early December 2020, the Trump administration assured the country that 20 million people would get vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of December. In reality, less than five million people received the vaccine by December 31, 2020. Why so? Many factors come into play.
In December, pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Moderna and BioTechSE shipped 12 million doses of vaccines to the various states and U.S. territories. Yet less than five million of them were actually administered under Operation Warp Speed run by Health and Human Services. Some health care providers received more doses than they needed, in part, because they lacked enough syringes to give the vaccine to patients.
Another factor: a high percentage of individuals, including health care workers themselves, refused to take the vaccine. Some feared they might die from an allergic reaction to the virus, while others may have always been wary of needles. The vaccines from Pfizer required a special refrigerator to keep the vaccines within extremely low temperature ranges. Yet such specialized refrigerators are not generally found in rural hospitals.
Also, it takes a longer time to give the Covid-19 shot than it does to give a regular flu shot, since vaccines to counter Covid-19 are often preceded by a test for Covid-19. Another factor is this: Holidays like Christmas and New Year have kept the staff of nursing homes and hospitals at home rather than going to work. (See “Vaccine Rollout Falls Short, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 2-3, 2021, p. A6).
The federal government did provide guidelines and sent vaccines to states, but the feds didn’t say how the vaccines would be distributed.
Since each hospital and county in each state has its particular approach, many people were not aware when or where to get the vaccination. That’s why people, mostly seniors, waited up to eight hours to get the vaccine in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Ironically, President Trump may have lost his re-election bid by his failure to deal with Covid-19.
At the start of the pandemic, President Trump and most of his team failed to comply with fundamental health guidelines like wearing a mask, washing their hands often, and self-distancing. Mr. Trump downplayed the seriousness of the virus, stating publicly that the virus would disappear magically.
President Trump mocked people like presidential candidate Joe Biden for wearing a mask and told his subordinates not to wear a mask.
As a result, the President himself and members of his staff and Congressional leaders came down with the virus, thus making the White House look foolish in the eyes of the nation.
In an intelligence briefing on January 28, 2020, Robert O’Brien, National Security Advisor, told Mr. Trump, in no uncertain terms, that Covid-19 would be the “largest national security crisis of your presidency.”
Yet Mr. Trump downplayed the lethal nature of Covid-19. As late as February, 2020, Trump stated there were 15 cases of Covid-19 and that these would soon be down to zero.
Researchers like A. Brodeur suggest that President Trump might have won the 2020 election provided that cases of Covid-19 were between 5-10 percent lower in critical states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona. Brodeur argues that persons in counties with many cases of Covid-19 were “less likely” to vote for Trump. For this reason, voters who normally would have voted for President Trump switched their vote to Joe Biden because the President failed to contain the virus.
It appears that health issues “trump’ how Wall Street does! For more on this see A. Brodeur, et al, “How Covid-19 led to Donald Trump’s Defeat,” The Conversation, 12/10/2020.
Joe Biden has a humongous job ahead of him to fight Covid-19. For example, presently, we have 55 percent of the vaccines sitting idly in refrigerators, and the states need more federal money to vaccinate all Americas asap.
It’s a very hopeful sign that the Biden team has already started reaching out to states to help them vaccinate as many as they can. This gives me hope for the future of our country.
Richard Penaskovic is an Emeritus Professor at Auburn University. His writings have appeared in the Birmingham News, Columbus- Ledger Enquirer, Montgomery Advertiser and online by Informed Comment and Politurco.