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Notes on the Present Covid-19 Crisis

1. So far as I can discover, opposition parties in the European countries (and elsewhere) are cooperating with the leadership of the party in power by acquiescing in its policies for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the Conservative government of Great Britain is considering inviting representatives of the Labour Party (excluding Jeremy Corbyn) to participate in a national government, though for a limited time only. (A period of four months has been suggested.)

The exception to this pattern is the US Democratic Party, which twice blocked passage of the Trump Administration’s emergency rescue bill costing $1.6 trillion in the Senate by larding it with liberal pork, including increased fuel emissions standards for airlines, Kennedy Center for the Performing Artsexpansion of wind and solar tax credits, other items lifted from the Green New Deal and $25 million for the Kennedy Center as part of a $100 million arts funding. Finally, Democrats and Republicans were able to reach an agreement early Thursday at midnight approving a larger stimulus package costing up to $2 trillion after some of these marginal allotments were added. This Party's obstructive strategy is inspired by Rahm Emmanuel’s maxim about never letting a good crisis go to waste. In this instance, the Democracy is probably overreaching itself. In which case, it may soon discover that the crisis it didn’t allow to go to waste was its own.

2. Le Figaro, the best conservative daily I know of, recently published an interesting feature the newspaper has continued to run for the past several days now. Unfortunately, Figaro doesn’t publish an edition in English, or any other language; its consistently superb contents are available exclusively to people who know French, which is too bad. 

“Coronavirus: ‘Il y a de grandes similitudes avec l’ épidémie de grippe espagnole’” (“Coronavirus: ‘There are great similiarities between it and the Spanish flu’”) consists of an interview with the historian Claude Quétel conducted by Cyril Hofstein. Quétel begins by outlining the history of previous epidemics in France from 1347 down to the present before concentrating on the famous outbreak of 1918-19, immediately following the Great War. (I had not known that this flu virus originated in a military camp in Kansas, whence it traveled to France with the doughboys in April, 1918.) It infected the French troops first, then the British Tommies, then the German army. (Ludendorf blamed his military losses at the end of the war on the impact of the disease on his men.) Ironically, the country that lent the epidemic its name was not a belligerent in World War I. The Spanish flu spread from Europe around the world, after being virtually ignored during the first few months of the infection. Quétel attributes its neglect to Europe’s emotional fatigue, the blunting of its sensibilities and emotions by the horrors of the past four years in Europe, and to a greater sense of fatalism and wider public tolerance for human suffering in those more stoic, less sensitive, and more humanly accepting days. This, despite the flu’s extreme lethality. It attacked people of all ages like a blow from a sledgehammer. In the morning you awoke with symptoms; by nightfall you were dead. Before the virus exhausted itself, it had killed 9.5 million people in China, 12.5-20 million in India, 50,000 in Canada, 550,000 in the United States, 240,000 in France, 220,000 in Britain, 325,000 in Italy, and “only” 120,000 in Spain herself. Global mortality totaled 39.3 million. Though Covid-19 is certainly a killer, the statistics pertaining to the Spanish influenza do put things in their proper perspective.

3. “Dangerous Curves,” by Julie Kelly (American Greatness, 19 March 2020), is also of real interest. Mrs. Kelly believes that what is called the coronavirus curve cannot currently be accurate, as it fails to include suspected cases of the illness that occurred before last February. She notes that, following the first recorded instance of the disease in the United States, a rash of symptoms very similar to those of the coronavirus was observed several weeks afterward. These followed a timeline that agreed with the estimated trajectory of the disease. “And roughly 70 percent of those expressing flu-like symptoms did not have the flu. So what was it?” Julie Kelly

Kelly deduces from these facts that Covid-19 arrived in the US at the beginning of this year; that what people thought they were suffering from was not the flu but the coronavirus; and that the outbreak reached its peak last month. “The number of people now testing positive for the virus does not mean that the outbreak is accelerating because the data [are] incomplete.” She concludes: “Experts are cautioning that the available data [are] not sound and should not be used to justify draconian government measures now enacted at the federal, state, and local levels at a tremendous cost.”

4. Greta Thunberg has just revealed to a worried and impatient world that she has been living in self-isolation following a prolonged trip through Central Europe accompanied by her father, who also fell ill after returning home. Greta is now feeling better and believes she has made a full recovery. That is gratifying news, of course. Rather than risk reinfection (which apparently is a medical possibility), she’d be wise to return to her state of self-imposed isolation until the world has regained its former robust health, people can once more feel safe riding in trains and buses and flying in airplanes, and Greta has something to talk about again.