More Mass residents have died from COVID-19 than all the Mass soldiers killed in WWII, but let’s “get back to normal,” right?
This is what the decline of a civilization looks like.
Faced with a major crisis that the society in question is fully capable of overcoming, much of the population and most of its leaders simply shrug it off. Talk a lot about the need to “get back to normal.” Basically pretend it’s not happening. And then sit back as the death toll mounts.
That narrative certainly describes the United States of 2020. But it also applies to one of its supposedly more enlightened states, Massachusetts.
Should even a dozen people die en masse in the Bay State from a preventable cause under normal circumstances, there would be a hue and cry for justice.
But over 10,000 Mass residents have now died from the coronavirus and we can’t even raise taxes on the rich to keep the T running for the Black and immigrant folks who do the scandalously low-paying front-line jobs that keep the state running during the pandemic. Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge) pushed for a rare vote from the floor of the House to get that ball rolling last week, but Speaker Bob DeLeo and most of the rest of Connolly’s colleagues were not about to raise taxes on the wealthy businesspeople who fund their campaigns. And Gov. Charlie Baker’s handpicked hatchet men at the MBTA aren’t about to let an opportunity to cut more public transportation services and privatize others slip by.
So, if a Democratic state like the Commonwealth can’t get its act together to fund normal mandates like public transportation during a pandemic that has already killed more people that the 10,033 we lost in World War II, according to the US Army Center of Military History, then it’s highly questionable whether the incoming Biden administration will finally open the budgetary floodgates to get us the federal money we need to ensure that we can pay all nonessential personnel to do a proper lockdown for several weeks and beat down the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak hereabouts. With more waves still to come, if our epidemiologists and other medical and scientific experts are right. And, it must be remembered, they have been all along.
They said the pandemic would be bad at first, and it certainly was, but that we could get ahead of it. And the Baker administration and the state legislature took a swipe at the problem—issuing stay-at-home orders (that were quickly blown off), closing some businesses down for several weeks (almost at random given the many loopholes and discrepancies), and sending out contact tracers (when it was too late to do much good). Yet, let’s face it, what they did wasn’t nearly enough. For all the griping by the hard right about such orders and related orders on wearing masks and social distancing, Mass coronavirus numbers were terrible in the spring since too many people just ignored the unenforced edicts. Hundreds, then thousands, died—many of them in nursing homes. Some in state facilities mismanaged under the Baker administration’s watch… and, in too many cases, people were basically killed by the malfeasance of Gov. Baker’s own appointee at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.
According to the report “The COVID-19 Outbreak at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke: An Independent Investigation Conducted for the Governor of Massachusetts,” “76 Soldiers’ Home veterans who were COVID-19 positive died in the 11-week period between March 25, 2020 and June 12, 2020. 18 additional veterans died during this period who tested negative for COVID19, or for whom no test was conducted. Prior to the outbreak, approximately 2.8 veterans died each week.”
That’s more than double the stated number of “normal deaths” over those 11 weeks. And sure, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders immediately fired Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh after the report came out. Backed by Baker—who then denied he bore responsibility for hiring someone without the proper training or skills to do the job (to the point of trying to claim he never met the guy prior to the pandemic, when he definitely had). But in August, a Hampden Superior Court judge ruled that Walsh was fired inappropriately and ordered him to be reinstated.
On Nov 10, Walsh—who resigned after the reinstatement order—and former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Medical Director Dr. David Clinton were arraigned on criminal neglect charges brought by Attorney General Maura Healey that could send them to prison for years.
But that won’t bring back 76 dead vets—some of whom actually survived WWII, only to be killed by a virus and gross malfeasance by a state government they fought to defend. Nor will it bring back the 10,000 others who have already met an untimely demise due to a combination of government inaction and personal irresponsibility on a mass scale.
Next time your arrogant yuppie neighbors or blowhard conservative cousins eat indoors at a restaurant or have a big in-person party or jog around your neighborhood barefaced—or keep electing politicians at any level who basically think the pandemic can be safely ignored after they grudgingly accede to a bit of unenforced policy window dressing like current mask rules—they should remember those deaths are as much on their heads as Baker’s, DeLeo’s, or Trump’s.
As are the thousands of deaths still to come at the state level. And the hundreds of thousands of more deaths coming nationwide.
So please join me in telling everyone responsible for the coronavirus pandemic raging out of control when it didn’t have to, “Thanks, sociopaths, your selfishness will be remembered!” And then let’s try to clean up this sorry mess before the next wave hits.
Apparent Horizon—an award-winning political column—is syndicated by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism’s Pandemic Democracy Project. Contact email@example.com for more information. Jason Pramas is BINJ’s executive director, and executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston. Copyright 2020 Jason Pramas. Licensed for use by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and media outlets in its network.