I Won’t Be Home For Christmas — COVID’s Death Toll

The holidays are looming. As with every year, once we clear Halloween, things will seem to speed up and suddenly there will be Thanksgiving, then all the December holidays — Ramadan, Hanukkah, Christmas…

My entire life, I have loved this time of year like no other. Cooler temps, decorations, twinkle lights, carols. They all lift my spirits and reconnect me to my most cherished childhood memories. Christmas was a big deal in my home. My dad, like so many others, pulled out the ladder, braved the heights, and adorned our house with lights, Santa decorations, etc. Inside, an elaborate and increasingly larger-with-each-passing-year train platform was erected.

Sitting three feet high, Plasticville came to life with roads, streetlights (each individually wired beneath), homes of all sizes, shops, a fire station, a church on whose door hung a wreath I crocheted as a 12 year old, and of course, the train that zipped around and through. Through the years the expansion of the plywood owed to my mother’s patience and my father’s zeal for each new addition he found in the hobby shops. Ice skating rink on which the figures moved; a cable car incline ride that necessitated him building a tunnel and snow covered mountain in a corner; new train cars that offered magic all their own; a helicopter that circled the airport below. The centerpiece of Plasticville was our full size Christmas tree. Fully decorated on the floor by my siblings and I, we would then hold our breath as my father would carefully lift it up to the platform and into place in its stand. It was the envy of the neighborhood, written up in newspapers in the various cities in which we lived, and the focal point of every holiday open house held by my parents.

For my mom’s part, our dining room table was rendered moot as an eating system as it was home to platter after platter of every holiday type cookie imaginable. She decorated our home inside, brought out our favorite holiday albums — The Chipmunks, Johnny Mathis, Burl Ives, and on and on. And on Christmas morning, we would awaken so early to run to that platform and find ourselves unable to come within three feet of it because Santa and my parents had so surrounded it with gifts.

Now, my family was not rich, we were firmly middle of the middle class, if anything. We did not get things bought for us just for the hell of it or because we whined for it at a store. New things were received on birthdays, new clothes typically at back-to-school time after languishing all summer in a lay-a-way program at some store. But Christmas? My parents did not hold back. As a parent now, I get it. They got so much joy at watching each of us open our presents — it made the austerity program of the 11 prior months worth it.

So, Christmas is always my favorite time of year. I have loved instilling traditions and recipes and Christmas day magic in my own children as they have grown. As adults, we all try to come together each Christmas and they still awaken early to get the party started.

This year will be different. We will mostly be separated. But if we are lucky, we will be missing one another via Facetime, not via a gravestone or empty stocking on the mantle. If we are lucky, we will all be alive — apart, but alive.

It is crushing to report that as of this morning we have lost 230,126 people since February. 694 out of every million Americans. The numbers being reported from state to state show increases across the board. We are surging everywhere — urban, rural, it matters not. Hospital admissions are up and ICUs are reaching capacity in far too many places. We continue to break our record for new cases per days.

And no amount of twinkle lights will brighten the very dark COVID tunnel we are quickly entering.

This morning, Jake Tapper interviewed Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, and that minion finally said the quiet part out loud.

Mark Meadows: “We’re not going to control the pandemic, we are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”

Jake Tapper: “Why aren’t we going to get control of the pandemic?”

Meadows: “Because it is a contagious virus” #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/1ahyatu6co

— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) October 25, 2020

“We’re not going to control the pandemic.” Let that sink in.

It’s not exactly as if that hasn’t been obvious down the line. This administration has done nothing of any substance or duration since this pandemic touched our shores. But to now have this bumbling array of buffoons out themselves with “We don’t get it! We tried NOTHING and nothing worked”? God help us all.

That interview went on this completely asinine exchange:

Tapper: “Why not make efforts to contain it?”

Meadows: “We are making efforts to contain it.”

Tapper: “By running all over the country not wearing a mask?”

Meadows: “What we need to do is make sure we have the proper mitigation factors… make sure people don’t die from this.”

Mitigation factors, Mark, you insipid, spineless lackey, would include things as simple as a national mask mandate. Mitigation factors would include additional stimulus, shutdowns, a concerted effort to finally flatten our numbers, beat them into some level of submission instead of allowing us to grow nearer 100,000 new cases daily and our continued 1,000 lives lost each 24 hours.

Last night as we all headed to bed, the New York Times, despite Meadows’ attempts to hide the information, reported that five of Pence’s staff, including his own chief of staff, have all tested positive. This news comes just over two weeks since we all saw Mike Pence looking so much like death warmed over that a literal fly made itself at home on his putrescence for over two minutes during the debate. Hmm, incubation period, anyone?

I have said this repeatedly throughout this year, we are on our own. At no time has it been more evident, and it has been confirmed out loud this morning. Their plan is to just let this deadly virus run amok, infecting and killing as it does with no rhyme or reason — young, old, firm, infirm. Trump continues his COVID-19 Superspreader Tour from state to state, and we watch in horror as his followers flock, unmasked, undistanced, to chant “Lock her up!” like they developed a Tourettes tic in 2016 that never resolved itself. This past week he again visited the Villages in Florida — a retirement community just ripe for the COVID pickings. The day before he visited, the Villages had lost an additional 18 people to coronavirus.

The level of open disregard for human life on display by him and his coven is staggering. And with each rally, he flies off and their numbers inevitably fly up. He is literally spreading COVID as fast as he can across this country.

This past week, a new report was released that found nearly 300,000 “excess deaths” this year. Researchers use this metric when things like a virus take hold. They know that a death toll is always going to be undercounted as some people who die might never have been tested for the disease, for example, and if people die at home without receiving medical care, they might not make it into the confirmed data.

That 300,000 number is found by comparing national death tolls for this year January to October against death tolls in recent years (for this study they used 2015–2019). 300,000 excess deaths. Are they all attributable to COVID? Of course not, but a hell of a lot of them are.

Deaths among white people in 2020 were just 11.9% higher than average years, a much lower increase than deaths among Latinx people (53.6% higher than average), Asian people (36.6% higher), Black people (32.9% higher), and American Indians and Alaska Natives (28.9% higher). “These disproportionate increases among certain racial and ethnic groups are consistent with noted disparities in Covid-19 mortality,” the researchers wrote.

The IHME COVID Forecasting Team have released this summary:

Projections of current non-pharmaceutical intervention strategies by state — with social distancing mandates reinstated when a threshold of 8 deaths per million population is exceeded (reference scenario) — suggest that, cumulatively, 511,373 (469,578–578,347) lives could be lost to COVID-19 across the United States by 28 February 2021. We find that achieving universal mask use (95% mask use in public) could be sufficient to ameliorate the worst effects of epidemic resurgences in many states. Universal mask use could save an additional 129,574 (85,284–170,867) lives from September 22, 2020 through the end of February 2021, or an additional 95,814 (60,731–133,077) lives assuming a lesser adoption of mask wearing (85%), when compared to the reference scenario.

511,373 by February 28, 2021. Using simple math, that means 281,247 additional deaths by the end of February. It averages to 2,232 per day (126 days until 2/28/21). Using that number, with only 61 days till Christmas morning, 136,152 families will wake up missing a loved one. And sadly, that is exactly what we can expect to happen. Because regardless of the proof shown that mask wearing alone can potentially save nearly 130,000 lives by 2/28, it’s not going to happen. Trump and his irresponsible elves have insured that.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic.”

They simply do not care. They don’t care about their own circle (see Mike Pence, et al), so why would you think they care about yours? The sad fact is they could have controlled this pandemic, we all could have come together around a national strategy, around patriotism, around love for our country and value for one another, but they did not so we did not.

I am still looking forward to setting up my tree, buying gifts to have delivered from afar, listening to those well loved Christmas songs, but this year the lyrics will be heartbreaking and deadly accurate in so many ways.

I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams…

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Linda Sharp

Author, columnist, blogger. Don’t Get Me Started and Transparent Trans Parent blogs