What We Don’t Know Is Killing Us (Which Is Precisely the Idea)

It’s been two months since the country first locked down in an attempt to “flatten the coronavirus/COVID-19 curve.”

Current confirmed cases in the United States exceed one million.

Over 87 thousand Americans have died.

We still do not have the capacity for widespread testing.

There is no vaccine in sight.

Even though some states are hiring contact tracers, top scientists this week expressed concerns over antibody test availability and reliability.

Dr. Rick Bright, former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), fired after filing a whistleblower complaint when he opposed Donald Trump’s baseless claim about a possible coronavirus cure, asserted before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s health subcommittee this week:

“Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities. Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history.”

World Health Organization emergencies expert Mike Ryan argued this week in Geneva:

“It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away. I think it is important we are realistic and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear. I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be.”

Still, the Trump administration is plowing full steam ahead with pushes to “re-open” the country replete with fallacies, deflections, and blatant lies.

Despite the risk of more illness and death, we are putting profit and politics over public health.

And why not?

Because when the facts are concealed, numbers become irrelevant.

The astronomical toll the coronavirus is taking on the country is based only on what has been allowed to be reported.

Consider the virus’ toll on prison inmates.

The Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, NY is actually destroying medical records in an attempt to conceal the number of infected inmates.

A report some prisoners at the facility filed earlier this month as part of a class-action lawsuit contradicts the Bureau of Prisons and the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District’s claim infection numbers are under control and prison officials are meeting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

The report states:

“There may be a significant number of cases of COVID-19 that are undetected, both propelling the pace of the outbreak within the MDC—and because the MDC is not a closed system—the larger community. The MDC’s failures…represent gross deviations from adherence to correctional standards of care and CDC guidance.”

Authoring the report was former New York City jails’ medical director, who oversaw the response to the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic and others outbreaks.

He asserts:

“[MDC’s practices] put detainees and staff at grave risk of infection, serious illness and even death. Several current practices in MDC actually promote a more rapid spread of COVID-19 inside the facility.” 

That rapid spread is occurring.

Despite having the second highest rate of infected staffers in the nation, MDC reports no inmates are infected with the coronavirus.

Several detainees have complained prison officials are simply ignoring their symptoms, and federal prosecutors representing those officials are fighting an injunction seeking to compel the MDC to meet prescribed medical care standards.

One detainee stated:

“I have had a persistent cough that just won’t get better. I have also been sweating on and off randomly. Not sure what this is, but I have written you about a week ago about it and I still haven’t been seen. I hope this isn’t the virus symptoms.”

Only 16 of the facility’s 1,700 inmates have been tested; 39 staffers have tested positive.

When learning of inadequate personal protection equipment (PPE) non-existant social distancing, several New York lawmakers stated in a letter:

“We find disconcerting the BOP’s [Bureau of Prisons] assertion that while confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff at MDC Brooklyn continue to rise, there are no new infections among inmates. This inconsistency raises credibility issues about what is being done to identify infected inmates and to protect staff and inmates from further spread of the virus at this facility. Staff are performing their duties without adequate Personal Protective Equipment; inmates are being distributed inadequate, flimsy facial masks that quickly deteriorate. Given the problems plaguing this institution and the unique dangers COVID-19 presents in a prison setting, we hope the court carefully reviews this suit and quickly identifies solutions for reducing spread of the virus.”

Yet Donald Trump this week declared coronavirus testing “overrated,” adding:

“And we have more cases than anybody in the world. But why? Because we do more testing. When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.” 

While he’s right we have “more cases than anybody in the world,” he’s lying about doing more testing.

Image credit: Our World in Data

Trump’s logic is we only have the world’s highest confirmed cases because we know about them; if we just didn’t know, fewer would be infected.

Trump’s call for reduced testing began after his son in law, Jared Kushner, warned him rising of cases might rattle Wall Street.

In Trump’s America, prisoners, undocumented immigrants, migrant farm workers, Native Americans, the homeless, and the elderly–the most expensive and, in wealth-speak, expendable–should go out there and take one for the team.

In laissez-faire capitalism’s sociopathic milieu, fewer people equals fewer social safety nets for which to pay.

As long as the wealthy hegemony keeps the truth concealed, we will continue sacrificing the least among us on the altar of the almighty dollar.

Image credit: factly.in

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.