Friday, January 1, 2021

Big changes needed if we are to control the global pandemic and open schools here.

OK, Merle. We've made it through December. Now what?

As we head into the new year, I'm thinking like everyone else, good riddance to Trump and 2020. I've had the words to the old Merle Haggard song, If We Make It Through December, buzzing through my brain. But by yesterday afternoon, I've had reset my expectations to... if we make it through the '20s... 

NBC reports that Pence's so-called Operation Warp Speed is moving at such a crawl that adequately vaccinating Americans will take 10 years at the current pace. Unless things change quickly, that will wreak havoc on global pandemic recovery, including school openings here in the U.S. 

Sorry to sound so gloomy at the start of a new year. I'm really not. Unlike some of my lefty friends who think the history of progress ended with Bernie's primary loss, I am bouyed by Trump's defeat and will be even more so if Warnock and Ossoff pull off victories in Georgia next week.

However, I'm definitely a school-opening person and schools can't open safely without a mass inoculation program for all teachers and school staff and ultimately, kids and parents. All that's now looking more and more out of reach -- at least for a spring school opening. 

JUST IN: 143,924 people in Illinois — including Chicago — have gotten the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Gov. Pritzker’s office. That includes all residents and staff members who consented to the vaccine at state-run veterans’ homes, officials say.

That's good, but not nearly good enough. The reason for the under-inoculation? Sabotage by the Republicans and the Trump White House who have strangled the states and cities since the start of the pandemic. The latest puny pandemic recovery bill, passed with bipartisan support, was a slap in the face for working families, the unemployed, and local municipalities overwhelmed by COVID recovery efforts. 

Without massive federal support, it will be ten times more difficult to get the pandemic under control and for schools to open safely.

ONE FINAL POINT HERE --- Vaccine nationalism has become the main impediment to containing the pandemic. Trump's December 8th executive order specifying that the Americans get first access to any vaccine, formalized with fanfare what has already been de facto U.S. policy. And it's obviously been a failure, not only in terms of spreading the vaccine globally but here as well. 

The lesson is that given the global economy, no country is safe from the ravages of COVID while the rest of the world is in the clutches of this killer disease. 

Even in China, where the virus has been under control for months, a small mutation entering the country on a visitor or in a shipment of food, can throw the entire country into chaos and another lockdown. 

With the White House withholding foreign aid and shipments of vaccine to needy countries, they are increasingly turning to China for the vaccine. 

Fighting COVID requires a global effort and global scientific and medical collaboration. Cold War, anti-China containment policies currently in fashion in both parties just won't do. The incoming Biden administration has an opportunity to tone down the Trumpian rhetoric and reach new trade and anti-COVID agreements with China for the sake of world peace, health, and stability. 

In the latest issue of Foreign AffairsFareed Zakaria argues that the United States needs to temper its reflexive hostility toward China, recognize China’s rise as a feature of the new global order, and craft a strategy of engagement plus deterrence. I'm not sure what he means by "deterrence" but this is a much better line than the one currently holding sway. 

The consequences of exaggerating the Soviet threat were vast: gross domestic abuses during the McCarthy era; a dangerous nuclear arms race; a long, futile, and unsuccessful war in Vietnam; and countless other military interventions in various so-called Third World countries. The consequences of not getting the Chinese challenge right today will be vaster still. 

He's right. 

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