Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
COVID-19 Winter is here. The past month was brutal. Between 14 October and 13 November the United States went from 8,188,931 total cases 11,064,164. That is almost three million more infections. During that time there was an increase of COVID-19 deaths from 222,247 to 249,975. The number of active cases went from 2,675,985 to 4,025,243. Texas and California both topped a million total cases and Texas will soon top 20,000 deaths.
Most states are reporting all time highs in terms of new infections, and the infections are leading to large numbers of hospitalizations and in many rural states hospitals are at or near capacity and their ICU units are full. Across the country the virus is spreading and the same thing is happening. Even worse, the shortage of trained and experienced doctors, nurses, and technicians is stressing the system even more, because those on duty are exhausted, many are becoming infected. It is so bad in North Dakota that COVID-19 infected medical professionals are being allowed to return to work.
The growth is exponential. If the past month was bad, the last ten days were worse, 1,235,146 new infections and 11,337 deaths. The average of those ten days is over 123,000 new infections a day and 1,130 deaths.
The good news is that an effective vaccine may be approved with distribution starting in January. Even so it will take months at best to vaccinate enough people to start making a substantial impact, and the caveat is that a person needs two doses.
That still leaves us with doing the basics and doing them well to slow the spread of the virus: wearing masks correctly, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and frequent hand washing. But unfortunately President Trump, much of his administration, Congressional supporters, Republican governors and legislators, and his cult like followers resist doing these things. Trump and his cult politicized public health and the result is disaster followed by worse. This will break our medical system. The corporate for-profit system that prioritizes procedures that make big money from insurance companies, which profit by charging people as much as they can, paying as little possible, and denying coverage for paying customers whenever possible has turned health care into a privilege for those that can afford it and pushes those that cannot afford it into no-win situations.
When we were traveling in Germany two years ago my wife got a bacterial infection that sickened her. When we arrived at a friend’s house near Karlsruhe it was getting pretty bad. Our friend took Judy to her doctor who took time with her, and prescribed antibiotics. The cost of the visit was minimal, far less than would have been charged here, and the cost of the medication was negligible. If we had been without insurance here it would have such care it would have been very costly. No wonder so many people here, even those with insurance plans put off, delay or don’t seek treatment.
Two weeks ago I began a journey into an abyss that I have just about recovered. I had a molar in the back of my mouth crack from the top to the root. It started with a headache on Wednesday 28 October. The headache was bad enough to make me miss work. The next two days I had contractors in the house and on Friday 30 October the tooth started hurting with my pain level going up to 12 on a scale of 10 by Friday night. Since all the Navy dental clinics were closed I went to the Naval Medical Center Emergency Room with to hope of been to see the on call Dentist. I was examined by a very young Physician’s Assistant who gave a cursory look at my mouth, said that she could not see anything worth calling down the dentist, sent me home with pain killers and antibiotics, telling me to go to my clinic on Monday morning. I have been in the military forever, I have learned to suck pain up and not complain. I went home where despite the medicine my pain got much worse and the infection in my jaw became far worse. By the time I got to the dental clinic the first dentist I saw was in shock at what he saw. I was immediately referred to an Endodontist who determined that the tooth had cracked, the nerve became infected and died with the infection spreading throughout my lower jaw. The tooth was pulled, antibiotics injected into the socket and I was sent home with stronger antibiotics and more pain medication. But I am still feeling the effects. I am having TMJ like symptoms, I continue to suffer bad headaches and the swelling is not yet gone. I called today but just got the clinic and Endontist voice mail. I will have to try to contact them on Monday morning to see about follow up.
Sadly, if I was most of the people I know in the civilian world, they would have received less care and an exorbitant price, because most health care plans severely limit dental care. However, the infection in my jaw could have become life threatening. People die from complications to dental infections, but this does not seem to be import to our profit driven health care system. Our military provided medical insurance payments for dental care are so pathetic that many dentists refuse to accept it and demand payment in full, by the way unless we are stationed overseas our family members cannot be seen in military dental clinics. Compared to most people we are privileged. Is that any way to live? Does that promote any sense of life and liberty? I think not.
How can we ever claim to be a people that values life when we make it impossible for people to have the medical care, mainly preventive care in order to fully realize the premise of the Declaration of Independence, that “All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
If people do not have a right to healthcare, they give up much of their unalienable rights to life, freedom and happiness. Unfortunately the choices our leaders have made for more than a generation have harmed our health care system and are directly impacting our response to the Coronavirus 19 Pandemic. We do not have enough physicians, enough nurses, or enough trained clinicians to take care of people in a holistic manner, we don’t have surpluses of beds, Reserve ICUs, or equipment because our hospitals and medical systems are based on maximizing profit, minimizing time in hospitals, and oppose traditional doctor patient relationships which at one time were based on doctors who knew their patients, sometimes for generations. Because of how hospital systems and insurers drive payments most doctors no longer have the time to actually know their patients and do what is best for them. This is not the fault of the doctors, most I know would love to have that luxury and are highly frustrated by the constraints placed on them by the insurance and corporate health care complex.
This has redounded to our current crisis. We don’t have the doctors, nurses, support staff, or reserve bed space because to do so is not profitable.
Our COVID-19 Winter Has just begun. Deaths could double. Hospitals will have to pick and chose who they will treat, guarantying that far to many will die and that even survivors will be subjected to lifelong illnesses.
Ten days from now I will write an update to this.
By the way, if you actually care about life you need to read historian Timothy Snyder’s latest book “Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary. It is not a long read, but it is very sobering.
That is enough for now, but ask yourself the question: “How important is life to me? Is it enough to consider that our lives and liberty depend on being healthy? Or does that not matter? It if it does not, then I would dare say that you do not value life, liberty, or anything that is supposed to be an anchor of who we are as Americans, especially if we claim to be Christians. your personal “liberty” involves endangering the lives of other citizens by disobeying the most basic public health precautions involved in the commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself” and opposing measures to ensure that every citizen has affordable and effective healthcare that does not leave them at the lack of mercy of our current corporate profit driven system, then I think your concept of the Declaration and what it means to be an American, and what it means to be a Christian is wrong. One cannot support our current policies and healthcare system and still say they support our nations foundational ideas, nor the teachings of Jesus.