Overview:

Trump's politically selfish, deceitful inaction during the Covid pandemic assured a higher-than-necessary body count. Much, much higher.

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White Americans are now more likely than Black Americans to die of COVID.

That’s just one more telling artifact littering the landscape of destruction Donald Trump’s one-term presidency inflicted—and continues to inflict—on the United States.

In the early days of the pandemic in America, Black Americans were dying of COVID at triple the rate of their white peers, according to a pandemic analysis by KFF (the Kaiser Family Foundation), a nonprofit focused on national- and global-health policy issues.

KFF reported that negative demographic disparities during the pandemic were the inevitable result of historical “underlying structural inequities in health and health care and social and economic factors” for Americans of color (Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders).

However, as the pandemic progressed in fits and starts, with disparities temporarily widening or narrowing with surges and recoveries, eventually the numbers flipped. Briefly in November and December 2021, for the first time, the COVID mortality rate for Blacks, was less than that for whites— but the ratios quickly flipped back with a new infection surge, the Washington Post reported.

Then, in most of May through September 2022, the ratios of Blacks and whites dying from COVID were roughly equal before the death rate for Blacks, 4.7 per million on September 24, dropped significantly lower than that for whites, which was 6.7 on that day.

White Americans dying from COVID in ‘unimaginable numbers’

The recent mortality change, the Post reported, was not because proportionally fewer Blacks than earlier were dying of coronavirus infections, but because “White people began dying at increasingly unimaginable numbers.”

So why are whites now dying from COVID at “unimaginable numbers?”

The answer, according to the federal Government Accountability Office, is: Donald Trump, who abjectly failed the nation in his politically self-serving federal non-response to the pandemic.

According to the Post report, polls show that the virus today is most likely to attack unvaccinated adults—note that MAGA Republicans (meaning most) are disproportionately avid anti-vaxxers due to Trump’s malevolent influence—because most people in the US are now vaccinated against coronavirus variants. The virus strikes the unvaxxed “with a ferocity that puts them at much higher risk of infection and death” than vaccinated Americans, the Post pointed out.

Why are Republicans so adamant against COVID vaccinations? The answer, again: Donald Trump.

From the beginning of the pandemic when he was in office, Trump blithely ignored public-health experts and vigorously downplayed the epidemic’s historic severity. He said it was China’s fault, not his (because the first outbreaks were in China), and that, nonetheless, his administration had it “under control,” when it didn’t.

He was contemptuous of public masking and closing of various businesses and public entities because he framed mitigation measures as a personal liberty and state, not federal, issue and worried it would hurt business and cause “panic” throughout the country—all realities that he believed would stain his legacy and hurt his re-election prospects.

How best to protect Americans seemed not a priority.

Fed and state governments were woefully unprepared

However, individuals and states weren’t prepared for the tsunami of death any more than the federal government—which made any federal response all the more important.

Yet Trump aggressively stonewalled a broad government response to fight the pandemic despite the fact that virtually every reputable public health expert, nationally and internationally, insisted that robust virus testing and quarantining nationwide was necessary to staunch the rapidly mounting deaths from the rampaging virus.

For members of the president’s own administration, mask-wearing was demeaned and discouraged at the height of the pandemic. Eventually, the White House became a “super-spreader” site and the president continued to hold questionable, “super-spreader” public rallies attended by thousands.

The COVID body count ominously mounted, while test kits and quarantine protocols were either rare or nonexistent everywhere as the federal government dithered and Trump publicly recommended dangerous, harebrained theories, such as that injecting bleach in your arm might be a good curative. Lots of bodies of COVID victims had to be stored in refrigerated trucks because the government had no effective systems in place to deal with the avalanche of corpses produced by the worst pandemic in a century.


READ: The Increasing Numbers of COVID Denialists Dying of COVID


More than a million Americans have perished from COVID

To date, more than an estimated million people have died of COVID in the US, many of them unnecessarily even before vaccines started to become available in the summer of 2021. Data from an analysis released this summer by researchers at Brown University and Microsoft AI Health estimates that even after vaccines were widely distributed starting in early 2021 approximately 319,000 COVID deaths could have been averted if hostile anti-vaxxing sentiment—an unconscionable legacy of Trump’s tenure—had not become so broadly zealous.

“One tragic fact about the nearly 1 million people who died of COVID-19 in the U.S. is that a huge share of them didn’t have to,” NPR reported in an article on te Brown-Microsoft analysis.

Ironically, the Trump administration deserves credit for ramping-up COVID vaccine development in what was called “Operation Warp Speed.” Too bad the president didn’t also encourage the tens of millions of Americans in his base of supporters to get vaccinated.

At first, the arrival of vaccines was a boon to COVID survival, but that bright light dimmed, NPR reported in May:

In early 2021, when the vaccines were widely distributed, there was huge demand. At the peak of the vaccination campaign in the spring, 4 million people got vaccinated in one day. That demand dropped off by summer. A year later, many states are still barely north of 50% of people fully vaccinated. …

The total for the country is stark: Many of the nearly 1 million COVID deaths took place in 2020 before the vaccines were available. But of the more than 641,000 people who died after vaccines were available, half of those deaths could have been averted—318,981—had every eligible adult gotten vaccinated. And those numbers are even more striking in certain states where more than half of deaths could have been avoided.

Ironically, the Trump administration deserves credit for ramping up COVID vaccine development in what was called “Operation Warp Speed.” Too bad the president didn’t also encourage the tens of millions of Americans in his base of supporters to get vaccinated when stunningly effective vaccines became available at a record-setting pace. He also continued to decry masks and the closing of public businesses, schools and other institutions to help staunch the virus’ spread.

Anti-vaxxers in GOP died of their factless obstinance

Many of the GOP’s vaccine naysayers then unnecessarily perished in the pandemic despite having access to vaccines that would have all but assured their survival.

Naysayers like Skill Wilson, a Republican paramedic in Fayette County, Tennessee. After Wilson’s death on January 23 from COVID, his wife told the Washington Post that he had previously decided his family lived in a COVID-protected “cocoon,” a small town surrounded by “fields of grazing cattle and rows of cotton” in a rural county with only 200 COVID deaths since the pandemic began.

The Post wrote:

“It was a lot easier to stay away from others,” his widow, Hollie Wilson, said of the largely White and predominantly conservative county of about 42,000 residents. “Less people. Less chance of exposure.”

Except it really wasn’t and there weren’t.

“We’re Republicans, and 100 percent believe that it’s each individual’s choice, their freedom,” when it comes to getting a coronavirus shot, Hollie told the Post in January. “We decided to err on the side of not doing it and accept the consequences. And now, here we are in the middle of planning the funeral.”

Wilson had been so adamant and vociferous about erring on the side of not getting vaxxed that his wife banned discussion of the topic around the house, even though she agreed with him. She was tired of his constant belligerence about vaccines.

It’s complicated: Why demographic inequalities exist in pandemic

The knee-jerk answer to demographic discrepancies in COVID deaths is that Donald Trump simply led gullible fellow Republicans off a cliff during the pandemic.

But, like most things, it’s probably more complicated.

Explained the Post,

The easy explanation is that it reflects the choices of Republicans not to be vaccinated, but the reasons go deeper. The Post interviewed historians and researchers who study the effects of White racial politics and social inequality on health, spoke with relatives and friends of those lost to COVID, and compiled data from federal databases and academic studies.

What emerged is a story about how long-standing issues of race and class interacted with the physical and psychological toll of mass illness and death, unprecedented social upheaval, public policies—and public opinion.

Resilience gave way to fatigue. Holes left by rural hospital closures deepened. Medical mistrust and misinformation raged. Skeptics touted debunked alternatives over proven treatments and prevention. Mask use became a victim of social stigma.

But, still, racism is a continuing reality in America, and the inequity it breeds is unjust and can be deadly. As deadly as ignorance.

And Donald Trump did lead his followers off a cliff, when a safe, easy path down from the precipice was freely available.

Statistically speaking, Blacks and other people of color are better off than Whites, for the moment, in surviving the continuing COVID pandemic in the US, but not because fewer are dying.

It’s because more conservative whites are dying of the disease than before in a steadily increasing trajectory. Because they still stubbornly refuse to be vaccinated.

Just as Donald Trump has directed them to do.

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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...