COVID’s Legacy: Less Science, More Authoritarianism

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The virus is real but the measures we’re taking make no sense—unless you’re a government bully trying to consolidate power.

Science is asking questions and accepting the answers. Superstition is when belief drives people to do silly things without evidence. Which method works better for authoritarians and bullies? The latter, of course, which is what’s driving America’s COVID response.

Some 11 months into the coronavirus, so little makes sense. Masks have become a political talisman, health policy a way to settle political scores. False dichotomies such as “lives or money” cloud people’s abilities to make thoughtful decisions. Instead of working together, we fear one another as carriers. The urge to panic has not been replaced by an equivalent urge to vaccinate. We are locked down with economic and social consequences we still don’t understand.

Precautions vary widely. In New York, the more expensive the store, the deeper into COVIDiocy they are. High-end retailers have someone at the door scolding the unmasked, demanding hand sanitizing, gleefully enforcing social distancing. Economic bottom feeders, such as NYC’s sinkholes of hope, the bodegas, have cashiers, their masks tucked under their chins, screaming in bad Spanish at the kids shoplifting Ding Dongs.

The highest expression of COVIDiocy in NYC are the museums, all of which were subsumed by the Museum of White Guilt during the Trump years, with special exhibits of less known artists of color, or trans-something featurettes. Enforced by guards whose behavior is an exhibit of fascism all its own, they cling to the 25 percent of capacity rule even though their rooms are gaping large with 20-foot ceilings.

The “capacity” of a public space is based on fire regulations, a computation of how many people can safely get out of a space in a fire. It seems to have little to do with air volume, or how air is handled inside the space, things that might be directly relevant to COVID. Wouldn’t how far people stand apart depend on, literally, which way the wind is blowing? I have been unable to find anything explaining why 25 percent capacity was chosen; why not 18 or 41.5 percent?

But while museums obsess about only allowing limited guests, there are no such rules on the subway some may take to get there. The trains run with whatever number of people decide to board, spaced out as they wish. There are staff to mop the floors in defense of a largely airborne disease but none to disperse passengers among the cars.

You’d think people, left to their own devices, would do be better at being human. In my apartment house of some 300 units, there are some who simply have not left the building for the last 11 months. There are a few, meerkat-like, who venture out with caution. One uses paper towels to open the dryer door in the common laundry room. Many have given up speaking to anyone, seeing each of us passing in the halls as a potential Angel of Death. As Joe Biden’s senior adviser on COVID said, even our children are “like mosquitoes carrying a tropical disease.” It’s a miserable way to live.

Most people around here do wear their masks, but even there it makes no sense. You’ll see “masks” made by stretching a T-shirt over one’s nose, along with fresh surgical masks and stained paper ones. Some masks fit well; most have gaps on the sides where impure air is exhaled; some have valves to spew out unfiltered breaths. One neighborhood family has matching full-face respirators for mom, dad, and two small kids, suitable for a Chernobyl picnic, like characters out of some 1950s “Our Friend the Atom!” educational film.

It equally makes no sense why vaccinating Americans is not a 24/7 urgent national task. New York issues dire warnings to the elderly (58 percent of all COVID deaths are people age 75 and older) but provides no vaccines for them. Why, unlike in March, isn’t the National Guard out, this time with needles? Meanwhile the Biden White House has no idea how many doses of vaccine are on hand. New York City does not know how many teachers it may have vaccinated. Why can’t anyone say when I/my grandma/my kids will get vaccinated?……


Continue reading this article at The American Conservative. This article is republished at The Prickly Pear with permission.


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