The Rush to Re-Open Sends Familiar Message: Black and Brown Lives (Still) Don’t Matter

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Image by Maret Hosemann from Pixabay 
By D. Kevin McNeir
Executive Editor
www.njurbannews.com  

In the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday evening during a virtual town hall televised on Fox News, Donald Trump continued to understate the impact of COVID-19, sharing new estimates of forecasted deaths of Americans that even underestimate what his own administration is predicting. Adding insult to injury, even his new estimate of 100,000 expected by the end of May is twice the total death toll which he forecasted just two weeks ago. 

So, while Trump continues with his unabashed, full-court press launched against states, that is their governors, to reopen their economies, the Trump Administration is projecting – in private, of course – a steady rise in the number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus over the next several weeks reaching nearly 3,000 daily deaths on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times. That’s almost double the current level of about 1,750. 
And it gets worse! The most recent projections, based on government modeling by the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA], forecast 200,000 new cases daily by month’s end, up from about 25,000 cases now. 

Who should Americans believe? 

“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people,” he said. “That’s a horrible thing. We shouldn’t lose one person over this.”

Excuse my inability to follow the numerous bouncing balls, but the numbers – whether we swallow the less than plausible lows touted by Trump or the more realistic and reliable projected highs shared by FEMA – make it abundantly clear that despite the U.S. having relented to a total shutdown for the past seven weeks, little has changed. 

No matter how much we may wish to believe the opposite, reopening America too soon to facilitate business as usual so that our record-breaking low economy can get back on track will only make matters worse. Meanwhile, Washington and Beijing have found it more prudent to play the blame game, pointing fingers at one another, instead of combining the minds, resources and ingenuity of two of the world’s most-powerful nations in search of a vaccine or a cure for coronavirus. 

Again, I pose the rhetorical question, “Why the rush?” before pointing toward two possible explanations. On one hand, it seems that telling the truth pales in comparison to the possibility of the Republicans losing control of the White House in the upcoming General Election. Or it could be, as one former Trump staffer shared on Face the Nation earlier Sunday morning, that stay-at-home orders adopted nationwide simply didn’t result in the desired outcome. 

“While mitigation didn’t fail, I think it’s fair to say that it didn’t work as well as we expected,” said Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s former commissioners of food and drugs. “We expected that we would start seeing more significant declines in new cases and deaths around the nation at this point. And we’re just not seeing that.” 

Public health experts remain adamant, saying that to reopen the economy now will put the nation right back where it stood in mid-March. 

And while the governor of New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, says that he won’t ease restrictions, adhering to a pact made with the governors of neighboring states including Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, until at least seven major thresholds of a slightly longer list of requirements have been achieved, he seems to be among a growing minority.  

Those fearful of the backlash from Trump and his protesting supporters, appear to be worn out, shell-shocked and downright tired of fighting for the “least of these” – Blacks, Hispanics and the financially-strapped elderly.

Either they’ve relented, or are clutching to their seat atop the fence with dear life – like New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy who reopened all state and many county parks last weekend, along with golf courses and a few beaches. As of Monday, May 4, he had not decided whether schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year which have been shuttered since March and were to stay that way until at least May 15. 

While the state’s overall population from the last census is 54.9 percent white, 22 percent Black, 20 percent Hispanic and 5.5 percent Asian, the fatality rate among Blacks was 50 percent higher than the state’s population. 

Said another way, COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect African Americans. And the most current numbers now reveal that Hispanics are testing positive at rates than any other demographic. 

Blacks are not immune to COVID-19 as one convenient rumor suggests. Far the opposite given African Americans already leading all other ethnic groups with those preexisting conditions which make them more susceptible to contracting and dying from coronavirus. 

In American, some things never change. 

Blacks (and brown) lives still don’t matter. 

Then again, maybe I’ve been blinded by the bright, white lights of “privilege” wielded for centuries like a battering ram in our “United” States. 

Perhaps, the real color that tips the scale is “green.” 

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