With the COVID pandemic on the wane and life again becoming unextraordinary, this seems a good time to look back and take account at who succeeded and failed in meeting the emergency. Understanding that readers’ opinions will vary, I offer my Five Best Heroes and Worst Villains of the COVID Pandemic.
- President Donald J. Trump: Operation Warp Speed should be known as “Trump’s Triumph.” The former president earned the crown as the greatest hero in this entire catastrophe by busting through the usual bureaucratic impediments to bring vaccines to the public in unprecedented time. The number of lives Trump’s vaccine leadership saved will never be quantified.
- Big Pharma: The pharmaceutical industry receives brickbats for its sometime predatory pricing. But without Big Pharma’s extensive research investments prior to the plague, Operation Warp Speed would not have succeeded. So, bravo, Big Pharma. But don’t let it go to your head.
- Hospital Workers and Grocery Clerks: As the information class hunkered safely down in family dining rooms behind laptops—not missing a paycheck—doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers valiantly treated patients in overcrowded hospitals at great personal risk and tremendous emotional cost. Hippocrates would be proud! At the same time, lower paid grocery clerks, warehouse workers, truck drivers, and others kept our food chain flowing. Without these valiant workers, the mild panic of toilet paper hording could have escalated into a riotous secondary catastrophe.
- Private Schools: Children have been victimized by adults’ reaction to the plague by having their schools closed—when CDC guidelines did not call for that drastic action and children faced an infinitesimal risk of serious illness. Thankfully, not all schools failed their students. Many private schools remained open, administrators and teachers putting their students first—and for often significantly lower pay than their responsibility-abdicating public school counterparts.
- Red State Governors: Being governor in COVID era would challenge the most talented and well-intentioned leaders. Some “blue state” governors exercised power in an almost dictatorial manner, clearly relished their ability to rule by diktat, with a few failing to live by the standards they imposed on their constituents. (I’m looking at you Governors Gretchen Whitmer and Gavin Newsom.) But most “red states” governors, such as those in Florida, Texas, and South Dakota—despite bitter vituperation in the media—continually sought to maximize freedom for their citizens during the emergency, and without experiencing a higher death toll or having their hospitals overrun.
Honorable Mention: President Joe Biden, whose efforts to boost vaccine distribution built upon Operation Warp Speed to the point that any adult can now readily obtain the jab.
- The Chinese Communist Party: The entire COVID catastrophe was the CCP’s fault. After the virus began to make people in Wuhan sick, authorities covered up the epidemic’s existence, even jailing whistleblowers. When news began to get out anyway, they lied about the virus’s communicability. The government allowed people to fly internationally from Wuhan (after closing the city to domestic travel), which infected the world. The Chinese government also obstructed investigations into the cause of the outbreak and refused to allow neutral investigators to review the records of the Wuhan lab. All in all, Chinese leaders’ conduct in creating, and then, worsening the calamity was not only an unmitigated debacle, but may have been a grievous crime.
- The World Health Organization: The WHO proved itself a servile organization led by sycophantic and mendacious leaders who helped China cover up the seriousness of the situation in the pandemic’s early days when the spread might have been contained. Afterwards, WHO engaged in a farcical investigation in Wuhan that learned nothing of substance about the pandemic’s cause. No wonder people are losing faith in public institutions.
- The American Political Class: Trump’s communication strategy during the pandemic was abysmal. After wisely naming the phlegmatic Vice President Mike Pence to head up the Covid Task Force—whose personality better suited the gravity of the moment—Trump grabbed the microphone back and held court almost daily at raucous press briefings where he often spoke imprecisely and sometimes intemperately about potential treatments. Trump’s implacable enemies in the mainstream media deserve scorn for their many efforts to undermine the president’s authority and twist his words to create false controversies. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris cynically exploited COVID politically. A low point was reached when now Vice President Harris said she would not trust any vaccine that Donald Trump touted. All in all, with some exceptions. a failure of our political class pretty much across the board.
- Big Tech: Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others in Big Tech used their monopolistic control of public discourse to thwart the free discussion of crucial issues related to COVID. They censored learned discussions about the likelihood of a lab leak as the cause of the outbreak. Ditto, experts questioning the preventative efficacy of masks and the potential dangers of the vaccines. By acting as the Establishment’s official censors, Big Tech stifled democratic discourse and hindered the proper working of the scientific method by protecting orthodox opinion from heterodox hypotheses.
- Teachers Unions: The people who claim to care the most about children, proved to instead be their worst enemies. Indeed, teachers unions proved that their primary obsessions are attaining power and promoting progressive political goals. By repeatedly thwarting school openings, union leaders deprived children of a quality education, needed socialization, and healthy outdoor play—with sometimes lethal consequences of increased in youth suicides.
Dishonorable Mention: No list of COVID villains would be complete without mentioning New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who ordered infected seniors back into nursing homes, and apparently covered up the death toll his policy caused to our most vulnerable citizens—as he snagged a $5 million book deal to tout baloney about his leadership successes fighting the disease. What a disgrace.
What about Dr. Anthony Fauci? The jury is still out. Some believe he effectively convinced a skeptical public to take the disease seriously. Others charge that his advice led to an unnecessary economic collapse. There are also very serious allegations—led by Senator Rand Paul—about his approving funding for viral research at the Wuhan lab that may have contributed to the outbreak, and about his lack of candor on that question. His erratic flip-flopping on issues such as the efficacy of masks did not help, nor his becoming something of a willing “anti-Trump” totem in the media. There is no question that Fauci allowed world fame to go to his head. Regardless of his ultimate place in history, if Fauci wants to provide a truly valuable service to his country, he will step back from being the public face of the federal COVID fight. He is just too controversial to be effective.
Whoever the COVID heroes and villains, the last 18 months reveal America to be such a fractured society we couldn’t unify effectively against a common threat. That is terrifying. Worse perils than a moderately deadly virus can hit us. If there is a next time—God forbid—we must do better.
Wesley J. Smith is chairman of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. His latest book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.