During the H1N1 swine flu outbreak in 2009, then-President Barack Obama, acceding to the requests of medical experts, advised Americans to be vaccinated. That's when former disc-jockey Rush Limbaugh—to whom millions of Americans apparently turn to for health care advice—said no, adding for good measure:
“Screw you, I am not going to take it, precisely because you’re now telling me I must. You have some idiot government official demanding, telling me I must take this vaccine. I’ll never take it.”
Glenn Beck over on Fox News, another person with apparently a hidden medical degree from an unaccredited medical school, picked up the drumbeat, vowing to do the exact opposite of what the government asked.
Real-estate wheeler-dealer Donald Trump said H1N1 would go away and that vaccines are dangerous. And his sworn nemesis, Bill Maher said the same thing.
Trump was actually right: it did go away, but not until after 12,469 Americans had died. And this was after President Obama declared a National Health Emergency, something he did early in the game, well before H1N1 had been declared much of anything, let alone a pandemic.
Obama, of course, lacking the medical expertise of media personalities, followed the advice of the experts rather than hunches and feelings. In the end more people with hunches and feelings died than did those who heeded the warnings and got themselves vaccinated. It's true, read this.
One wonders of people like Rush Limbaugh ever look at themselves in the mirror and say, “I did a lot of harm by being a jerk.” Trump himself, who has no capacity for reflection and never will, anticipates more "wonderful rallies," heedless of the danger to the very people who worship him, and himself.
He isn’t the only candidate with rallies planned. One wonders just what it would take to shock these politicians into understanding the peril around them.
Help me Mike Pence; you’re our only hope.
I balked at the appointment of Mike Pence to handle the current outbreak, but at least he can speak with intelligence and accuracy, not peppering every update with tales of his own wonderfulness. And if he has hunches and feelings, he doesn’t share them with the public at large. He seems to be speaking plainly, or at least as plainly as he can without angering his boss.
In truth the CDC has made some missteps also, but to their credit, that organization established a COVID-19 Incident Management System way back on January 7, 2020. If our government had right then taken the drastic step of restricting or advising against travel and moved rapidly toward the production of more test kits and masks—in short listened to the CDC instead of the hunches of a “very stable genius” who knows less about more than any president in history—we’d be better off today.
Not out of the woods, not clear of the threat, but better off.
Tests kits and masks don’t kill viruses, but they do help us isolate and quarantine them so that the spread can be contained. Instead, America is facing the exact same situation that occurred in Wuhan, China, and continued until drastic measures eventually took hold.
I joked with someone the other day that if Connecticut had installed a system of tolls, the virus would not have crossed state lines. Even a day or two later the jokes ring hollow as deaths increase. Viruses do not obey geographical boundaries, nor do they target any political party; but they may surprise the naïve millions who get their medical advice from conservative entertainers, and the surprise itself may be deadly.