Yesterday, I participated in a mundane committee meeting, one where we were making decisions on the distribution of in-house grant funds. It was fine, there were a fair number of really good proposals, we didn’t have to struggle over funding anyone’s work. However, at the end, someone made a comment about how we didn’t have to deal with COVID accountability anymore, and we weren’t going to have to provide extra money for COVID, because the pandemic was over.
My heart sank at that. People actually believe we beat the virus because a politician announced that we had. I’ve got news for those guys.
On Monday, the White House announced that it will let the Covid-related public health emergency declarations expire on May 11, 2023. Ashish Jha, Biden’s national Covid response coordinator, framed the announcement in true “accentuate-the-positive,” “we’re back to normal” fashion, tweeting that the emergency was being lifted because the country was “in a better place and “getting through the winter without a big surge or run on hospitals.” He even threw in the Biden administration’s favorite line: “We have the tools to manage this virus.”
Jha can tweet whatever he likes, but as I’ve said again and again, the numbers don’t lie. As Alyssa Bilinski and Kathryn Thompson from the Brown School of Public Health, along with Ezekiel Emanuel from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, wrote in a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association in November: “The US continued to experience significantly higher Covid-19 and excess all-cause mortality compared with peer countries during 2021 and early 2022, a difference accounting for 150,000 to 470,000 deaths.” Last week, more people died of Covid than perished in the Twin Towers on 9/11.
Don’t be fooled. The pandemic is not over. This is all about rolling back Medicaid coverage and little things, like not having to pay for the accommodations for COVID prevention that professors are expected to make. It’s about fostering political delusions — ‘vote for me, I ended COVID!’. It’s about unleashing the greedy fucks at pharmaceutical companies.
Lastly, both Pfizer and Moderna are hiking their prices on Covid vaccines. And this isn’t a little uptick in the price tag—both Pfizer and Moderna are proposing 400 percent increases. Again, this is going to put vaccines out of the reach of many low-income uninsured Americans, dissuade others from getting the jab, and sock insured people with potential premium increases as insurance companies pass on the pain to the rest of us. The White House has issued strongly worded statements about the price hikes, but many have called for bolder action against this predatory behavior. As of now, there are crickets from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
We failed to control the pandemic because the only thing we were committed to was half-assing it. The policy of neglect and denial will continue as thousands will die. They’re mostly old people, though, so who cares, and we’re all going to close our eyes and pretend long COVID isn’t a thing. We’ll just keep on riding the roller coaster.