Friday, April 28, 2023

BTRTN, The Wendy Rant: The Inconvenient Truth of Covid

It is no surprise that Wendy has quickly found another topic for her latest rant.  .

It’s not lost on me that we’re all gnashing our teeth about guns, abortion, and ejections of elected statehouse officials who dare to do their jobs in Tennessee and Montana.  Oh, and Disney.  It’s like attacking baseball and apple pie.  I’m going to save those topics for another day though, and talk about Covid.  I know you have it in the rearview mirror, and I hope that on the personal health front, it stays there for you.  But if you were among those who believed in the public good at the beginning of the pandemic (remember bend the curve?), I’ll go so far as to say that it’s hypocritical of you to turn a blind eye now. 

I’m not advocating a return to mask requirements or other restrictions.  For most Americans, especially those who are vaccinated and boosted, it isn’t necessary right now.   But the Biden administration’s complete dismantlement of its Covid team is irresponsible.  I won’t say it’s government at its worst because lord knows, bad as it is, we’ve got better examples of that in the recent past, but it’s irresponsible. 

I worked as a contact tracer for the first year of the pandemic.  At that time, my friends were very interested in my experiences in the job, but now it’s behind them.  That’s understandable.  It’s not really behind me though.  The conversations I had over the course of that year stick.  I talked to many people with such labored breathing that we couldn’t get through my interview; I’d cut the call short and advise them to get to an ER.  One time, when I called the next day, a daughter answered.  Her mom had died.  You don’t forget about that. 

I do understand that we’re in a different place now.  Cases appear to be low (but no one’s really counting!) and vaccines and boosters, for those who have taken them, offer robust protection against death.  But only 69% of the nation has received the initial two vaccine series (or one for the old J&J vaccine).  I’m not even sure getting those first two vaccines back in early 2021 gets you anywhere at this point, and of course, the percentage of people boosted is much lower – only 18% have taken a bivalent booster.  We’re not all the way to bright here, folks. 

I am haunted by the memory of talking to an elderly Black couple, both sick with Covid.  This was soon after the first vaccines were available but they’d not gotten one.  Their doctor had advised them to take zinc.  Maybe zinc is great, I don’t know, but I do know that given some horrific history in this country, many Black people were suspicious of the vaccine.  I also know that compounding that suspicion was the couple’s inability to easily leave their apartment, to get to the supermarket let alone navigate their way onto a bus to get to a vaccine clinic that they couldn’t find anyway because they didn’t use the Internet.  The husband told me that they’d lost their appetites, that they were losing weight, that his wife cooked beautiful meals every day, but they couldn’t eat more than a few bites.  He was worried about her. They had no children or neighbors to call on, and they refused my offer to connect them with assistance from the county.   They were lovely, lovely people.  The wife had a calendar with meticulous records of every place they’d been – stores, doctor’s offices, sitting outside for a breath of fresh air   all carefully logged to help with my contact tracing.  She reviewed every minute of every day with me in her soft earnest voice, trying to help stop the spread of Covid.  That, we know now, was an almost fruitless pursuit, and in the meantime, she and her husband were dying in their little apartment. It’s so deeply poignant. I spent a long time on that call, far longer than I was supposed to, but I simply couldn’t cut off those frightened and lonely people.  When we finally hung up, I cried for quite some time before dialing the next call.

I’m telling you all this because people like that are still out there.  We’re back to Broadway and travel and restaurants, but Covid remains one of the top ten causes of death in this country.    160 people a day.  And the Biden administration is dismantling its Covid team.  Huh?

I can’t say it better than something I read in The Washington Post from the People’s CDC:

The decision to tolerate preventable deaths in disproportionately vulnerable groups, in exchange for the convenience of more able-bodied, younger, wealthy, and white individuals, is unethical and demonstrates a reckless disregard for the lives of communities disproportionately impacted by COVID.

I’ll tell you another thing.  Last night I went to a book talk featuring the author of a recent best seller.  She was everything you’d expect from a successful author talking about her book, except that it was noticeable that she was having difficulty with word retrieval.  She couldn’t remember the name of the novel that she’s currently reading and once or twice, she drew a blank mid-sentence trying to find the right word to express her thought.  She even said, “I can’t find the word.” So I googled her and learned that following a mild case of Covid in 2022, she’s been suffering from brain fog associated with long Covid. 

That could be you. 

It is an enormous failing that long Covid is not a research priority in this country.  And future generations are going to pay the price for it.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m back to theater and travel and other activities that enrich life.  I don’t feel badly about that, I agree that we need to live our lives.  But while we’re living them, we lose our humanity if we pretend that Covid doesn’t deprive many of that option.  It is, plain and simple, wrong to dismantle the resources that can help.  It’s just another in a long list of ways that we turn our backs on those who need us most. Now that some of us are on the safer side of the Covid equation doesn’t give us license to abandon those who continue to be at risk.  If morality doesn’t move you, don’t forget that in the Russian roulette of long Covid, you might be next.  I know you’re weary, but how can we sleep at night as a nation?  







  1. This piece is so moving that the description of the elderly Black couple dying of Covid made me tear up a little, no matter that I had never met them (and wish I had). The story about the book talk hit home, too. Too bad we even need a Wendy Rant like this one, but we do, so I'm glad we have it.

  2. In the United States, at the beginning of March, 2020, 12 people were dead of COVID. March 2021, around 513,000 more. March 2022, another 440,000, March 2023, another 170,000.

    In terms of deaths, years of life lost, and (apparently) the number severely impacted by aftereffects, COVID is now roughly equivalent to Stroke, and trails far behind heart diseases and cancers. All of those causes of death have greater impact on the poorer population and minority communities.

    Why one would deserve a White House team and not the others? Is there any indication that a Biden Administration would be more effective on COVID with the team than without?


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