If you visit your local Barnes & Noble store, you will find three new arrivals chronicling the COVID-19 scourge:
Washington Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb & Damian Paletta: Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic that Changed History (New York: HarperCollins).
Freelance writer John Sternfeld (Introduction by New York Times Columnist Timothy Egan): Unprepared: America in the Time of Cornovirus (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing).
New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright: Plague Year: America: America in the Time of COVID (New York: Alfred Knopf).
This post is not a full-fledged review of these books. I have read them and find them disturbing because of what they don’t say. I’m warning the “less physically abled” people of America needing skilled nursing and long-term care that they are being disappeared from history. That puts those people we dehumanize as “frail” and “disabled” out of sight and out of mind, which puts them at great risk.
Authors of these books have ignored the estimated 140 to 200 thousand mostly unnecessary deaths and suffering of patients and their families due to dereliction of the nursing home industry and government regulatory agencies. Their focus is on Washington, D.C., inside the beltway politics and the Trump Administration’s handling of the pandemic (sans nursing home related issues).
It is not surprising that Timothy Egan’s introduction to Sternfeld’s book ignores the “nursing home tragedy” altogether. He has, in the past, demonstrated hostility toward the “elderly.” In an NYT column he claimed that “pill popping seniors” were robbing younger generations. He was referring to the cost of Medicare, which he failed to recognize is paid for by the beneficiaries through a payroll tax and out of pocket expenses. I remember this column so well because I was in Washington circa 2012 on many occasions lobbying to stop cuts in Medicare and Social Security. NYT columnists like David Brooks and Timothy Egan were accusing the aging population of selfishness merely because of their audacity to fight for the benefits they had worked hard to earn.
The Silence of Professional and Advocacy Groups is Deafening
COVID-19 resulted in a horrendous failure of care and protection for the institutionalized less abled among us, i.e., those individuals institutionalized in the so-called “nursing home system.” Not only were government agencies and corporations charged with the care of millions of patients in skilled nursing and long-term care facilities derelict, but professional organizations comprised of physicians, gerontologists, and advocacy groups such as the AARP were reticent and vacuous in speaking out about the preventable mass fatalities occurring in these government-funded and regulated institutions during 2020 – and remain so to this very day.
How elites and paid professionals and the organizations in which they are employed react to the massive loss of life in SKN/LTC facilities will greatly impact the public attitude toward the value of Americans with physical barriers preventing their full independence and participation in society. Ignoring the unnecessary loss of life in the institutions ostensibly designed for humane care will send a strong signal about what we can expect in the years ahead.