I find John Oliver entertaining, even when I disagree with him. Which can be dangerous, because we tend to sympathize with those that make us laugh and his narrative is definitely skewed on a lot of topics.
Specifically with this coronavirus, he’s been a part of the fearmongering since the beginning. In his defense, he (much like the rest of the world) was worried and put out his first episode about COVID-19 on March 1st, 2020…still filmed with a live audience, in a studio, business as usual (while accusing the White House and politically conservative of not doing anything and claiming the Chinese travel ban was racist). The US had 30 cases total on that day, but he would have been going off the prior day’s tally of 24.
Then, he released his 2nd episode dedicated to COVID-19 on March 8th, still shooting in the studio with a live audience. He, and everyone above him at HBO/AT&T are taking it really seriously, obviously. Still blaming conservatives for not doing something, while the tally is sitting at 450 (336 prior day).
It wasn’t until mid-March on his 3rd episode dedicated to nCov-SARS-2 that they had finally shutdown the studio, removed the live audience, filmed solo. This is the same week most US governors locked down their respective states with Stay-At-Home, Shelter-In-Place, and other very restrictive quarantine measures, so it’s not clear whether the Last Week Tonight crew finally chose to act responsibly or waited until they were ordered to by their governor. Either way, we finally hit 2918 cases (2857 day prior) and the media decided this was the perfect attack vector to help secure a more liberal election this fall (election year, yay).
Why do I say this? As someone that comes straight down the middle, I’m not a huge fan of the current White House’s rhetoric and bombastic social media tirades. However, I despise hypocrisy, backstabbing, and traditional politicians too, so that rules out most of D.C., left or right. If you forced me to encapsulate all my views and distill them however crudely into one person I admire – albeit disagree with often – it would be John McCain. While on paper he was a Republican, he often compromised and worked across aisles (a trait we need more of). His detractors called him a warmonger, yet he was usually the first to inspect military budgets and provide the oversight and keen eye necessary to cancel hundreds of programs that were full of fraud, waste, and abuse. Ultimately, he was flawed but I can respect his opinions and stances.
But why bring up McCain? Because we don’t really have compromisers in office anymore. As the political landscape has polarized, they have become the rare unicorns of Washington. And compromise is exactly what you need when dealing with a novel (key word) virus we knew very little about. Dr. Fauci, as our lead physician and immunologist for the U.S. has done the best he can with the information presented to him, always erring on the side of caution as any doctor would advise in these situations.
With Fauci being the voice of extreme caution, it would be up to our leaders to weigh his concerns with the bigger picture. And absolutely it made sense to go full quarantine for a bit because we didn’t have any other response and were worried about overwhelming our hospital capacity. As a temporary measure, this absolutely worked while we got more protective gear, more beds, more respirators, more testing and more research online. But as soon as data started confirming week after week that this is not as bad as we thought – still serious, especially for those with existing conditions and the elderly – leaders should have immediately begun weighing other options.
And leaders did notice the new trends and additional data. It was clear to some that we had “chopped off the arm to save the finger”, so governors started to relax restrictions. As early as April 24, Georgia, a southern conservative state for those not from the U.S., was the first to reopen. It was slammed by every political pundit from Colbert to Oliver to Noah, the left was spamming articles about why it was going to cause a massive surge in new cases overwhelming the health care system, and nobody in the media supported it. And guess what? 3 weeks later, Georgia is still alive with new diagnoses peaking on April 17 at (1500 new cases that day) and trending down to the (367-795/day range) for the past week. The hospitals are not overflowing. Yet the attacks have not stopped - is there some faulty and stupid reporting data coming out of Georgia? Absolutely. Are some of their leaders bungling idiots? I’m positive. But when push comes to shove, the most obvious metric nobody can fake are the hospitals there with still huge chunks of staff furloughed due to lack of patients. Florida and Texas also reopened with much ado about nothing. Nevada and other states have followed suit.
These states aren’t throwing caution to the wind as they reopen either – all still have bans on large gatherings. Most still ban high-touch jobs like spas, massage parlors, gyms?, and tattoo parlors. All still either mandate (or heavily suggest) wearing a mask in public areas, and if sick STAY HOME. Yet they are being treated by the media as if they are actively murdering people in the streets (Texas), ridiculed for being backwards (Georgia & Florida), or just being their everyday risk-loving selves (Nevada is famous for legalizing *nearly everything).
What the media often forget is, the U.S. isn’t one homogeneous group of like-minded individuals, nor is it a two party, us or them dichotomy that is easily dissected. We were founded with a Constitution that gave a ton of power to states, local governments, and individuals versus the centralized power of the federal. In fact, the federal powers were so weak at first they had to be expanded quite early on just to wrangle the states into some semblance of a country. Bottom line is, each of the 50 states (and Washington D.C. and outlying territories) elect their own leaders and give them the power to set laws, taxes, and orders, and if the individual dislikes the leadership [or rules in one particular state] enough, they move to another state. This is because there are vastly differing rules, taxes, and laws between each state but all states respect the freedom of movement of citizens. So not only are there 50 different sets of laws, each county/parish (smaller region within a state), and city can have their own unique subsets of laws, all of which run in parallel (and sometimes contradictory to) federal law. Obvious example: federally marijuana is still illegal, but most states have legalized it in some way.
What does this all boil down to, and why are you reading a dozen paragraph post on a gaming forum? Well, this is an election year. The oversimplified version is that liberals want to expand the power of the federal government, making us all rely on one centralized leader and more dependent on them…so to do that they need to become the majority party in the House, Senate, and secure the Presidential seat. In order to increase their power, because their opposition is currently in power they need to 1) make it seem as if this COVID-19 pandemic is going as poorly as possible, 2) blame the current administration as much as possible for everything (even if it was out of their control, or even if hindsight gives better insight and prior decisions were made with imperfect information), and 3) constantly hinder any progress at the state or federal levels.
The hindrances include the controversial decisions of Democratic governors in states that refused to listen to their constituents wanting to reopen yet they keep the state on lockdown longer despite nearly empty hospitals. And they are overstepping their state’s constitutionally granted emergency powers (which are time-limited by law for a good reason), forcing their state’s supreme court to step in. Republican governors are gaming the system in much the same way - they feel reopening helps their fellow citizens get back to work and are trusting both the doctors to handle the flow of patients and their citizens to social distance enough that this doesn’t cause too large a problem in the future…and if the “gamble” works, their citizens praise them for balancing jobs and livelihoods versus the virus.
Ultimately, there are a lot of things we still don’t know about this coronavirus but we have learned a lot in the past 5 months. It has run rampant through most communities and has a much lower (overall) death rate than we expected. It’s barely scratched children and they can easily go back to school if precautions are taken to prevent them from coming in contact with more vulnerable family members. Journalists have to hunt really far and dig very deep to try to scrounge up a scary think-of-the-children headline because the common cold and flu are way deadlier to kids than this novel strain, just to help keep perspective. And even then, they aren’t releasing information if these kids also had asthma or some other immuno-compromise, so the rare kid death is still an extreme anomaly that is probably linked to a comorbidity. It’s still quite deadly to those with poor health conditions, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, etc., and our elderly, so senior care facilities, 65+ gated communities, and other older-focused aspects of society should stay the most cautious and careful and remain quarantined for the longest.
However, for every unknown about COVID-19, we know what unemployment and jobless does to our health. Study after study going back to the 1930s and even earlier (this was one of the original popular studies for mental health researchers) shows lack of employment linked to increased depression, suicide, hopeless, and lack of purpose. Less gym memberships too, meaning less paid workouts for good physical health which is also linked to good mental health. While some can cope with being out of a job for months or years (celebrities, rich), it even impacts their mental health. So with the hard science documenting what we know, that everyone from working moms to celebrity crushes can and will be hurt by staying locked down too long, the only positives we can glean from large-scale recessions/unemployment is we smoke less (U.S. but European and Asian studies indicate increased smoking while unemployed), and eat less fast food (Albania, U.S., everyone). And slow the rate of spread of human-to-human viruses, like this coronavirus…but if we have the hospital capacity to treat those that are hit the hardest by it, why should we take the guaranteed road of poverty, suicide, and depression is the question governors are asking themselves?
And this does not boil down to a simple, “one solution fits all” answer. Some states should be more guarded than others, like New York. With the largest and densest city (NYC) in America, it was hit proportionally hard and should be very careful reopening, but they do need to reopen sometime, so when will it be appropriate? Even there, the worst hit place, we’re seeing 28,636 total deaths…but new cases peaked on April 15th, and have been steadily dropping for nearly 5 weeks. In a state with 19,453,561 population and usually 155,000-200,000 deaths, this is not unmanageable for them. In fact, COVID-19 might not even surpass heart disease as the leading cause of death this year, with 43,823 heart disease deaths in the most recently available data from 2017.
TL;DR - the media and late night hosts want this pandemic to look terrible to reflect on the current political administration, hoping it will influence elections in their favor. However, it may backfire on them due to more and more information indicating we may have overreacted yet they keep pushing a one-note narrative.
This is all my own personal research and I try to stay as up-to-date as possible, but I’m still a fallible human so please help me correct errors in fact, not opinion.