John Roberts, he of the supercilious drug-store cowboy smirk, has reassured Americans that this is a different country from the United States of 1965.
In those bad old days we had George Wallace and Ross Barnett and Bull Connor standing in front of universities and bridges and other public places to represent their side.
Now we have Mitch McConnell blinking in the glare and doing that lisping thing he does when he is being evasive and using the new mantra of the latter-day Wallaces: The country is different now. Count on hearing that a lot.
To quote another worthy, Clarence Thomas, now it’s done high-tech.
Now it’s done state-by-state by demanding more identification from the marginal and the mobile. Show us your papers, please. Watching the lines at the last election, gee, always in the poorer neighborhoods, was a throwback to the back of the bus. Now the Supreme Court has voiced its approval, with the chief justice saying “Our country has changed.”
In some ways, yes, it has. There were the two victories for gay rights on Wednesday. And when I turn on the television, I find prophetic voices like Melissa Harris-Perry and Joy Reid on MSNBC and two of the finest members of the House, Elijah Cummings of Maryland and John Lewis of Georgia.
Lewis said the Tuesday decision was a “dagger” in the heart of a movement. He has the right to speak of violence, after being beaten nearly to death on March 7, 1965, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The struggle has been like a flame, leaving John Lewis strong and pure, a living testimony to better selves. He looked stricken the other night. The police beat him in 1965. Now in this different country, it’s done by lawyers and election officials, state by state.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.