Obviously, the immediate concern regarding the coronavirus is preventing deaths right now. As I wrote in another piece though, it concerns me that the general approach to the coronavirus has been essentially week-to-week. Warnings about the virus came as early as last November, so there are few excuses for why we were so unprepared. Better preparation would have saved lives.
Despite official statements to the contrary, the coronavirus is not going away anytime soon. As political leaders failed to plan for the beginning of the pandemic, I fear they are not planning for the rest of the pandemic and its aftermath either. There are many, many bad things that can happen as a result of poor pandemic mitigation. These are the three that concern me the most.
There are so many vulnerable populations that are going to be devastated by this virus that I could write an entire post about it. For now though, I want to focus on two groups: Black people and refugees.
I’ve already talked about the challenges Black people are facing now from the coronavirus. In the long term, my big fear is that coronavirus is going to persist in the Black community for decades, in the same way that HIV/AIDS continues to plague us. Coronavirus is here forever now, and so is racism. When the pandemic is “over,” we’re still going to be dying from this.
I have the same concerns about refugees, with an additional worry- refugee flows can destabilize entire countries and change governments. We’ve seen this already happen in Europe as a result of migration. When coronavirus starts ravaging refugee camps and migrants (which is a matter of when, not if), there’s no way to predict the long-term political and social consequences. The best thing governments and leaders can do is to rapidly improve conditions in refugee camps, commit the resources necessary to prevent spread and treat the sick, and respect the humanity of people already in incredibly difficult situations.
THE U.S. ELECTION
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again- Donald Trump is not going to concede the election if he loses. If he loses the immunity of being President, then he gets indicted by the state of New York and most likely dies in jail. All of his incentives are to stay in office as long as possible.
I believed that to be true under the best case scenario, with a clear, decisive win by the Democratic candidate. Barring some kind of miracle, we are not going to have a best-case scenario election in November. It will take place as people continue to die from COVID-19 and weigh whether they want to risk voting or not; or it will happen with mail-in voting; or it will be in the middle of a second wave; or it will happen in some condition we can’t imagine today. And there will still be the matter of Russian (and probably every other country’s) intelligence services fucking around with election stuff.
Suffice to say, it will not be ideal, and will give President Trump plenty of fertile soil in which to contest the results. After what we saw yesterday with armed white men storming a statehouse, I don’t think we should take ANYTHING for granted about how Election Day and the weeks after could go.
At least, that’s what I think is going to happen. My nightmare scenario, though, is that elections are postponed or, in the craziest outcome, cancelled. A second wave of coronavirus could absolutely lead to postponed elections (especially because Republicans have already made it very clear that they’re going to fight mail-in voting). In fact, states are already postponing and canceling elections. The convergence of the coronavirus and political expediency could even incentivize the postponing of national elections, especially as Republicans grow more concerned about their chances of holding the Senate.
The rhetoric about China from politicians and other leaders has become more and more bellicose over the last five years. As I’ve written about before, many people in government and other fields see China as a great power competitor, and have shifted their thinking from cooperation to competition.
That thinking has experienced a major acceleration since the coronavirus pandemic. There have been proposals to limit Chinese students entering the United States, “decouple” our economies and bring supply chains home, and to “make China pay.” The anti-China statements are not exclusive to the right by any means; Joe Biden released an ad where he accused Trump of “rolling over for the Chinese,” and even our own Chris Murphy has written about Trump’s weakness on China as the reason for him targeting the World Health Organization. The implication is clear: where Trump has been weak, the Democrats would be strong. Both parties sound dangerous here.
But not to be outdone, Trump took it to the next level last night when he said that he’d seen evidence that the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory. That’s quite a claim to make, especially when almost everyone else is saying it’s unlikely the virus came from a lab (even the intelligence community).
This is perhaps the part of this essay which risks sounding the most histrionic, but we’ve all seen the potential catastrophes that can result when the President lies about intelligence. With the already tense environment even before the pandemic began, I think my greatest concern is the continued deterioration of the China-US relationship.
These are all major challenges, and again, they are just a few of the ones facing us. I didn’t even mention the economy, because that’s so fucked I don’t even know where to begin expressing my worries. Our leadership failed to prepare for the virus, and the result has been 60,000 deaths (and counting). My fear is that if leaders don’t start planning instead of reacting, the result may be hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of deaths.