As the coronavirus that has thus far killed over 608,000 Americans spread across the country in March 2020, the president of the U.S. felt quite comfortable lying to his countrymen about it. "We're prepared, and we're doing a great job with it," he told reporters on March 10, 2020, "and it will go away." COVID-19, he informed us, was a nothingburger.

As is his predilection, former President Donald Trump's straight-faced pronouncement was part flimflam, part drivel. His loyalists worshipped the flimflam and savored the drivel. Thirty-four million Americans have since been infected with the virus, and the nation struggles to recover from a devastating recession, nationwide business shutdowns and unemployment that neared Great Depression levels, all caused by the disease.

Though Trump is no longer positioned to administer a wrecking ball to this fragile country, legions of his followers continue to wage guerrilla warfare against it. They do so by denigrating vaccination, spreading falsehoods about the vaccine and blocking the circulation of information that conclusively demonstrates that vaccination is the way to protect their families, their friends, their country — and themselves — from illness.

And they are succeeding. Despite the vaccine's widespread availability and the clear proof that it virtually eliminates the risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19, 50 percent of eligible Americans are still not fully vaccinated. These include millions of Americans who are brainwashed by internet garbage peddled by the far right. A new survey conducted for The Economist found that 1 in 5 Americans believe that COVID-19 vaccines are being used by the government to "microchip the population." That translates to over 40 million Americans. Publications with titles like "COVID-19 vaccines are weapons of mass destruction" flood the right-wing zones, and Fox personalities like Laura Ingraham pass up few opportunities to mock this COVID-19 thing as just one big left-wing contrivance, not to be taken seriously. "They just can't let the pandemic go," smirked Ingraham about coverage of the recent surge in cases. "At some point, they're going to have to break the addiction."

At a recent Conservative Political Action Committee conference in Dallas, the crowd cheered when a speaker celebrated the fact that the Biden administration had not met its goal of getting 70 percent of American adults at least one shot by July 4. In Florida, which now accounts for 20 percent of the nation's new COVID-19 cases, Republican governor and presidential candidate-in-waiting Ron DeSantis hopes to capitalize on the unhinged vitriol that prevails among Republicans about Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, who for months urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance. These were measures that every reputable public health expert believed then and now were critical to saving lives. Not DeSantis, whose state has seen over 2.3 million people infected with the disease. His political action committee is selling T-shirts and beer koozies reading "Don't Fauci my Florida."

In Tennessee, one of 35 states that just saw the rate of new cases increase 50 percent over previous weeks, the state's top immunization official was fired for distributing a memorandum accurately pointing out that under Tennessee law, minors deemed "mature" by health care providers could be eligible for the vaccine without parental consent. Republican officials announced that they were halting the distribution of information about the vaccine to teenagers. This despite the warnings of public health experts of the kind that the right has ridiculed for the last 18 months. "We're losing time here," said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. "The delta variant is spreading; people are dying; we can't actually just wait for things to get more rational."

You don't have to be Madame Curie to discern that getting vaccinated means avoiding serious illness. Over 99 percent of those now hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. "This is not just a matter of people expressing opinions that might be wrong," says Collins. "This is life or death." Put another way, unlike some people, the data does not lie.

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Jeff Robbins, an attorney specializing in the First Amendment, is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.

(2) comments

XBHX

it's possible that you can see the data and be scared, and other people can see it and say "old people should stay inside while the rest of us go about our lives" and both be right.

V

Actually, the people saying "old people should stay inside..." would be wrong... or delusional, at least. There is no age limit on who can/can't die from Covid-19, no way to know who will have lasting effects from the virus. The good news: being vaccinated increases your chances of survival. Young, healthy people have died while older people lived! Young, healthy people have gone on respirators and/or had lasting effects. Some of these young, healthy systems were not strong enough to fight off the virus. One thing that can't be disputed: It's very difficult to live your life when you're dead! You know, all those people on respirators right now were out living their lives not too long ago! There's other people, not on respirators, actually living their lives right now & they will continue to do so.... because they got vaccinated! And some of them still wear masks - to help themselves & others. It's possible to care about yourself & others at the same time. Try it! Speaking of - It's so considerate of you to expect all older people to stay inside 24/7 if they don't want to die...so that you don't have to put on a mask for a few minutes. Good thing some of us have a backbone & a heart!

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