What is the lesson of COVID-19?

The US has been reacting to this public health crisis of COVID-19. But one can’t remain in emergency mode permanently. So, we’ve suddenly switched to the opposite reaction of reopening everything as a free-for-all as if everything is fine and normal again. Then there will likely be a massive upswing again of infections, followed by another period of fearful reaction.

We are stuck in this cycle because we are unprepared, both in terms of public policy and public health. But a major factor is the population is so unhealthy with 88% of Americans being metabolically unfit, not to mention environmental risks to the health of poor communities. Even in the best of times, that would eventually be devastating simply in terms of financial costs. Some predict we might eventually go bankrupt from treating all those sick Americans, along with the increasing costs of sick days, disability pay, etc.

The main thing that COVID-19 is showing us is how weak of a position we are in. It’s multiple factors that are putting us in a difficult bind. And this is a rather minor pandemic. If a truly deadly pandemic hits, which is inevitable, our society is going to be totally crippled and devastated. We barely can manage public health issues and healthcare costs without a pandemic. This situation is only going to get worse, specifically as the rates of metabolic disease continue to rise.

If we don’t become pro-active about dietary policy and healthcare quickly, we could be facing an existential crisis as a society. So, why is no major official or expert talking about public health in terms of factors we can control, specifically comorbidities such as diet-related and pollution-related suppression of the immune system? We can try to control external risk factors through public policies on social gathering and such, but we’d be wiser in the long term to improve public health by improving the metabolic and immunological health of Americans so that we are less susceptible to infections in the first place.

Being unhealthy is not only a threat to the individual. When magnified across an entire society, most of the population being unhealthy is a much greater threat. Every single unhealthy individual is a risk factor, is a threat of infectious spread to their family, friends, neighbors, fellow church congregants, etc. Personal health is a public health issue. But Americans seem only to know how to react to such things, or else scapegoat individuals for failure of public policy. Even those who want to dismiss it all are likewise trapped in an opposite reaction. Both sides have their head in the sand about the most central factor.

Even if the COVID-19 pandemic fizzles out in the end with maybe only a million or so dead in the United States, it doesn’t change the basic public health crisis that will continue to get worse. Imagine when even more people in the United States and worldwide have metabolic diseases, and imagine when an even more virulent infectious disease hits. If we make no changes before then to improve individual and public health, we will be in a worse position than now and we will still be unprepared. Are we going to learn any lesson from this crisis?

None of this is to consider the potential combination of other factors. We are likely entering a period of one crisis after another with each crisis as bad or worse than the one before. Besides pandemics and other public health problems, there will be climate change events with worsening and increasing number of superstorms, along with floods, droughts, wildfires, famines, etc that will lead to refugee crises, social instability, civil wars, political coups, international conflict, fight over resources, and on and on.

That could be on top of the crises of destabilizing inequality, loss of public trust, and weakening political authority; not to mention various backlashes of reactionary politics, authoritarianism, riots, terrorism, and so much else. In the end, worsening health concerns, even pandemics, might be the least of our worries. But certainly a great enough public health crisis alone could unleash a cascade of stresses, conflicts, and failures within American society and across the geopolitical order.

This situation with COVID-19 is a warning we should heed. This could be, as some claim, the new normal. Or else a mere suggestion of the new normal yet to come.

45 thoughts on “What is the lesson of COVID-19?

  1. Informed by your postings here, having studied sufficiently to get a master’s degree in public health, and in having worked (as a non-clinician) in the hospital and medical field, I perceive the USA’s population has very many people with compromised immune systems. You can’t buy “health.”

    • The view expressed in this post has been on my mind since the beginning of COVID-19. There was a longer post I was writing. It included discussion of what we know on comorbidities and possible mechanisms, such as involving the so-called cytokine storm. And I placed emphasis on the terrain theory of microbes and infections. But I don’t know if I’ll ever finish that post. This is the simple version of the same basic message.

  2. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, America already was in the middle of an epidemic. It’s an epidemic no one wants to talk about. It didn’t go away.

    White America is dying. Suicide with firearms. Alcoholism. Opiates. Obesity.

    I call it the Rush Limbaugh epidemic. White people sipping on Jack Black and Wild Turkey, scoping down OxyContin, yelling at right-wing gibberish radio, throwing beer cans and pizza boxes at the TV watching FoxNews.

    These folks are killing themselves off. Folks can only live so long when you’re filled with resentment and schadenfreude and existential anxiety. So the average life expectancy for white Americans is going down the toilet.

    http://www.huffpost.com/entry/donald-trump-noam-chomsky-white-mortality_n_56cf8618e4b0bf0dab31838f

    • There is that. I’ve written about that topic. It’s complex, of course. Much of it has to do with the rising inequality that causes stress, conflict, and instability all across society — among blacks and whites, among rich and poor. Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson point out that the rich are also worse off in high inequality societies. And Keith Payne does a great job of explaining why equality causes mass derangement.

      Beyond that, there are numerous other factors. Your comment is touching upon the propaganda model of media. You also touch upon drug addiction, which Johann Hari wrote a great book about. Then there is the complex angle of the big farm and big food influencing public policy on diet and nutrition, as I discuss below in response to another comment. A high-carb diet, as I argue, is part of the addictive society of social control we’ve created.

      • Yes. We’ve talked about the suicide with drugs and drinks and guns. Capitalist realism and Neoliberalism and atomization.

        I don’t see any leadership in the current protest movement. No demands being made. No direction. No one talking about the real problems, just the usual PC distractions and symbols.

        America isn’t capable of real change because people are too busy endlessly assigning blame to political parties and virtue signalling about masks or whatever.
        http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/55288.htm

        • You are most definitely correct. Protest movements are usually limited in nature. That is because only simple, straightforward issues can be organized around and can inspire group action. But it’s the much more complex and harder to articulate issues underlying the symbolic issue that are what is instigating and inciting the sense of unrest. I do get the sense that a growing number of people are beginning to sense those underlying issues, such as inequality.

          The COVID-19 situation has made inequality more viscerally and tangibly real, even if we are still not at the point of having the full public awareness, moral outrage, populist demand, and political will to meet it head on. We might be moving in that direction, one would hope. We aren’t capable of real change, until we are forced to, in the way slavery couldn’t end until the whole country was almost ripped apart. Existential crises have a way of motivation people, especially Americans who only seem capable of reacting to problems.

          Right-wingers are whining and whimpering about chaos and anarchy, but they fucking haven’t seen nothing yet. America has experienced far worse violent unrest in the past at multiple points over the centuries. This protest movement is minor in comparison to the revolts and riots, not to mention nation-wide strikes, of the past. As inequality gets worse, so will the fracturing of society. This protest movement isn’t the fruition of change but barely the beginning of it.

          I’m inclined to put this in historical context. No major change ever began with comprehensive understanding by most of the population. The revolution of the mind that preceded the American Revolution took decades to shift public awareness and knowledge, public perception and opinion. There were many failed revolts and protest movements that led up to the American Revolution that succeeded. In some ways, the American Revolution was simply a re-enactment of the ultimately failed English Civil War.

          A similar pattern was seen in Russia. Across the 19th century in Europe, there had been many failed revolts, liberationist movements, and terrorist actions that seemed to have led to nothing but defeat and further oppression. Like the earlier radicals during the early modern revolutionary era, these new generations of radicals were dismissed as nihilists, in supposedly having no guiding vision or values. As with before, the revolution of the mind happened over a long period of time. But interestingly, in Russia, many activists embraced the nihilist label in declaring the old must end before we can know the new that will replace it.

          From a historical perspective, maybe we are in good company. We are understandably impatient for change and frustrated by the lack of progress. But that was true in previous centuries as well. Revolutionary change always happens slower and later than would be preferable. Conditions have to get really bad before the forces of change can be unleashed. We simply aren’t at that point yet. It all will have to get much worse to get events rolling. It’s anyone’s guess where we are heading.

        • There is a basic intuition that is particularly right on target. But it can be hard to understand. Most people would agree society has fundamentally changed in recent times. Events like revolutions in past centuries feel so distant and foreign.

          Only certain reactionary right-wingers in militias seem able to muster up enough nostalgia to imaginatively pretend, if impotently or like naive children, that they are reliving the American Revolution (or Civil War). Among present protesters against police abuse, I don’t get that many of them believe they are part of a revolutionary vanguard.

          I doubt many feel optimistic and hopeful. The public outrage is more gut-level stress and anxiety, frustration and disappointment. It’s like nothing changes and so keeps on repeating. People mostly just feel angry and what little public trust was remaining is further eroding away.

          We aren’t at a breaking point, though. History shows us that there has to be a long term build up of events before an incident triggers an unleashing of forces in a society. Plus, in line with the aforementioned intuition, many people sense that things are different now and no one knows what it means or where it will lead, if anywhere.

          Even during the height of the worst revolutionary eras of history, there never before was a global protest movement that spread across every continent and island nation. Now in the past two decades, we’ve had the only two global protest movements in history, the earlier one being against the Iraq War.

          I suspect that the new media technology has much to do with this. Something can happen on the other side of the world and one can identify and sympathize with the victims one has never met, even beyond cultural and language barriers. It’s maybe no accident that both originating events happened in the United States, the key symbol of the geopolitical order.

          American society and politics, in a sense, is shared by the whole world. I have online friends in other countries, from Canada to Ghana, and sometimes they have stronger opinions about the United States than I do. One of my non-American friends so regularly rants about US politics that you’d think he was a US citizen.

          That is different. We are more atomized than ever before. Yet in another way, we are more connected than ever before. It does create entirely new dynamics that are hard to predict.

  3. I honestly think having a sick population is part of the profit motive connecting the food and healthcare industries. It’s all about consumption–fill your body with unhealthy processed foods that are poor quality, yet cheap to produce (maximizing company profits) and then support the pharmaceutical industry and have knee replacement surgery etc due to poor health and obesity. I remember many people making fun of Michele Obama’s program to lower rates of childhood obesity through education and by changing school menus. I can’t think of a better investment in the future of the country.

    • One does have to wonder. The whole history of American public health is rife with sad failure and devious interests. Nixon pushed farm subsidies in order to create cheap food because he thought it would ensure his reelection. This created our glut of such things as corn and so the reason they put high fructose corn syrup in everything. Our high-carb diet isn’t simply a natural result of market forces and individual consumer decisions.

      The political mind behind Nixon’s farm policy was Earl Butz, known as King Corn (with a documentary by that name). He also promoted planting crops from fencerow to fencerow, with his motto of grow big or get out. That destroyed the traditional natural areas surrounding farm fields and is why the monarch population is in precipitous decline. The modern agricultural practices he advocated have also turned out to be highly destructive to the soil.

      To be fair, it didn’t begin with Butz. The first big push for a corporatist model of modernized industrial agriculture that created the political powerhouse of big farm originated with Franklin D. Roosevelt. This ‘progressive’ vision was initially developed in California, such as with the busting of farm labor organizing and the heavily subsidized infrastructure for piping in water from other states. That has created one of the least sustainable farming systems in the world.

      Farming policy, as shown with Nixon’s food policy, has been closely linked to promoting a particular variety of industrialized diet of nutrient-deficient and high-carb processed foods dependent on chemicals every step of the way, from farm to factory. Besides Butz, other influential figures have taken control of this push toward centralization and concentration of power as related to dietary and nutritional recommendations. The greatest and saddest example of this is Ancel Keys (see some of my posts about him or read the work of Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz).

      There was also an early attack on alternative health that I’ve discussed before. The early Cold War wasn’t only oppressive toward left-wingers, their fellow travelers, homosexuals, and other dangerous ‘deviants’. I could link to many posts I’ve written on many topics along the lines of what I’m describing in this comment, but I’ll link to only two in showing how our views of science and health are shaped.
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/eliminating-dietary-dissent/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/cold-war-silencing-of-science/

      More recently, there is the example of corporate greenwashing as seen with EAT-Lancet proposal to enforce a corporate-friendly diet on the entire world for reasons of ‘environmentalism’ that just so happen to be conducive to industrial agriculture and food production, not to mention highly profitable to the big biz interests that are backing it. Just ignore the man behind the curtain. The corporate model is also related to nutritionism, the idea that one can simply add a few nutrients back into nutrient-deficient food (I also have a post about that).

      Then there are issues such as how corporations fund the development of college curricula such as in medical schools, funds continuing education classes, funds scientific conferences, and of course funds scientific research. Many universities have essentially become extensions of corporations. This relates to why medical students fail on a test of basic knowledge of diet and nutrition, and yet it is doctors people turn to as experts in this area. We could also go into the whole can of worms with for-profit healthcare dominated by the pharmaceutical industry and insurance companies.

      The simple and sad fact is we have disease management, not healthcare. That is because disease is profitable for big biz and health is not. Michelle Obama’s emphasis on making public health a priority was important, but it goes so far beyond exercise. That is a point Taubes and many others make. One can’t outrun an unhealthy diet. I know that from personal experience. Being on a high-carb diet, I gained weight in middle age and even regular exercise made no difference. We need a paradigm change in understanding, but the problem is we are in the middle of a replication crisis in nutrition studies. Bad advice comes from bad science.

      • I’ve been collecting vintage feedsacks (the ones in pretty prints) and it blows my mind how much white flour a family consumed that they’d tell 50 and 100 pound sacks of white flour and families would have enough sacks to make clothes. I have a sack with it’s original label and appearently it didn’t take long for the family to go through the entire 50 lb sack. I don’t think I go through a standard sized Small paper Flour bag in 6 months.

        I’m guilty of a fat intake that’s higher than recommended on nutrition labels But I still seem lean enough to have a 4-pack as a girl. But I’m fairly young and active.

        I suspect this yummy borscht isn’t too unhealthy though it is by nutrition label standards

        https://www.internationalcuisine.com/polish-white-borscht/

        • Modern agriculture really took hold in the 19th century. By the early 1800s, there were the first dependable high yields that made regular grain consumption more common. For the first time, the average person could afford white flour. Prior to that, breads for poor people (i.e., most people) were often partly or fully made with grain substitutes and fillers (nuts, bark, chalk, etc).

          Grains had always been a staple of the diet. But for most of human history, humans maintained a heavy dependence on animal foods and wild plant foods. The further one goes back the more common are tubers in the diet. Even hunter-gatherers who don’t otherwise garden will sometimes grow tubers or else collect wild tubers, although before cultivation most tubers were extremely fibrous.

          By the time of the Civil War, the American diet had dramatically changed. Industrialization had taken hold and so had mass production of food. Canning was particularly important. Grain milling methods also improved in that era. They invented a way to produce a mill stone that cut the grain, instead of crushing it, and this allowed the germ to stay intact in order to be stored for longer periods and so to be transported further in a growing national and global market. It’s a similar reason hops started to be used for beer.

          Industrial farming, along with food processing and storage, vastly increased in the early-to-mid 20th century. The yields went up immensely and so the cost of grain dropped like a rock. It became the most affordable ingredient in the modern diet. So, grain began to be put into everything, along with sugar that became affordable during the same time. Consider a fruit pie which would have been a luxury food limited to the rich two to three centuries before.

          Americans no longer buy much flour itself. That is because most grain-based foods we eat are bought pre-made: bread, buns, tortillas, pasta, crackers, cookies, cupcakes, etc; not to mention Little Debbie snacks. Plus, we’ve added far more other starchy foods into our diet, especially potatoes, corn, and rice. Wheat has fallen a bit out of favor because of a bad reputation with gluten and such, but it is still consumed in large amounts by many Americans.

          The recipe does look good, by the way. Maybe I’ll make it this weekend for a meal with my parents. But I’d use the daikon radishes, instead of potatoes. Daikon radishes are one of those food items that probably were once more well known and widely used. Much has changed in our diet. Even our vegetable choices are radically different from the past. Many of the vegetables found in a grocery store didn’t exist a century or two ago. We’ve cultivated a wide variety of vegetables from the brassica family and that happened in recent generations.

      • Injera is one of my favorite sources of carbs and the cuisine is delicious. Being away from Minneapolis and Baltimore-DC Area these days hard to get it though.

        It frustrates me that nutrition labels tend to only label macronutrients and people are looking more at what Food lacks in that department rather than what it has. People don’t focus on the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals told has but rather on whether it’s low fat or low carb.

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Injera

        • I hadn’t heard of injera. I’m sure it would be interesting to experiment with. But my cooking skills are limited. I’ll mention it to my friend, as he is a professional baker. I’m not sure where I might find injera around here, although there are some ethnic restaurants and grocery stores where it could be available. I’ll keep it in mind when I’m out and about.

          Knowing the fat content, not only amount but type, does give you nutritional info in an indirect way. Animal fat, of course, is full of fat-soluble vitamins — among the most important micronutrients.There is a reason micronutrients are rarely listed. We have such little knowledge about the specifics micronutrient profiles of foods. There has been little testing. And as soil has become depleted, micronutrient content has dropped dramatically.

          Also, there so many micronutrients out there. Many of them have not yet been identified. Among those identified, most have not been a focus of measurement and research. Only a few micronutrients have received major attention in how deficiency in them cause obvious diseases. But deficiency in many other nutrients can affect health, if less observable ways. Also, many micronutrients require cofactors that are lacking when nutrients are added in as fortification.

          Also, animal foods contain diverse micronutrients beyond the fat-soluble vitamins (cholesterol, EPA, DPA, biotin, CoQ10, choline, minerals, collagen, etc; meat even contains antioxidants), but most people don’t know that. Even most dietitians and nutritionists seem uninformed about the wide variety of the nutrient profile of animal foods, often simply talking about protein and fat.

          It’s further complicated by the fact that your diet determines what nutrients you need and in what amounts. A high-carb diet necessitates greater intake of vitamin C to avoid scurvy, as it competes with glucose. But a low-carb diet allows one to get all the vitamin C needed from the lower levels found in animal foods. And animal foods have other antioxidants that can act in place of vitamin C. So, the amount of vitamin C in food is only helpful to the degree you know how your diet is affecting your need for it.

          All of the micronutrients and macronutrients have thousands of complicated relationships like this. I’ve written some posts about some of these detailed connections. One nutrient decreases the need for another nutrient while another competes, while other nutrients help the body metabolize, use or transport a nutrient. This confusion is multiplied by potentially dozens of nutrients with causal relationships forming a web. This is the failure of nutritionism and why whole foods are preferable.

          • Nutrient dense foods also happen to be Quite and more expensive. Sources of vitamin k2 for example are either expensive or not easily found in mainstream grocery stores. Pastured eggs are more expensive than regular eggs, mainstream grocery store produce is often flavorless and low quality, etc.

            Some ethnic (asian and Eastern European I’m most finiliar with) stock less common nutrient dense foods like herring, organ meats etc but not everywhere has them.

            People talk about salmon a lot in terms of omega 3s, but wild salmon is expensive and so is fish roe (love salmon roe but it’s expensive as fuck). Other fish is hard to find in mainstream markets.

          • Nutrient-dense foods can be more expensive. That is even more true right now. Coronavirus infections shut down some meatpacking plants. So, meat is less available and more expensive than it otherwise would be. Organic, pasture-raised, and local animal foods are even more pricey.

            But not all nutrient-dense foods are expensive. Eggs are one of the cheapest and most filling foods one can buy. When I was living below the poverty line, I ate a lot of eggs. They are packed full of nutrition, since that is the purpose of an egg. Even a conventional egg still nutritious, if not as awesome as the pasture-raised, and one can tell the difference the moment one cracks them open.

            A lot of dairy can be fairly cheap, as long as you’re not concerned about quality. A block of standard milk, cheddar cheese, or yogurt from Walmart, Aldis, Costco, etc is reasonable. But I prefer goat dairy products (kefir, butter) or else aged cheese made from raw milk, which is on the high end for my budget.

            Organ meats definitely can be inexpensive and they definitely are concentrated goodness. And mainstream grocery stores around carry them. The flavor can be an acquired taste and there is a learning curve in cooking them. Some people will chop up liver and mix it with ground beef so that it hides the taste. Ground meat, in general, is a reasonable option for nutrition as long as one buys a higher fat version. Many of the most important nutrients are in the fat, after all.

            Seafood is great but among the most expensive foods. It’s a good occasional food. Canned fish is more affordable, if not the best choice because the heat from packing them destroys some but not all of the nutrition. One can get canned sardines for not too much and they still do have much that is healthy to them.

            It also depends on what foods one is comparing with meat. Starchy foods like commercial bread, pasta, etc is cheap. That is because the government heavily subsidizes farmers for certain crops. We are still paying the full price for those foods, but it simply comes out of our taxes instead of in our grocery bill.

            As for other foods, animal foods in general are cheaper and store better than many vegetables and fruits. Many Americans have been convinced to spend a lot of money on these plant foods, even though they go rotten quickly and often have to be thrown away, which further decreases their value for the cost.

            And if one is looking at local and organic produce, it can be as pricey as buying a steak. At the local farmers market here, a bunch of collard greens can go for 5-7 bucks and it cooks down to not much food. But if you don’t care about quality, you can get cheap lettuce and carrots, although the nutrition they offer is minimal.

            Good food in general is expensive. Instead of subsidizing corn or whatever, it’s these other foods that the government should be subsidizing. There is less profit in these other foods, though. The profit margin for the major crops like wheat is tremendous and its one of the major global trade goods. That is why most farmland is dedicated to those crops and why the government is so heavily enmeshed in its production.

            The fact that such foods offer little value in terms of nutrition and health is irrelevant within the state capitalist model. But it does help one to understand why American health has been on a steady decline for many generations.

          • We have several Hy-Vee stores in town. They are a mainstream chain grocery store. They carry beef marrow bones, chicken feet, pig knuckles, chicken and beef liver, chicken gizzards and hearts, beef brain, etc.

            It’s true that this is is a farm state, but all of these Hy-Vees are located in this liberal college town. Poor people are more likely to shop at Walmart that carries far fewer of these kinds of items.

        • Korean food always stood out to me as quite nutritionally dense. More so than the average japanese diet (China varies too much to say.) And koreans look much more robust facially and physically than Japanese. They are still growing on average while Japanese seem to have stalled especially for women.,

          not looking at mascronutrients, just micronutrients. Fermented veggies, seafood, bone broth, grilled meat with various fresh and fermented veggies, eggs, etc. Various whole grains. Not afraid of fatty cuts of meat. Korean spas usually sell eggs to eat baked in their saunas.

          • Koreans often seem bigger boned with wider facial bone structure, both of which indicate healthy growth and development (Weston A. Price focused on measuring bone and dental health). Maybe some of that has to do with a more nutritious diet. Some of the Asian countries eat more meat than Americans. It would be interesting to see the combined data for national consumption of all animal foods: meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.

  4. The UK government has acted in a similar and idiotic fashion. Stringent lockdown and incalculable damage to the economy which has now been wasted by a free for all opening up of everything. God knows where it will end or how many deaths will follow. As so often these days I am reacting by burying my head deeper in the sand.

    • I must admit that I’ve largely been ignoring the news. I’ve been avoiding the mass media stupidity for years now. I used to believe I had some kind of moral responsibility to stay informed about what is going on in the world. And I do hear plenty about major events through other people. But I don’t feel any great loss for not spending my time obsessing over the news like I used to.

    • Those people are mentally ill. It’s a total disconnect from reality. Theoretically, we could rationally have a public debate about wearing masks. But that would require people with a minimal capacity of rationality.

    • All the fat-soluble vitamins (true vitamin A, vitamin D3, vitamin K2, and vitamin E complex) are all essential and most of them are naturally found only in animal foods (though vitamin K2 can be sourced from certain microbes in Natto, fermented soy). They aren’t like many other micronutrients, in that they act more like hormones in the body. They are master chemicals that control numerous biological systems.

      Weston A. Price researched the fat-soluble vitamins about a century ago when he determined how key they were to all aspects of health, from dental to mental. He is the guy who first identified vitamin K2 and called it Activator X. Until recent years, the medical field, dietitians, and nutritionists didn’t appreciate that vitamin K2, as they didn’t realize it was significantly different from vitamin K1. It was also quite recent that someone was able to determine Activator X was vitamin K2.

      Research in this area is still young. Most Americans don’t know much about fat-soluble vitamins and why they matter. As a society, we are still damning fat as the problem. But fat is the source of fat-soluble vitamins and without fat our body can’t use those nutrients. A very low-fat diet can improve health in the short term such as weight loss, but in the long term it threatens slowly starving the body to death.

    • I guess this Apache population is even worse off. They have twice the infection rate of the Navajo. Those are the people to be seriously worried. They definitely should not be reopening and sending their kids back to school.

    • The Navajo nation has been hit the hardest of any major population in the country. For every 100 people who come up positive as infected, about five people die of COVID-19. A one in 20 chance of survival would not be comforting. People in such a community would be rationally fearful of getting infected.

      Could you imagine if whites, especially among the middle-to-upper class, all across the country died at the same rate? Republican politicians, Trump supporters, Fox News viewers would have demanded an authoritarian lock down far greater than what we’ve seen so far. And right-wing militias would be patrolling the streets of their communities to ensure citizens complied with restrictions and to keep out unwanted outsiders.

      That is what bothers me. Our view of such things is myopic, even among good liberals. The Navajo nation, as with blacks, is so vulnerable to health risks because of centuries of racist oppression that in many ways continues. It’s not really COVID-19 killing them. That is merely the last link in a long chain of causes. We’re unable to publicly talk about this and so it erupts as a protest movement.

      Yet you’re correct that locking down vulnerable populations is far from an optimal response, as we need to begin dealing with the root causes. We can’t do that, though, until it’s part of public discussion and political debate. Nothing will be resolved. If anything, with rising inequality, the situation is most likely to get worse, until it resolves itself when stresses and conflicts become too great (Walter Scheidel, The Great Leveler).

    • Is that a favorite restaurant of yours? The food you describe sounds scrumptious. I enjoy crab, a food I like to get when I’m near the coast. When I’d visit Charleston, I often ordered the soft shell crab sandwich. It was partly the aesthetic appeal of eating a sandwich with legs hanging out the sides.

    • Cautiousness is warranted. That said, I doubt an infectious outbreak will happen at the moment. The number of infections and deaths will keep going up for a while. That is something to be concerned about. But we won’t really know what is going on until schools reopen, as that will be the first time large numbers of people are concentrated indoors within confined spaces. Those are the conditions of infectious spread and so this will be an experiment.

      Even then, the heat of summer and sunshine giving people vitamin D will keep numbers down. I wouldn’t worry too much until fall and winter comes around. That is when a possibly virulent and deadly second wave could happen, if it is to happen at all. But it might not happen. Maybe the infectiousness, virulence, and mortality will remain mild. I just wouldn’t assume it won’t get worse. There is no reason to be in mass panic, but caution is wise for a while longer.

    • Some good points are made:
      “[We have] this history of settler-colonialism where people had to be hostile to each other. Your goal was to invade someone else’s land, or enslave someone, or grab something before somebody else could. We’re still living with that and we have to fight against it.”

      And:
      “Valkyrie mentioned that all French students are required to take a philosophy course at the high school level, with the result that everyone has been taught the basics of critical thinking. That’s obviously not the case here in the US, and as kind and well-meaning as many of my hippie and New Age friends might be, their lack of critical thinking skills has never been more apparent …or potentially harmful.

      “Valkyrie also pointed out that a cultural memory of past pandemics still exists in Europe. “The Plague” has never been forgotten. By contrast, she said, people in the US are cut off from their cultural memory when they immigrate here. By becoming colonial settlers, we give up a connection to the past that would ordinarily help inform our present and guide our future.”

    • I was disappointed when Fauci admitted that he and other officials lied to the public that masks didn’t reduce risk of infection. What was most irritating is that he didn’t think there was anything wrong with lying to the public and so destroying public trust in a society where public trust is already so low. It was his lies that have made it so hard to change the message in getting people to wear masks now.

      The cynical paternalism of Fauci is disheartening. He embodies the realpolitik that argues the end justifies the mean, no matter what. On a practical level, this means no one can ever be certain when Fauci is speaking the truth or lies, and so one has to always assume he might be lying. There is no way to maintain a healthy society that way. It creates mutual distrust, as obviously Fauci doesn’t trust the public. But once people no longer trust each other, a society is doomed. People who don’t trust don’t act in ways that are trustworthy.

    • I’ve thought about that. Americans are far more sickly than many other countries that have done better with infections and reopening. This is particularly bad among the poor and minorities, but it’s not like the population in general is in great health.

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