RI’s Problem Isn’t COVID as an Illness, but as a Test Result.
There’s something actually amazing about this transcript from a news segment on NPR. From the perspective of people who see the world with the same eyes as the host, Melissa Block, and her producers, the piece will appear coherent and reinforcing. From the perspective of those who don’t see the world with the same eyes, it looks like a big bundle of propaganda and lies.
Start with the headline:
Biden aims to help hospitals by sending military doctors and nurses to help
This is written in the “Dear Leader” voice. The subject is the ruler. The verb is his good intention (“aims to help”). An armchair psychologist might make much of the fact that the headline repeats the phrase, “to help,” as if it is a comforting mantra.
More significantly, however, the interview really isn’t about what Biden is doing; it’s about what Rhode Island hospitals are experiencing. That is, National Public Radio’s purpose for the story is clearly different from what the story is. This disconnect has two implications. First, NPR wants anybody who is just skimming headlines to know that Biden is helping, not that Rhode Island is struggling, which is what the story describes. Second, NPR thinks that Rhode Island’s struggling is actually about Biden’s helping. In other words, the Ocean State supports the notion of Biden’s goodness and justifies his position.
Of course, any good ideological propaganda about government trying to fix problems that government has either caused or been unable to handle has to have a scapegoat, and in this case, the finger points at the unvaccinated.
Block draws Kent Hospital Chief of Emergency Medicine Laura Forman into recitation of the proper narrative without extracting a single confounding fact or challenging a single assertion. Listening to the segment or reading the transcript, one would conclude that RI hospitals are filled with unprecedented numbers of COVID patients, but they’re not.
The day before this segment aired (which is the last day for which the state has currently provided data), there were 273 people in the hospital testing positive for COVID. On the same date last year, the number was 486. Vaccines may or may not deserve credit for this decrease, but you can’t blame people who have not been vaccinated for the fact that hospitals are unable to accommodate 44% fewer patients.
Adjusting one’s perspective accordingly casts a different light on this portion of Dr. Forman’s testimony:
The situation right now in the hospital is worse than I’ve seen it in the last two years. The onslaught of patients with COVID right now is unlike anything I’ve seen. It’s relentless. At this point, I’m surprised if a patient tests negative for it. Even patients who are coming in after car accidents or with ankle sprains are testing positive. The community spread here is nothing short of wildfire at this point. And it’s overwhelming the hospital. We are routinely running out of beds. We’re running out of IV pumps. We’re running out of pillows. In 20 years in emergency medicine, I’ve never seen anything like this.
Above all, Forman’s claim is demonstrably false. A year ago, Rhode Island hospitals went ninety days with more COVID cases than they have right now. Again, if the situation is worse right now, it isn’t because the flow of COVID patients is “relentless.”
Read more deeply, however. Apparently, Kent Hospital is testing every patient who comes in, whatever the reason for admission. The problem is not COVID as an illness, but COVID as a test result. Ankle sprains are not overwhelming the hospital. Enhanced precautions for people with no symptoms, a shortage of nurses (which, we’ve been told, was a pre-existing condition in RI), and supply chain problems having to do with economic shutdowns, stimulus-driven inflation, and plain poor government management are the factors overwhelming the hospital.
If the virus is spreading like “wildfire” but producing nearly half the hospitalizations, one has to wonder: so what? The more mild variants become, the more they can be seen as natural vaccines. If vaccinated people are catching it without serious complications, it’s essentially a natural booster. And if a little bit of honest analysis shows that precautions and undue fear are really the cause of Rhode Island hospitals’ apocalypse, then it is insanity to resort to fear to beat the public into compliant submission in the hopes that it will drive down the hospitalization numbers even more.
Featured image by AdhySavala on Unsplash.