COVID-19 Storms the Capitol and the Country

A mob, mostly unmasked, stormed the United States Capitol Building on Wednesday, June 6, 2021. This attempted coup and ongoing planned insurrection is occurring amid a raging pandemic. Just as most group events planned or encouraged by this President go forth without masks or social distancing, this riot may become a superspreader event. The devastation rained down on our country by COVID-19 is depicted by 377,616 deaths (more than 30,000 this year), 22.7 million cases, and hospitalizations hovering around 130,000 daily. There have been over 100,000 Americans per day in the hospital due to COVID-19 for the last 41 consecutive days. We are beginning to see the result of the ill-advised Christmas and New Year’s travel. The depth of our despair from our fellow citizens’ decisions will not peak for another 2-3 weeks. Hospitals and ICUs across the country are already overwhelmed.

On the news front the variant that has been growing exponentially in Great Britain is now identified in ten American states. Secondly, our federal government has distributed approximately 26 million vaccines, but less than 9 million Americans have been vaccinated. This extremely slow rollout is a continuation of the mismanagement of this pandemic. The lack of reliable information, testing, contact tracing, personal protection equipment (PPE), mask wearing policy, and a national coordination plan have resulted in the tragic loss of US lives, health, livelihoods, and educational advancement. To improve this abysmal 35% vaccine usage the Operation Warp Speed is scheduled to announce new guidelines today. It is reported that a new policy will allow for the vaccination of anybody 65 years of age and over as well as any person with a preexisting condition which makes them more susceptible to COVID-19. These conditions include diabetes, chronic lung and heart disease, obesity, and immunocompromise. The specific details of this new guideline are yet to be worked out. The general plan is that the government will no longer hold back the vaccines destined to be the second dose for people. It should be noted that the problem with the slow rollout is not a supply issue but the lack of processes to get shots in arms. If vaccine demand increases, we will need to rely on manufacturing to catch up to the second dose necessity. Everyone who gets a first dose will still require a second shot for adequate protection.

The spread of this horrible disease is being fueled by the family gatherings and travel around the recent holidays, as well as the recent political rally and the insurrection in Washington, D.C. (the latter two contesting the results of an already decided election). These activities were conducted by participants who traveled from, and then back to, all areas of our nation. It will take 3-4 weeks before we know the extent to which those perpetrators have spread of this virus around the country. What has already become apparent is that our legislators were forced into situations that increased their chance of contracting COVID-19. Domestic terrorists took over the Capitol spewing aerosol and droplets between them, assaulted and killed a law- enforcing officers, broke windows and doors, pillaged offices, desecrated the congressional chambers. Congresswomen and men were forced into hiding and/or sequestered in tight quarters fearing for their safety. Legislators in both parties hide away in conference rooms until the Capitol had been retaken. Some lawmakers refused to wear the masks offered to them. The entire six-hour delay in conducting congressional business left the congress people stuck in an environment where this disease could spread. One House member’s positive test was revealed the night after the insurrection. Three Democrat representatives, one a cancer survivor, who were in a “safe room” with those who selfishly refused to take the mask offered, have since tested positive. This incident alone shouts for mask wearing, which should not be ideologic because it is science.

The virus of lies regarding an already decided election is on full display as the fuel for this attempted coup. A virus of lies also fuels the exponential spread of COVID-19. Truth is that we must WEAR masks, WASH hands, WATCH our distance and WAIT our turns and get vaccinated when available.

Clyde E. Henderson, MD

Cincinnati Medical Association