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February 15, 2022
America Dissected
The Sum of Us are Sick with Heather McGhee

In This Episode

Public health requires us to believe that there is “a public” above and beyond ourselves as individuals. But who belongs to that public may matter even more for what we’re willing to do provide that public. In her book “The Sum of Us,” author and organizer Heather McGhee shows how racism has destroyed collective efforts–from swimming pools to insurance pools–in America. She joins Abdul to talk about what that means for public health and the pandemic.

 

 

 

Transcript

 

[ad]

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Democratic governors from around the country have decided to end mask mandates and vaccine verification, signaling a new approach to the pandemic. The FDA delays its judgment on vaccines for children under five, electing to wait for data about the safety and efficacy of a third dose. In Iowa, nearly 60% of deer—yes, deer—are infected with COVID-19. That may have startling implications for the future of the pandemic. The Canadian trucker protests, which started over COVID restrictions, continues to rock Ottawa as similar protests pop up around the globe. This is America Dissected. I’m your host, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. If you spend time thinking about health care or public health, chances are you’ve heard the term “the social determinants of health.” It’s one of those terms that’s so commonplace in our space that we sometimes forget what it actually means. It’s usually invoked to explain why Black or brown folks are more likely to suffer diseases in the first place, more likely to suffer them worse when they do, and more likely to die at an early age because of them. The idea is that disease and death don’t happen at random. Rather, they’re determined, based on the social characteristics of individuals, like race, education, income, wealth, and gender. It’s an idea that is descriptively true but packs a lot of problematic implications about why it’s true. See, there’s nothing about race or income that should make you sick. Instead, people who are marginalized by various forces in society suffer because of the way society marginalizes them. The fact that in this country, race predicts everything from the hospitals in which you are born, whether your mother received proper prenatal care, the quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink, the road you drive on, whether or not your childhood home has lead in its walls, the schools you attend, then as an adult, the job you work, if that job pays a livable wage, if you have access to affordable housing in the part of town where there are quality healthy food options, and if after you get home after a long day, it’s safe to go for a leisurely walk in your neighborhood without being victimized by a neighbor or the state itself. All of that shapes risks for diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, so on. And then there’s the fact that if you have to work two jobs, neither of which offer benefits, that put you under the control of a manager who arbitrarily determines your hours, how are you supposed to see a doctor? So you go untreated. All of that compound your risk of a heart attack or stroke, all of which increases the probability of an early death. So what we see is a higher risk of illness among marginalized people, but we often miss all of those mechanisms I just laid out that animate it. It’s not race, it’s racism. It’s not poverty, it’s anti-poverty policies. It’s not gender, but the way that we tolerate, even praise, policies that systematically disempower women. The predictors aren’t social, they’re societal. There’s another issue, too. When we focus on the people who are most impacted by our societal illnesses, we actually undercount their true costs. Consider health care. One of the most impactful pieces of the Affordable Care Act was that it expanded Medicaid. But Republicans fought to make Medicaid expansion a state’s choice. Since, all but 13 of the states expanded Medicaid, and guess which ones were the least likely to expand it? Southern states with large Black populations. There, governors and legislators weaponized racism, painting Medicaid as a government handout, playing to long-held racist stereotypes like the quote unquote “welfare queen” that paint Black folks as undeserving recipients of government largesse. This is the insidious way that racism divides and deprives us, because you know who else loses because they don’t have health care? Poor white folks who would have gotten Medicaid if their states expanded it. And so, zooming out beyond the descriptive fact that marginalized people suffer more and worse offers a truer understanding of the mechanisms by which are social evils take their lives, and a fuller accounting of the blast radius of those ills. This is the subject of one of the most influential books that I’ve read in the past several years. The Sum of Us, by our guest today, Heather McGhee, seeks to do a full accounting of the costs of racism for everyone—Black and brown people most of all, but white people too. Whether it’s the growing cost of higher education and the debt millions of families are forced to take on, or the fact that we don’t yet have Medicare for all, all of that is shaped by the ways that racism interferes with our national will to solve our problems. The Sum of Us came out in paperback last week, and I asked my friend and former president of the progressive nonpartisan think tank, Demos, to reflect with me on the cost of racism and how it shaped U.S. health care and public health efforts throughout this pandemic in particular, after this break.

 

[ad break]

 

Heather McGhee: Microphone quality high. Yeah.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Perfect. Can you introduce yourself for the tape?

 

Heather McGhee: I’m Heather McGhee, author of “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.”

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, narrating: I first met our guest today, Heather McGhee, when she was at Demos back when the country was facing the Great Recession. I was a fellow there. I admired her ability to synthesize her passion for racial justice and rigorous economic thinking to explain how the crisis was hitting Black and brown folks hardest. When she wrote her book, The Sum of Us, I just knew it would have a massive impact on how we understand the broad impact of racism in America. Since, it’s become a New York Times bestseller and a must-read for anyone trying to understand why we are where we are as a country.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: So your book, “The Sum of Us”, the paperback just dropped. And for our listeners who may not be familiar with your work, can you explain to us what The Sum of Us is about and what compelled you to write the book?

 

Heather McGhee: Well, I spent nearly 20 years trying to spot problems in the American economy, use research and data to craft evidence-based solutions to issues of inequality, lobby legislative drafting—all of that, right? Trying to get the people in power to do things that were in the public interest. And specifically this question that I thought we really needed to answer, which is: Why does it seem like we can’t have nice things in America? By nice things, I don’t mean self-driving cars, I mean, things like universal health care and paid family leave and child care, and a well-funded public school in every neighborhood. And I helped to build and ran a think tank called Demos that was singularly focused on issues of inequality. And I kind of threw up my hands, Abdul, in 2017 and said, You know what, these tools of the sort of economic think tank trade are not actually answering that question because it just makes too much rational economic sense for us to invest in the things that will grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out. Like that just makes too much sense. There’s something else that’s going on that is stopping us from using our collective problem solving to address these widespread problems. And that’s how I set out on a journey, a journey to write The Sum of Us, that basically discovered that it’s racism in our politics and in our policymaking that is undermining our sense of the collective, our sense of who we in “we the people are” and therefore without that sense of solidarity among the public, it’s really hard to get the public will to do things that are in the public interest.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: I don’t use this term lightly because I think it’s so much overused in our culture, but the gaslighting of rationality and self-interest are really profound when it comes to the way that oftentimes folks in positions of power don’t say what’s actually operating. And the thing that I think is so powerful about your book is that you, you dissect it out, you know, fully live in living color to help us to understand why we are where we are. And one of the most helpful metaphors that I think you bring to light in the book is the metaphor of the draining of public pools back after the Brown v. Board of Education decision led us to a position where many of these local municipalities recognized that they could not continue to operate segregated pools so they just shut them down. They just drained them. That really stuck with me, and I know it’s been a really helpful metaphor. How did you come about that metaphor and what helped you to sort of alight upon it in in in trying to explain so much of what we face today? Because of course, that’s history that many of us haven’t lived but it rings so true in the present that we’re living right now.

 

Heather McGhee: Well, I first learned about what happened when towns across the country—and this is important, not just in the Jim Crow South, right, it was in Ohio and New Jersey, West Virginia, California, Washington state, that also drained their pools or sold them for a dollar to the YMCA to make them private and therefore able to be a members-only club that discriminated against Black folks and excluded them—I first learned about that phenomenon really as sort of just inherited folk wisdom. It’s something that my mother, who was born in 1950, was certainly alive to experience. It’s just this sort of general, kind of, way that Black folks know the lengths, the self-sabotaging lengths to which white elites will so often go in order to maintain this illusion of white supremacy. Right? Because that’s the lesson of the drained pool, is that we used to have lavishly-funded public goods as part of the New Deal public goods ethos. And it wasn’t just swimming pools that could hold thousands of people at a time, it was also Social Security and a massive investment in housing and the GI Bill and high road labor policies and collective bargaining—all the things that reflected this deeper sense that it was the government’s right and in fact responsibility to ensure a decent standard of living for its people. And that was born out of the 1930s and ’40s. That was the spirit of the New Deal and in through the Great Expansion that created the greatest middle class the world had ever seen. Abdul, but of course, there was an asterisk on that social contract, right? Virtually everything I just described was for whites only in one way or another, whether it was Social Security that excluded the job categories where Black workers predominated, or it was the massive expansion of housing that was affordable to workers and homeownership on a worker’s salary, and all of that was racially exclusionary because of redlining and racial covenants, and requirement to have racial covenants in housing developments. And so we have, and even, you know, the our labor path, right, for much of the sort of run up of the great industrial unions, the AFL allowed for whites-only unions, right? And there were hate strikes in the 1940s that weren’t about pay and benefits, but were about keeping the factories white. And so this idea of like the thing that we all look back to and say, well, what happened? Right? And even right, on the right, there’s so much nostalgia for the time before, right? Make America great again. Let’s bring back, yes, of course, it’s about white supremacy in the tenor, but the picture is about something that left to right, we agree. This country used to care more about its public. BUT that was when the public was largely understood to be white and when the rules allowed for the exclusion. And what you’ve seen since integration is a massive ideological shift among the average white American, moving from two-thirds of white folks 1956 and 1960 thinking there should be a government job guarantee for anyone who couldn’t find one in the private sector, and a universal basic income, right, a minimum income below which no family could fall, right? Two thirds of white folks agreeing with that, right? That’s not the politics of today. But between 1960 and 1964, the share of white folks who believed in those government guarantees of economic security fell nearly in half to just 35%. So, you know, if you see a statistic like that, you’re like, well, you got to look beyond the spreadsheet, right? What could possibly have caused that massive an opinion shift in just four years? And you know, so then you have to look back. What was going on in the country? Massive upheaval around civil rights, right? You had 1963, the March on Washington, which was for jobs and freedom, and included among the core demands, a federal job guarantee and a national living wage. And ’63 was the year that Kennedy went on his sort of civil rights media blitz, like his campaign to firmly associate the party of the New Deal with civil rights. And that was, of course, you know, when Lyndon Johnson made good on some of those promises that Kennedy made, by signing the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act into law. He became the last Democrat running for president to win the majority of white voters to this day.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: I really appreciate that that review of history. And you know, the thing about it is that what makes these historical examples so profound is that people were willing to give up on all of the ways that government helped them, just so that they would not also help Black folk. And when you think it through, it really just boggles the mind. One example, quite recently, has been the conversation about health care. And you know, y’all know where I stand. I believe deeply in Medicare for All. But even before we get to Medicare for All, there is a tremendous level of government health care that sits on the table untouched in 13 states in this country in the form of Medicaid. And you argue rather convincingly in the book that the failure, particularly for former states that were part of the Confederacy to take up the federal funding that would allow them to expand Medicaid has a lot to do with an understanding of who, quote unquote, “deserves” to have access to health care. Can you walk us through the way that racism has flummoxed the ability to give poor people in these states health care through Medicaid.

 

Heather McGhee: Yeah, I mean, it starts with why don’t we have universal health care period, right? Harry Truman proposed it in the 1940s, and it was the Dixiecrat segregationist caucus of his own party that said, Hell, no. Right? Said that that would be, that equal health care would be a blow to Jim Crow, and they wouldn’t go along with him. And so that was the moment when we could have had our National Health Service, right? And we didn’t do it. And so fast forward, the first African-American president is able to win the biggest expansion of affordable health care, and the key center stone of it is what? Is the expansion of Medicaid, is basically raising the threshold, the income thresholds that working class people, janitors, waiters, could qualify for government health insurance because, of course, their employers aren’t giving it to them. Right? And these thresholds at the state level of Medicaid have been so, so low, like $5000 of income, and suddenly you’re too rich for Medicaid. And so that was going to be great. 50 states, raising the level so that tens of millions more people could qualify for Medicaid. What does the Supreme Court do? The Supreme Court uses a states’ rights legal theory—should be a tip off and a flag that something is terribly wrong when it comes to race, right, when we’re invoking state’s rights to strike down the federal 50-State program and leave it up to the states. And then as soon as that happens, you see a new Mason-Dixon line of health care get redrawn in the country, where largely the former Confederate states that have large percentage of Black people, right? The majority of black people in this country live in in the southeast—they refused to expand Medicaid. And in the book, I go and I talk to folks in Texas who, where it’s the leading members of the uninsured, and they’re seeing—and I talk to rural white folks who are seeing—this as an issue that’s hurting them, where you have dozens of hospital closures because there’s not enough money in the system to keep them open. And of course, all the jobs that are lost because of that. And that’s significantly, you know, white folks in these rural conservative counties that are losing that lifeblood because they refuse to expand Medicaid. And here’s where the race stuff comes in: social scientists have studied this problem, and what they have figured out is that basically the higher number of Black Americans there are in a state with a white power structure, the less likely that white power structure is to expand Medicaid. And, you know, you don’t have to take it from social scientists. I talked to organizers who were on the doors trying to convince people without health care to vote to expand Medicaid and—now, this is real talk, right—not only did white conservative Republicans really associate Medicaid with Obama, associate it with undeserving Black people, but so too did a lot of the brown, Latino people in Texas who are being organized saying, You know what? I came here for a vision of the American dream, and that vision of the American Dream puts me on the other side of the deserving-not deserving line, right? And it’s really important to me to aspire up, to be like the people whom I’ve been told don’t ever need any kind of government assistance. Now, of course, in the book, I do this two-page thing where I’m like, Here’s all the free stuff that white people got from the government to help create the middle class, right? So that’s all an illusion.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Still get!

 

Heather McGhee: Still getting, right? But that idea of denigrating the public, even if it means that you go without, is one of the biggest obstacles to our collective progress in this country.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah, I really appreciate that example because it just shows the profound cost that people are willing to pay to hold on to a race-driven sense of deservedness.

 

Heather McGhee: That’s right.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, narrating: We’ll be back for more with Heather McGhee after this break.

 

[ad break]

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, narrating: And we’re back with more of my conversation with Heather McGhee.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: To go without health care in a place when you know that the only reason you’re doing that, right, the fundamental reason you’re doing that, is that you don’t carry some elite-imposed shame about who is supposed to get government handouts and who’s not. And, you know, beyond Medicaid, think about our collective will to invest in health care for everyone, and you see that a lot of the most difficult conversations break on the question of who deserves what care, right? The way that that, you know, the prime example that conservatives will impose on a conversation about Medicare for All will be, Well, what do we do with the undocumented person who comes to this country and wants to get gender reassignment surgery on Medicare for All? Right? That’s going to be the example that they’re going to push forward because it captures a group of multiple marginalized people whom they want to cast as being undeserving, whether you’re talking about people of color in the form of LatinX people, you’re talking about trans folks, or you’re talking about undocumented people. And all of this sort of breaks on this conception of the original sin of of racism, and then who then deserves to aspire to the ideal of citizenship and all that should come with that. I want to turn my attention now to the pandemic because, you know, we cannot ignore all of the ways that racism has shaped who suffered worst in this pandemic—whether it’s the fact that if you are Black in this country, you’re more than two times as likely to have died of COVID-19, three times as likely if you’re LatinX, whether that you lost your job in that first three-month period of COVID, you were far more likely to have lost your job and not to have had wealth in the background to sustain you if you were Black. And all of this sort of falls on this question of the public in public health, and any of our capacity to invest in our own collective well-being has to come as a function of our capacity to invest in one another. And your thesis is that racism interferes with those public goods, public health being one of them. How as, you know, you wrote this book and you thought about its implications of the past two years, how have you seen racism shape our response to public health and efforts to end this pandemic?

 

Heather McGhee: It’s such a rich question. In some ways you can explain it all, right, all of America’s dysfunction, all of the promise, all of the best of us, the way we surged into solidarity, the way people have really shifted the way they live and work and priorities, the way our public systems have been overburdened, the way we demonized so many of the people on the front lines while also lauding them and calling them essential, right? It’s all there, right? All of the the contradictions of American society. And yes, the way in which racism has had a cost for everyone. You talk about the racial disparities and the question really is then why? What’s driving it? Why are Black and brown people and indigenous people so much more likely to get sick. Is it something wrong with our bodies, right? Does our skin color like attract COVID something from the air, right? No, right. It’s about the social determinants of health. It’s about how we’re much more likely to be in front-line work, whether it’s low-paid, you know, service work or government jobs where the lights still have to stay on, you know, driving school busses, working in health care. And so that first particularly acute period of time when we didn’t know how to protect Americans, it was Black and brown folks who bore the brunt. You’re talking about segregated housing and you’re talking about contact with the police, right? The super spreader places in American society have been in our jails and prisons. And so where you see the racist warehousing of Black and brown people, it has also meant high rates of COVID infection and then people bringing it home. And so there was a study that the folks at the Center for Policing Equity did sort of modeling, you know, what we know about COVID transmission rates, how to do these, the sort of the three areas where there’s the most transmission—police officers and the people they come into contact with, people returning from home from jails and prisons, and then frontline low-wage workers with no option but to keep showing up—and talked about how systemic racism drives the vulnerability of each of those categories. But then at the same time, the pandemic has evolved, and politics got in, right? The politics was there from the first when Donald Trump was president and he, it was so clear, right, when he began to realize that this wasn’t going to affect his people, that this was a New York City problem and an L.A. problem, that this was a problem in those democratic cities with those sick people, and, you know, there was a real shift in his tone and tenor. But it’s also evolved because politics, because the right-wing—and this is really one of those just unbelievable ways in which—not racism, like, I don’t care what’s in people’s hearts—but I mean, strategic racism, right?—the use of racism by a self-interested elite to drive their agenda of greed. This is where the fact that we now have less of a racial divide on COVID infections, on masks, on vaccines, than a partisan divide, goes to show that the right wing ultimately was willing to use a very racialized groove in their base’s consciousness that is knee-jerk, anti-government, and plop COVID right in there, and say no matter what the costs in the near term, we’re always playing the long game. And what’s the long game for the right? It’s to shrink government down to the size that it has no power to regulate, to work on behalf of the people, to tax, right? So the anti-government messages the long game. And so they’ve been willing to play with their people’s lives, to play with their voters’ lives, and there is this real nexus between the sort of, the narratives on the right in conservative media, the disinformation, that’s about masks, vaccines, you know, federal overreach, government overreach, and—surprise, surprise—what’s being taught about racism in our schools, right? They’re being, they’re willing to use this sort of this, this very racialized, sometimes overtly and sometimes more subtly, anti-government spirit to further their political and ultimately economic goals, but in the near term, costs, you’re now having more, the problem of under vaccination being a red state-blue state problem. And that’s just, it’s just, it is a cost of racism to them, but also to our health care workers, to our entire society.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah, it is the height of cynicism, and it’s a flywheel that they keep turning. On the one hand, they demonize Black folk and brown folk to argue that we cannot provide global public goods for everyone. And at the same time, they turn the other side by demonizing government because it benefits everyone collectively. And so on either, on either front, they advance the argument. One of the worries that I’ve had is that as the conversation about racial inequity has gotten louder and more forceful in the context of the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many others at the hands of police, that it has been leveraged by the right not to acquiesce to demands to do more on racial justice. In fact, it just been used to to bring their implicit racism out into the open. And you’re seeing a very explicit effort, particularly when it comes to voting rights, for example, to continue to leverage government to discriminate and to take away basic fundamental government rights. I wonder, because I’ve come to know you rather well and I know that you’re an extremely hopeful and optimistic person, and I’m wondering, you know, in this moment when so much of this is coming to light and the brazenness is just so obvious, and it’s led to a lot of frustration, hopelessness, and cynicism among people, what keeps you optimistic about our capacity to actually build what people deserve, to provide these basic goods, whether they’re public health or health care or access to a good home or clean air and clean water? What gives you hope in this moment?

 

Heather McGhee: Now, I’ve spent most of my career working to try to push the Democratic Party to the left, drag it into the future. Right? Make it more ambitious. Make it more responsive to the true deep needs of our people. And I’m hopeful and optimistic because we got all but two Democrats to sign on to an agenda that really provides those nice things that I talked about: paid family leave, you know, universal child care, pre-k, you know, massive refilling of the pool of public goods. The fights that we’ve been having for so long about whether or not the government can and should act in the public interest, at least that is less of a family fight than it has been for all of my career. So the ambition to blow through and not worry about deficits, to take on antitrust and corporate consolidation, to really recognize that there is nothing more important than taking care of our people and our planet, that, to me, feels like a reason for hope. Because ultimately the only thing standing in our way is now less of a, you know, organized public will, then it is the dead hand of the past. Structures of democratic inequality, like the US Senate, which allows for Republicans to represent tens of millions of fewer Americans and yet still have a veto over the policies that we enact. Things like voter suppression. All of these ways in which the founding compromises that we made in the United States in order to create a slave system and a free system under the same constitutional umbrella, are coming back to haunt us. And so for me, it feels like that’s the work, right? Yes, there is an organized, well-funded campaign to re-mainstream white supremacy again. Yes, there are people who are, you know, would rather die than put on a mask to protect their neighbor. But that is the minority, right? We give it a lot of attention because it’s like a car wreck, and we just can’t believe what we’re seeing. But 70+% of the country: pro mask, pro-vaccine. These attacks on honest education and states banning books and enshrining white fragility and saying, Don’t you dare make my white child feel guilty about something that white people did in the past, by law—those are massively unpopular. And it’s just the structural inequality in our democracy that is letting a right-wing minority still have any seat at the table when we’re writing the laws in this country.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Well, I appreciate that. And it is, if nothing else, a real call to action to right-size our democracy, make it truly more representative and democratic. And we really appreciate you joining us and educating us here today. That was Heather McGhee. The paperback version of her book, New York Times bestseller “The Sum of Us” is now out. I really highly encourage you to check it out. And once again, Heather, thank you so much for joining us.

 

Heather McGhee: Thank you, Abdul, for all that you do.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, narrating: As usual, here’s what I’m watching right now. Democratic governors all over the country are, in effect, declaring an end to the pandemic.

 

[news clip] A growing number of states moving to drop mask mandates, at least partially.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Governors in New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, and other states have announced an end to mask mandates, indoor vaccine verification, and other COVID precautions. One of the things that makes this so galling, if you’ve been watching, is that COVID deaths rose all last week, just as governors drew down the precautions. How can they pull back on COVID precautions as record high numbers of people die of COVID every single day? First, I want to say this: it is a tragedy that people continue to die of this disease. Full stop. But I want to explain why drawdowns have really no impact on death rates right now. Remember, people don’t just get COVID and drop dead. COVID deaths are a lagging indicator. The folks dying right now likely contracted the illness two or more weeks ago, back when cases were peaking. Nothing that governors do today will change the death rate today, and we know that they will fall. That’s because cases and hospitalizations have now been falling for some time. Nevertheless, though, I think we do need to start reshaping our COVID response around the fact that cases are tumbling, I worry that it’s still premature to fully draw down. Why? Because of this pandemic should have taught us anything. It’s that we can’t predict the future. So rather than simply repeal mandates, I’d have liked to see governors repeal them and declare thresholds for hospitalization rates over which COVID precautions might come back. That way, even though we can’t predict the future, we can understand what might happen if it deals us a hand we’re not expecting. I wrote more about this in my newsletter. Check it out at abdulelsayed.substack.com.

 

Last week, I told you how excited I was that the FDA was going to review data from Pfizer about the safety and efficacy of their vaccine for kids under five. Well, we’re going to have to wait a bit longer. Pfizer elected to punt on this decision until they received more trial data about the safety and efficacy of a third dose. Remember, Pfizer undershot on their dosage. The doses that they gave kids this age were 3 micrograms, compared to 10 micrograms for older kids. And so they found that two doses didn’t yield a high enough antibody response in kids aged two to four. They’re expected to complete their application once data about a third dose is available. So for parents under five, like me, we may be waiting until April.

 

In Iowa, nearly 60% of deer—yes, deer—are infected with COVID-19. Here’s why that may have really weird implications for the future of the pandemic: in epidemiology 101, you learn about zoonotic diseases, which is a fancy way of saying diseases that co-occur in animals and in people. The classic zoonotic disease is the bubonic plague, harbored in rats and now prairie dogs, that can jump back into humans. This sets up the potential for deer to become a zoonotic host for the virus. Right now, this is all speculative. We don’t really know about the virus’s capacity to jump back into humans from animal hosts, but it is something to keep our eyes on because it could fundamentally reshape the dynamics of the disease.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: I live about 45 minutes from Canada. And I’m not going to lie, Canada has always been the paragon of what it’s like to live in an America without all the crazy. But this has changed my opinion:

 

[news clip] At least two major crossings on the US-Canada border are blocked or closed, inspired by protesters in Ottawa.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Right now, Canadian truckers are protesting COVID restrictions like vaccine mandates, by shutting down cities all over Canada. In fact, they had shut down the Ambassador Bridge, which is the way that I would get to Canada if I were to go there. We’ve seen some absurd stuff during this pandemic, but this is peak absurdity. The whole point of opposing COVID restrictions was the inconvenience that those restrictions placed on our lives. But shutting down cities and trade routes seems, well, inconvenient. They’ve lost the whole point.

 

That’s it for today. I know that you always hear me say this: please do rate and review the show. It really does help. Also, if you love the show and want to rep us, I hope to drop by the Crooked store for some America Dissected drip. We’ve got our logo mugs and t-shirts, our Science Always Wins t-shirts, sweatshirts, and dad caps, and our Safe and Effective tees.

 

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: America Dissect it is a product of Crooked Media. Our producer is Austin Fisher. Our associate producer is Olivier Martinez. Veronica Simonetti mixes and masters the show. Production support from Tara Terpstra, Lyra Smith, and Ari Schwartz. The theme song is by Taka Yasuzawa and Alex Sugiura. Our executive producers are Sarah Geismer, Sandy Girard, Michael Martinez, and me, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, your host. Thanks for listening.