The Occasional Perspective - 4/28/21

Thoughts on happenings affecting our lives and the lives of others… 

No Man Is An Island – While the ongoing pandemic continues to percolate across the globe, we are witnessing a result that may be as important as the loss of human life. Every day we are witnessing the spread of the virus due in large measure to the absolute disregard for science and the paths to prevention by national leaders to which we can avail ourselves before vaccinations become ubiquitous. We watch in horror as the images of India flash across our screens. I keep waiting for the shoe to drop in Africa. Perhaps it has even dropped but because it’s not on the radar screen there are few reports.

Regardless, the point is that John Donne – the famous English love poet of early 16th century – was absolutely correct: “No man is an island entire of itself…” We – all of the nations of the world – are inextricably tied together. As Janet Yellen recently pointed out in testimony before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, the world economy – when all of the accounting is completed – is expected to contract by about 3.5% in 2020. A number of scenarios has been put forward by various groups. Under a scenario that we will NEVER meet, if the advanced economies are “universally” vaccinated and the “emerging” economies are 50% vaccinated, the global economic cost in 2022 will be as high as $3.8 trillion – with 40% of the costs borne by the advanced economies. In other studies, it has been shown that the economic losses for the global GDP in 2021 alone will be in excess of $9 Trillion. So, that’s a total of $12+ trillion. In other words, if nothing changes, the economic impact of the pandemic will be massive across the entire globe despite some regions of the world having experienced eventual success with their immunization campaigns.

At the same time, another report was recently issued on April 29th by CARE – the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere program, a major international humanitarian agency delivering emergency relief and support for long-term international development projects. CARE was founded in 1945 as a non-sectarian, impartial, and non-governmental agency. What is particularly notable in their report is the projected global cost for global herd immunity – which includes not only the vaccine but also distribution and delivery as well. Their projection? In the neighborhood of $200 billion. Now, to pull the argument together that is $200 billion for prevention against a $12 trillion hit to the global economy of which roughly 50% will affect the advanced economies OR, $200B/$12T = $1 dollar of spend on prevention for every $60 dollars created in the global economy. Hmmm – the answer seems relatively obvious!

The mantra that “no one is safe until everyone is safe” applies. The latest surge is in India where literally on every channel of every news station of every political perspective, we are seeing the tragedy unfold for lack of immunizations. Furthermore, it is estimated by the World Health Organization that less than 1% of sub-Saharan Africa has received the COVID-19 vaccination. When the virus hits Africa – and, it will – the global impact will be massive.

The end result is that the pandemic is teaching us something about prevention and public health. Diseases do not adhere to borders. Diseases do not care who is sickened – they target everyone. We need to begin a more serious discuss – at the international level – on the need for establishing an open, collaborative public health infrastructure based on science, not politics. The time has come because in an era of globalization where we are all connected digitally, economically, socially and medically – the need for a different path is clear.   

A Disgusting Reminder – I got an email this morning from a close friend that had a Tweet request from Imam Asad Zaman, leader of the Moorhead-Fargo Islamic Community Center (Mosque). He arrived at the Mosque on April 26th to find “Death to Islam” spray painted in large letters across the front of the building and a red swastika spray painted on the sidewalk. It is a very sad commentary on the state of the state where I grew up in DaMinneKota – that long swath of flat prairie land that lies on both sides of The Red River of the North. The painting of swastikas on buildings is the intimidation tactic used in the 1930’s by the Nazi Party in Germany. Are we going to actually tolerate this type of response from ANY of our citizens? The mosque is taking GoFundMe contributions to support the installation of a security camera for the building if you are so inclined in supporting their effort. BTW, “Disgusting” is actually a mild rendition of what I actually said and felt…

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