Around the world people are suffering and dying in the tens of thousands from in the SARS-CoV-2 virus global pandemic. This virus is novel, meaning it’s never been experienced before by humans and therefore humans don’t have any developed immunity to it. It is transmitted via droplets from coughing or sneezing and perhaps aerosols, and quite likely via surface contamination from person to person. The disease it causes has been named Covid 19. A pandemic like this hasn’t been seen in the world since the 1918 so-called “Spanish flu” pandemic that killed approximately 50 million people.
As I write this April 4th , the worldwide number of confirmed Covid 19 cases stands at 1.2 million according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus dashboard . 65,000 people have died, 15,000 of them in Italy where hospitals have been overrun and 11,000 in Spain. By tomorrow these numbers will be out of date. The increase in new confirmed cases yesterday, April 3rd, was the largest increase of any day, over 100,000.
The U.S. is now the global epicenter of the disease and the main driver of increases worldwide. Confirmed cases in the U.S. have skyrocketed to over 312,000, now approaching twice as many as the country with the second highest number, Spain. The largest increases of confirmed cases daily of any country to date are now occurring in the U.S., 33,000 on April 3rd. Over 8500 are dead in the U.S.
After downplaying the danger for two months, the White House on March 31st announced their “best case” scenario was that 100-240,000 people will die in the U.S. from Covid 19. Just weeks ago, Donald Trump, the person most singly responsible for this magnitude of this crisis, repeatedly dismissed the danger, telling people that it was no worse than the flu, that the virus would “disappear”, that the numbers would soon “drop to zero”. The virus didn’t care though about Trump’s lies or attempts to cover up the truth. Now, confronted with an exploding caseload and massive deaths, Trump who just a a little more than a week ago chortled about how the U.S would be “open and raring to go” by Easter with “churches full”, has been forced by circumstances to partially admit the level of disaster, though not his responsibility.
Sickeningly, in his March 31st press conference Trump said “many people” in his ruling class circles were counseling to just “ride it out”, in other words, do nothing to shut down business and just let people die in the millions. The cold debates in the Trump inner circles have been over what’s best for Trump and the economy-do nothing and hope despite millions dying the economy can still function, or put in place some measures to “limit” the deaths to up to 240,000 because that would ultimately be less disruptive. Trump then lauded himself for choosing against doing nothing. Now he tries to present the absolutely horrific prediction of as many as 240,000 deaths that his regime is largely responsible for, as amazingly good, a “job well done”.
From the start, the Trump regime’s response to the Covid danger has been disastrous. It’s been completely framed by Trump’s personal interests vis a vis maintaining power and the elections, and relatedly, trying to keep the stock market afloat and economy spinning. It’s also stamped by Trump’s particular brand of disregard of reality. The federal agencies responsible for medically dealing with the disease-the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Health and Human Services (HHA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were sluggish and flat-footed in rolling out testing. Early and massive testing, as was done in South Korea and Singapore for example, helped track the disease so people could be quarantined to help squelch the virus. Instead in the U.S., more than a month was lost, the virus exploded. With the horse already out of the barn, the U.S. has now finally ramped up testing which is beginning to track closer to the actual case numbers. Undoubtedly though, these are still way short of actual numbers as little or no effort has been aimed to track people who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. Data from China indicates both are able to transmit the virus. Even now many are still having difficulty getting tests in a timely manner, despite Trump’s lie that “everyone who wants a test gets a test”.
Tens of millions of Trump’s backers, including governors in many of the “red states” have refused, and some even continue to refuse, to engage reality, as Trump has modelled. Schools, businesses, sporting events, bars, churches and gathering places continued to operate as the virus was allowed to infect more people and spread. In Florida, Governor DeSantis, a Trump acolyte, refused to shut down spring break and beaches, allowing thousands of youth to gather, exposing each other to the virus, and likely spreading to others. Religious fanatic and Trump devotee Jerry Falwell Jr. re-opened Liberty University in late March.
Each day this crisis brings deeper sadness at the suffering and death worldwide, and anger over the disaster of the U.S. federal government’s response. Healthcare workers battle this disease without enough essential protective gear, having to disinfect masks they use day after day. Exhausted and strained, they plead online for gloves, masks and ventilators. Medical workers, particularly in New York City, are getting sick. Some have died. One nurse who along with his partner has contracted Covid 19 told the New York Times, “I feel like we’re all just being sent to slaughter”. Protests of nurses are spreading across the country, as are beautiful balcony outpourings of support for health workers. Sirens sound repeatedly all day and night in New York City where there’s been an explosion of tens of thousands of cases and more than 2300 deaths. Bodies stack up in hospitals and are loaded into fleets of refrigerated trucks to be taken away.
Heartbreaking stories fill social media of previously healthy people, particularly elderly, but not only, developing symptoms, ending up in ICU’s gasping for breath and dying separated from loved ones. People are losing the dearest people in their lives, decades stolen from their lives, and sometimes not even being able to say goodbye. Nationwide hospital beds, trained ICU staff, supplies, and ventilators, are running out. The strains on hospitals are just beginning. Millions are unemployed as the virus shut down the economy. Tens of millions are under social distancing and stay at home orders. Trump has refused to do what other countries have, put in place a national stay-at home order.
Governors in states like Washington, California and New York and Michigan have forged emergency responses-stay-at home orders, shutting businesses, mandating social distancing. Many of these efforts are crucial and may in certain cases at least, be playing a role in at least slowing the spread of disease States have had to battle the Trump regime for necessary equipment and materials. Hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake, yet Trump has states in a market-driven bidding war with each other to pay the most for life-saving supplies. Trump said he told Mike Pence, head of the coronavirus task force to not even call Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, because they haven’t expressed enough appreciation of what a great job he’s doing. Thousands are dying, people are suffering and scared, ventilators, hospital beds and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are running out. Instead of setting up a nationally coordinated effort to allocate and rush supplies to hotspots, Trump demands fealty and lets states fight over them.
He then had the unmitigated audacity to accuse healthcare workers, who are risking their lives, at times without basic equipment, of misusing or stealing masks. Trump’s daily press conferences are a mix of lies, misstatements and half-truths, and primarily about making it appear as if things are under control, and to further the laughable claim that he and his government’s efforts are so amazing they’ve “never been seen before”. He’s trying to turn a national debacle into a bouquet of flowers. When reporters even just read back his own words to him to point out his actual statements, he interrupts them, accuses them of being hostile and tries to shut them down.
This past week #TrumpGenocide began trending on twitter. In fact this is not hyperbole in the least. Trump is furthering a catastrophe that is still unrolling. No-one knows where it ends. Further, there is great responsibility of all countries to stop the spread of the disease, in particular because of the possible impact on the poor countries in the global south where health care systems and supplies are often much less available than in the rich countries. Nowhere is this reality of possible mass death more acute than in detention centers where immigrants are locked and packed into unsanitary conditions without basic sanitation. As of April 6th, there are at least 8 documented positive Covid 19 cases reported in immigrant detention facilities. Immigrant women in detention in Lousiana made a protest video detailing the lack of protection they are receiving and their fear. Covid is already spreading as well in jails. In Rikers Island in New York City as well as Cook County jail, hundreds of inmates are already sick with the coronavirus.
Capitalism and the Trump “Logic”
There is a link between the emergence of pathogens in wild animals, as is likely with Covid, and the functioning of capitalist industrial production and its destruction of the natural world. Further, the spread and devastation caused by this pandemic is also intimately linked up with the workings of capitalism in other ways-the lack of planning and preparation for such disasters, inequities in health care systems in almost every country, as well as the disparity between rich and poor. Capitalism as a system is incapable of preparing ahead for such eventualities due to its short term horizons and its demand to focus on immediate profit-making and winning out vis a vis competitors. Health care, to capitalism, is another market-driven, profit-producing operation. This is a subject beyond the scope of this article, but sets the context for what we’re seeing.
No one could have exactly predicted this pandemic, but actually many epidemiologists and others have warned of such a situation of this kind for years.
In fact previous administrations and the Trump administration itself studied the dangers of an emerging pandemic, (despite Trump’s lie that no-one could have predicted this.) Yet little or nothing was done to prepare. No stockpiling supplies like PPE and ventilators, no plans for training millions of back up healthcare workers that would be needed, no actual game-planning for extreme scenarios. Few new weapons systems or war materiel are left unexplored or developed in America, but when it comes to PPE, life-saving medical equipment and staff, forget it.
The Covid 19 disaster is a capitalist disaster. But on top of this it’s in particular a disaster of Trumpian fascism. Many reporters and news agencies have rightly skewered Trump for the debacle of a response. And yet most still don’t understand how it’s entirely rooted in who Trump is, has always been and always will be, in his worldview, what he values, and what he’s out to do. So after not only this but everything horrific Trump has done-caging children, unleashing violent racism, eviscerating the rule of law, his sexual predation, destruction of the environment and bone-deep corruption-they say the federal government must “get its act together”. “The White House must take charge, why such a confused response?” they say. Or “it’s time for government to speak with one clear voice”.
The truth is Trump’s response has a twisted and sick logic and he and his regime are incapable of the type of response needed.
Trump’s project and outlook is a fascist one that is all about gaining and maintaining power, worship of money and advancement of profit-making without normal rules. It’s about xenophobia and racism-eg. Trump calling Sars Co-V2 the “Chinese virus”. It’s why his inclinations are to shut down travel to other countries, and even quarantine states despite there being no medical reason justifying this. And most deeply, fascism’s and Trump’s logic is all about power. Truth isn’t something that exists objectively, it’s whatever the fascist leader says it is at any one moment, and that can change literally from moment to moment. Fascism eschews (abstains from) truth and evidence. (This is one reason it so neatly fits with right wing Christian fundamentalism.) In fact, it defines truth as whatever is in the interests of the leader. This is why Trump constantly and repeatedly was incapable of accepting basic facts about the virus’ spread in the U.S.
Fascism demands obedience from the masses and suppresses and even crushes political opponents. Yes, it gives out sops- hospital ships to LA and New York, certain PPE and ventilators though nowhere near what’s needed. But its essential heartbeat is consolidating power, maximizing profit-making and vicious nationalism. This is why the stock market’s performance and its centrality to Trump’s re-election has been much more vital than a few hundred thousand deaths to him.
And in this crisis too, the fascists in the ruling class are employing the logic of not letting “any serious crisis go to waste”. So they are seizing on it to ram through draconian new rules and laws, outlawing abortion as “non-essential” in three states so far, suspending enforcement of environmental rules by the EPA, and dangerous new charges in certain Republican led states to be leveled in the event of protest vs. fossil fuel projects, now defined as “essential infrastructure.”
As days pass, Trump’s press conferences increasingly play a role of gleefully trying to crush people’s hopes and humanity with the spectre of massive death allowed by increasing dictatorial power. Trump is now using this crisis to bludgeon the political terrain in the best possible terms for consolidating fascist power through the November elections. The situation is very dangerous and getting more so.
It’s crucial now that all who care about creating a better world find all possible means to stand up, to expose this regime, to spread massive outrage at the criminal mass murder this regime is responsible for. Walls physically and virtually could be established that become living monuments to the people who have died from Covid and to condemn this regime that is responsible. Protests incorporating social distancing ethos must build and spread. It’s critical that people speak out together to demand support for health care workers, an end to immigrant detention and of jailing people in dangerous conditions, for needed medical supplies and equipment, and to join all these efforts to demand Trump, the fascist at the center of this crisis, to resign now.