“Decrease the Surplus Population”

I hadn’t realized that Our Political Masters were Malthusians, but the current iteration of Covid policy would argue otherwise. They’ve thrown in the towel on limiting the spread of the virus, relying solely on vaccines, testing and treatment.

Meanwhile, SARS-COV-2 is spinning out vax-resistant variants at an alarming, and accelerating, clip. And it seems like every day we hear more bad news about long Covid, which nobody in government seems to care about.

I haven’t written about Covid in a while because (a) it’s too depressing, (b) new developments have been coming along too quickly to keep up with, and (c) this ain’t just the Scott administration anymore. The Biden administration’s policy is at least as Malthusian as Scott’s, maybe a little more. But today is the day the Vermont Health Department is posting its last daily Covid update. It’s switching to a weekly “syndromic surveillance report” that takes some effort to interpret. Those big bold inconvenient daily numbers for cases, hospitalizations, deaths and positivity rate? If they can’t make ’em look good, they’ll make ’em go away.

That may seem harsh, but the daily data is still being collected. It’s just not being posted in a high-profile space. The Health Department says so itself on its soon-to-be-shuttered Covid Dashboard: “COVID-19 data sets will still be accessible through the Vermont Open Geodata Portal, including case counts, hospitalizations, deaths, PCR testing and more.” The Department sees enough value in the daily numbers to keep track of them. They’re just hiding them better.

Is it a pure coincidence that this is happening one day after Gov. Phil Scott announced he’s runing for re-election? Running, to the extent he can be bothered to run at all, on his assertion that we’ve beaten the pandemic? And hey look, VTDigger is helping! They’ve discontinued their homepage front-and-center Covid updates!

I guess the pandemic is over. Right?

Sure, if you define “pandemic” very narrowly. But what Scott likes to call the “endemic” phase involves huge and unevenly-distributed risks that Our Political Masters, and Our Public Health Masters, don’t want to talk about. Our laissez-faire policy on masking and social distancing means that the vulnerable are being left to fend for themselves.

And if you add ’em all up, “the vulnerable” are a frightfully large piece of the total population. Older adults. Those with a significant medical condition. The immunosuppressed. Kids under 5 who can’t get vaccinated.

And… everyone who doesn’t have reliable access to health care.

Ah, if only we had a single-payer system. Or Medicare for all.

That latter group includes the uninsured, the underinsured, people of color, the working poor, the poor, those who lack the means to navigate the system, those without good sick leave policies at work (start with the service industry and its maximal contagion opportunities), those who are too busy keeping their noses above water to pay attention to symptoms and such. It’s a hell of a lot of people.

(The University of Vermont Medical Center, of all places, is having trouble with staffers showing up sick because it changed its sick-leave policy. If you have Covid, you have to use up your vacation and sick time before they’ll grant you paid leave. Great. When you recover, you have no more time off for the rest of the year. That’s a powerful incentive to grind your way through an illness — and spread the virus to coworkers and patients in the process. Believe me, it’s happening.)

To call it “medical Apartheid” is too strong, and an insult to those who lived through real Apartheid. But it’s not completely off base either. As we mark the 1,000,000th Covid fatality in the United States in, frankly, a rather perfunctory way, we seem prepared to accept any number of additional deaths and disabilities in the future.

When CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says “This is a virus we are going to have to learn to live with,” I wonder who she means by “we.” She speaks from a position of expertise, yes, but also privilege. She is in a position to do whatever she thinks best to protect her family. She’d have no trouble accessing tests, vaccination and treatment for a family member if the need arose. That “we” seems awfully exclusionary given the number of people who aren’t in her position.

Look, we’re in a much worse place than we were a year ago, booster vaccines notwithstanding. Remember this time last year when Vermont’s daily case counts were well under 100? When we had hope that the pandemic was going away? This is VTDigger’s latest Covid graph, which you can find if you know where to click:

In the late spring and early summer of 2021, we almost hit zero in new cases. Right now, we’re roughly equivalent to late fall 2021, when activities were moving indoors and the Omicron alarm bells were starting to ring. That doesn’t mean we’re doomed to another spike in the near future, but our case counts are already at a level we used to consider unacceptable. Now, eh, whatever.

In one big way, we’re worse off than we were last fall. We’re now dealing with multiple new variants and a virus that seems to be putting them out at a faster and faster pace.

But hey, let’s pretend everything is normal. Because “we” are tired. “We” want things to be normal once again.

And if “we” have to throw the vulnerable, the poor, the sick, the people of color, the children, the uninsured under the bus, well, them’s the breaks. Collateral damage. Sucks to be you.

Are we really at a point where we’re willing to consider thousands of Vermonters and millions of Americans “acceptable losses?” Are they excluded from official pronouncements about how “we” can avoid getting seriously ill or dying?

It sure looks like it.

And Phil Scott is going to run on his Covid “success.”

6 thoughts on ““Decrease the Surplus Population”

  1. montpelier28

    I am so pissed about the dashboard and have been ever since the announcement. Also hated when they took the town reports off. You know they know just won’t tell us. I have let them all know, Health Dept, called and emailed, called the Governor’s Hot Line, I still call it that believe Howard Dean started it. Of course won’t change a thing. I live in Washington County, Barre. Well at least I guess it’s not Rutland. OK done. Thanks. Sorry Rutland but your numbers are worse than ours.

    Reply
  2. P.

    Thank you for this piece. It sums up a lot of what I feel. Looking around, seeing a huge number of children masquerading as adults. Vermont had a really good start and our numbers were some of the best anywhere. Now pissed away for pennies on the dollar. And agree the Biden administration had a good vaccination effort but now? Baby formula gets the war time defense act but legitimate n95s didn’t?
    To circle back to your politicians/ living wage column, I was living out of state maybe 15 years (200?-2020) every time I came back the state’s economics seemed more and more abnormal, even compared to upstate NY.
    Sure seems like cash rules everything around me…

    Reply
  3. Walter Carpenter

    “And if “we” have to throw the vulnerable, the poor, the sick, the people of color, the children, the uninsured under the bus, well, them’s the breaks. Collateral damage. Sucks to be you.”

    This is America as it really is and not this land of the free, home of the brave bs.

    Reply
  4. gunslingeress

    The same Malthusian arguments can be applied to abortion. Many supporters of abortion say quite openly we need it for population control. Others say we need it to get rid of poverty (we are telling the poor they can climb out of poverty if they would only co-operate by killing their unborn babies). Still others say we need it to keep the growth of minorities down. Margaret Sanger herself, the founder of Planned Parenthood, used the minority and poverty arguments for pushing for legal abortion. Malthus himself is alive and well in Vermont under many guises.

    Reply

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