In response to the past week’s events, the culmination of all that is broken in our shared home, we offer you something different for this week’s community blog: a strongly suggested read.
Please consider setting aside the time to read, in full, Lawrence Wright’s recent New Yorker article, “The Plague Year: The mistakes and struggles behind an American Tragedy,” excerpted below.
“You need to do something,” [Glen] Hubbard warned. “We’ve been having a debate for decades now about the size of government. The more interesting debate is the scope of government… If Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, had the idea of using government as a battering ram for opportunity, why can’t we do that today? Instead of focusing on how big government is, think about what you want it to do.”
[Dr. Ebony Hilton] became the first Black female anesthesiologist to be hired by the Medical University in South Carolina, which opened in 1824. U.Va. hired her in 2018. “If you look at white women with my same level of degrees, my child is five to seven times more likely to die before his first birthday than theirs. It’s been that way historically for Black women. Our numbers haven’t really changed, as far as health outcomes, since slavery times.”
The country, it turned out, was experiencing wildly different pandemics. For every ten thousand Americans, there were thirty-eight coronavirus cases. But, for whites, the number was twenty-three; for Blacks, it was sixty-two; for Hispanics, it was seventy-three… People of color are more likely to be exposed because so many are essential workers. “Only one in five African-Americans can work remotely,” she [Hilton] said. “Only one in six Hispanics can.”
Hilton, on the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests: ” For black men, one in every thousand is at risk of dying in his lifetime from an encounter with a police officers. If you think about that number, that’s what leads Black people to say it’s worth me dying and going to this protest and saying enough is enough. Police brutality is almost like a pandemic… It’s a feeling – I’m going to die anyway, so I might as well risk this virus that I can’t see, to speak about the virus of systemic racism that I can see.”
Such doctors knew how to click into emergency mode. Before COVID, that might last thirty or forty minutes – say, with a heart-attack patient. After a bus wreck or a mass casualty event, emergency mode could last a full day. With COVID, it lasted weeks on end.
Lorna Breen, a forty-nine-year-old doctor, was admitted to the psych unit… Lorna had been living in Manhattan, overseeing the E.R. at New York Presbyterian Allen Hospital. When COVID inundated New York, she worked twelve-hour shifts that often blurred into eighteen. She barely slept. Within a week, Breen caught COVID herself. She sweated it out in her apartment while managing her department remotely. After her fever broke, she returned to work… So many doctors in New York fell ill that, at one point, Breen supervised the E.R.’s in two hospitals simultaneously. It became too much… During the eleven days she spent in U.Va.’s hospital, she was terrified that her career was over. Licensing boards, she knew, might flag evidence of mental illness. Before COVID, Breen had never had a trace of instability… Breen seemed to improve… Feist took Breen home with her on the last Saturday in April. The next day, Breen killed herself.”
“I’m not buying a fucking mask,” Ricard Rose, a thirty-seven-year-old Army veteran from Ohio, posted on Facebook. “I’ve made it this far by not buying into that damn hype.” He tested positive on July 1st and died three days later. There are many similar stories.
More than a thousand health-care workers have died while taking care of COVID patients. Nurses are the most likely to perish, as they spend the most time with patients.
“Across America, people waited in long lines to vote – despite the disease, despite attempts to discredit or invalidate their vote, despite postal delays, despite Russian or Iranian meddling, despite warning from the White House that the President would not go quietly if he lost. They voted as if their country depended on it.”