Politicians are a strange lot. Not content with merely Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi is moonlighting as Surgeon General, opining on what medications the President should be taking. Service to the public is a distant memory. The new charge is to invent catchy phrases, like the “new normal,” to quietly coax us into obeying dictates, while ignoring facts and science.
It is not normal to base lifting the lockdowns on the trend in positive novel coronavirus (aka SARS-CoV-2) tests. Predictably, positive tests (with many folks never becoming symptomatic) will continue to increase as more tests are done. Given that the stated goal of lockdowns was to lessen the strain on hospital resources, using hospitalization trends makes more sense.
It is not normal for New York and Minnesota governors to insist that COVID-19 patients be admitted to nursing homes, even after it became clear that nursing homes were a hotspot for infections and up to 81% of COVID-19 deaths.
It is not normal for healthy people to walk around wearing masks—particularly when it is not recommended by the sainted World Health Organization.
It is not normal to never see your parents, children, or grandparents. Older folks suffer from loneliness in the best of times.
It is not normal for children to stay home from school indefinitely. When children do go back to school, it is not normal to tell them they have to wear masks and might not be able to play or eat with one another. Meanwhile, the CDC’s latest report tells us that the infection fatality rate for those aged 0-49 years is 0.05%. The CDC’s latest numbers are what Stanford researchers predicted in April.
It is not normal to have cellphone apps that track your movements. I suppose helicopter parents and stalkers would make good use of them.
It is not normal to propose “immunity passes” enabling the holders to move about society unimpeded. Immunity passes make no scientific sense given that the serology tests are unreliable, the length of immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is unknown, and invites social stigmatization.
The real “new normal” is politicians being blatant with their old games. It is normal for California’s Governor Newsom to make a secret $1 billion deal with BYD, a Chinese-based electric bus maker, to manufacture N95 masks at $3.30 a piece. Kudos to his fellow Democrat legislators for seeking transparency about his pandemic spending spree. To his credit, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti purchased 24 million “Made in America” masks from Honeywell at 79 cents a mask.
COVID-19 is a handy justification for Congress to promote a political ideology rather than propose targeted measures to assist those struggling with the consequences of the virus. The HEROES Act, the fourth stimulus bill, presents a path to universal basic income by paying some workers more to stay home than they would receive by returning to work. The CARES Act suspended student loan payments, but the HEROES Act paves the way for free college tuition for all by forgiving up to $10,000 of student loans for every borrower.
Moreover, the HEROES Act contains a multitude of other agenda-driven programs like access to financial services and the marketplace for minority-owned cannabis-related businesses, diversity in banking, a Post Office bail-out, $50 million to the Environmental Protection Agency for environmental justice grants, economic impact payments to illegal immigrants, permanent voting by mail, and the clearly relevant requirement that the President inform Congress of the reasons for not filling a vacancy for an Inspector General position.
The proposed Medicare Crisis Program Act of 2020 would provide health insurance for those who lost their health insurance due to the COVID-19 lockdown and its consequences. We want to help those who lost their jobs, but why use a newly-minted premium-free Medicare program as the vehicle? Is it to get people accustomed to Medicare covering all age groups?
The CONTACT initiative requires the CDC to work with states to implement a national system for testing, contact tracing, surveillance, containment and mitigation of COVID-19. (Have we done this for the infectious and deadly flu?). The CDC regulations, instruct authorities to use the “least restrictive means” in implementing public health measures. However, “when an individual is identified as a threat to the health and welfare of others, such as refusing medical treatment at a healthcare facility and refusing to self-quarantine, the government may take the individual into custody.”
The government has been known to abuse its power—whether through cultivating fear, regulatory force, or by individual miscreants. Frederick Douglass warned, “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.” We cannot let a declaration of a public health emergency become the new gauge of what it takes to break our spirit of liberty.
About the author: Dr. Singleton is a board-certified anesthesiologist. She is the immediate past President of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). She graduated from Stanford and earned her MD at UCSF Medical School. Dr. Singleton completed 2 years of Surgery residency at UCSF, then her Anesthesia residency at Harvard’s Beth Israel Hospital. While still working in the operating room, she attended UC Berkeley Law School, focusing on constitutional law and administrative law. She interned at the National Health Law Project and practiced insurance and health law. She teaches classes in the recognition of elder abuse and constitutional law for non-lawyers. She lives in Oakland, Ca.