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4 years, 1.2 million lives and trillions of dollars later, a rematch

Right

Americans may feel like they’re reliving 2020, with a general election rematch set for 2024. But while the politicians’ faces are the same, life is much different.

On March 13, 2020, then-President Donald Trump declared a national emergency for the Covid-19 pandemic.

No one knew at the time exactly how much life was about to change. Reading CNN’s coverage from that era, however, is like transporting oneself back to the time that so many people have either forgotten or want to block out. We had no idea what was coming.

But it’s equally remarkable, precisely four years later, how Covid-19 has both changed American life and also faded to the background.

Lockdowns, face masks and the question of whether kids should be in the classroom were daily, top-of-mind issues that had very real impacts on how people voted in 2020. The special measures states took to ensure that more people could vote during the pandemic formed the basis of the conspiracy theories by which Trump today refuses to believe he lost back then.

The Covid-19 stats are still unbelievable

Nearly 1.2 million people in the US have died from Covid-19 during the past four years, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While mass outbreaks and hospitalizations appear to be over, there were still at least 500 people who died of Covid-19 per week as of the week ending March 2. In January of this year, more than 2,000 Americans died of Covid-19 each week.

The US government acknowledges spending about $4.4 trillion to address Covid-19, a shocking figure in hindsight that spiked the national debt.

That doesn’t count the trillions in extraordinary measures undertaken by the Federal Reserve, which added more than $4 trillion to its balance sheet during the pandemic.

People can debate what role the federal spending had on inflation, but it also helped stabilize the country at a time of unprecedented uncertainty when the US economy essentially shut down. It’s remarkable to consider that in exit polls for the 2020 presidential election, 44% of voters said the pandemic caused them no financial hardship at all.

The economy is still adapting

Inflation that spiked after people emerged from lockdown has begun to ease, but Americans still have trouble making ends meet despite better wages.Higher interest rates make homebuying seem out of reach to many. Empty office buildings and the uncertain state of commercial real estate means the aftereffects of the pandemic are not yet entirely known.

Other countries have a lot more adapting left to do. Read about how many Covid-19 precautions are just being lifted in China, which maintained a draconian zero-Covid policy that locked out the world for years.

Jogging memories

President Joe Biden felt the need to jog people’s memories during his State of the Union address that the pandemic first struck when Trump was president

“Remember the fear. Record job losses. Remember the spike in crime. And the murder rate,” Biden said last week, trying to flip the script on complaints about public safety in recent years. He added, “The pandemic no longer controls our lives. The vaccines that saved us from Covid are now being used to help beat cancer. Turning setback into comeback.”

Trump, offering live commentary on the speech on his social media platform, wanted credit for Covid-19 vaccines.

“YOU’RE WELCOME, JOE,” he wrote, adding that vaccines were developed quickly while he was in office – although presumably any president would have done everything possible to aid the development of vaccines.

The more interesting development from that post was the instant backlash Trump got from some of his normal allies who are vaccine skeptics. One constant in Trump’s 2024 stump speeches is his pledge to strip public money from any school district that imposes a vaccine requirement on students. His campaign argues he only means the Covid-19 vaccine, but vaccine skepticism is growing in the US, as are outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles.

One new voice gaining attention in presidential politics is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the vaccine skeptic who rivals Trump in his embrace of conspiracy theories and is trading on his famous name to run as an independent candidate. Kennedy draws 15% of the vote in some polls. Kennedy and the super PAC that supports him are targeting swing states as they gather signatures to appear on the presidential ballot.

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