What's going on, 2021
Back in May, when the US passed 100,000 Covid deaths, the NYT ran a sadly beautiful interactive piece that attempted to memorialize and contextualize the tremendous scale. I sat with it and read for about an hour – as much as I could take. It was very sad, but it felt like the least I could do was to try to take in what had happened, what was happening.
In September, as the US was passing 200,000 Covid deaths, the New Yorker ran a more conventional essay, contrasting Corona to the AIDS epidemic, and trying to put the US into a broader, world-wide context. Bad, epically bad, but maybe not the worst? Still, pretty bad.
In November, the US had 250,000 - a quarter-of-a-million - Covid deaths, a blogger put together a thought experiment, looking at countries like Vietnam, New Zealand, and South Korea, with properly effective counter-pandemic measures, and discovering that the “most successful countries in the world have Covid death rates thousands of times lower than America. That is how bad America’s failure is. It isn’t a minor slip-up, or some kind of marginal situation. It is dramatic, epic, catastrophic, and surreal, the gulf is so vast.”
Now, here we are in January, when 10,000 Americans died in just the last three days of 2020, when they have been vaccinating for two (almost three!) weeks, far too slowly, far too chaotically (reports of vaccines being deliberately and negligently spoiling), estimates are now that several hundred thousand more Americans will die before this is anything like “under control”.
I’m far away, getting information through a narrow straw, and I’m genuinely baffled, do people over there have any sense of what’s going on, at all?