Then presidential candidate Donald Trump in August of 2016 asked Black voters, “What the hell do you have to lose?” Four years later, they have their answer, and it’s basically their lives – either under the knee of a racist white cop emboldened by Trump’s embrace of white nationalism or struggling to breath in an overwhelmed ICU ravaged by COVID-19.
The disease caused by the novel coronavirus that Trump ignored and mismanaged into a worst-in-the-world disaster disproportionately kills people of color because they’re chronically underinsured (with Trump trying hard to strip away even more coverage for all of us), often have underlying health conditions and work in essential, low-paying frontline jobs.
But really Trump’s question four years ago was aimed at every American, regardless of race, because a real-estate-developer huckster, tax cheat, serial racist, misogynist and mediocre reality TV star was asking us to gamble on his vision of gutted government and strongman authoritarianism.
Turns out we all had a lot to lose. Obviously, Hillary Clinton would have handled the pandemic far better than Trump, nationalizing the response, ramping up testing, contact tracing, medical supply production and likely leading the world the way the nation has during previous outbreaks.
She would not have disbanded the pandemic response team within the National Security Council or slashed the CDC budget despite credible predictions for years that the United States was vulnerable to a pandemic. Nor would she have shifted responsibility and blame to the states while politicizing mask wearing and social distancing.
So with just a little over 100 days until Trump faces voters again in the Nov. 3 general election, the question is worth asking again: “What the hell do we have to lose?”
Besides our constitutionally mandated rule of law and democratic system of government as we know it (the House-impeached Trump is now dispatching secret police in unmarked uniforms and minivans to kidnap protestors on the streets of American cities), so many lives are on the line as the economy craters, the virus spreads and the culture wars threaten to morph into civil war.
And here in Eagle County, Colorado, we stand to lose dozens of local businesses, more than the nine lives already lost to COVID-19, and quite possibly the absolute lifeblood of our communities – the coming ski season.
Eagle County has seen a spike of 232 new COVID-19 cases in the last month, so we’re now up to nearly 900 cases (892) and counting, and the state last week put us on a naughty list of 15 Colorado counties in danger of losing a variance loosening restrictions on businesses — from Black Diamond status back to the bunny hill possibly. We’ve also seen five suicides locally since the April shutdown.
Our surrounding state is surging, with around 40,000 cases and dangerous signs and new studies indicating we’re headed for a statewide hospital crisis in the fall. Gov. Jared Polis has been backpedaling big-time, imposing a statewide mask mandate and now a 10 p.m. alcohol curfew.
As a nation last spring we had one shot to crush the virus and get our economy, school system and lives back on track by the fall, and to say we blew it by reopening prematurely would be a massive understatement. In fact, most of the rest of the nation never shut down properly in the first place.
Now stop and think about where most of our guests here in Eagle County come from during ski season.
New York with around 408,000 COVID-19 cases tops the domestic-destination list, but California (385,000), Florida (345,000) and Texas (325,000) are quickly catching up, and the CDC says those numbers are likely underreported.
With international travel a nonstarter this winter (who in their right mind would want to come here until there’s a vaccine?), that means domestic travel will be absolutely critical, and those top states for Colorado visitation will no doubt still be struggling with the virus in the fall.
So just about the time the chairlifts are cranking up in November (hopefully with Joe Biden recently elected to the White House), flu season will be kicking in, and the four states we most need in order to have some semblance of a ski season will be either recovering from or still embroiled in more combined infections than the entire nation of India.
And Mexico, which Vail and Beaver Creek rely on heavily for both visitation and second home ownership, right now is seventh on the global list of COVID-19 infections with around 350,000 cases and about to join the dubious 40,000-death club. The United States is still the runaway leader on that terrible list with nearly 4 million cases and more than 142,000 deaths.
If COVID-19 was a war, it would now rank third on the all-time list for American deaths, ahead of World War I (116.000) and behind only World War II (405,000) and the Civil War (estimated at between 500,000 and 750,000 combined Union and Confederate deaths).
Call COVID-19 a hoax at your own peril, and willfully and negligently spread the virus at everyone else’s peril, but please don’t forget the rest of this summer and the fall: Statewide cases and hospitalizations are climbing, and Vail Health is just a 56-bed facility.