Is COVID-19 Making Everybody Crazy?

Paula J. Caplan, PhD
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The coronavirus pandemic has provided a golden opportunity for some psychotherapists, Big Pharma-funded entities, and others, who have sounded an alarm, claiming that massive numbers of people are “mentally ill” because of fears of the virus and reactions to social distancing.

Media producers have promoted these warnings during May, which was deemed Mental Health Awareness Month. A recent Washington Post article headlined “A third of Americans now show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau finds amid coronavirus pandemic” made that claim. And in a recent New York Times article, psychologist Andrew Solomon, reporting data that nearly half of respondents said the pandemic harmed their “mental health,” shockingly equated this with mental illness becoming “universal reality.”

In a June 5 press release, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), a lobby group for psychiatrists, reported an increase in psychiatric disorders during the pandemic that it based on an anonymous, online screening tool. Screening tools that allegedly tell the test-taker whether they have a “mental illness,” including this Mental Health America (MHA) tool, are usually based on a list of feelings and difficulties that most people feel sometimes, and the cutoff points they give for when you should seek professional help are not scientifically based.

This tool includes instructions to take their Depression test if you are feeling overwhelming sadness. Do we really want to call overwhelming sadness in response to the isolation, fear, and unknown future occasioned by the pandemic a mental illness? They say to take their Anxiety test if worry and fear are affecting your daily functioning. Who these days doesn’t worry whether their mask is adequate, whether they have washed their hands enough times and in hot enough water, whether to stay away from a beloved, elderly relative for fear of communicating the virus and thus increase their loneliness or go see them, wearing mask and gloves and staying six feet apart but still worrying because we might find out later that six feet of distance was not enough?

Such claims promise a vast expansion of the market for therapists, but such claims carry great potential for harm, adding to the burdens of people with upsetting but understandable, deeply human feelings by informing them they have psychiatric disorders. Anyone having upsetting feelings deserves love, help, understanding, and support, whether from family and friends or, if they choose, from clergy or therapists. But people also deserve to know about the dangers of classifying all upset as mental illness.

There are two common meanings of the term “black box,” and both apply here. One meaning comes from the Food and Drug Administration’s black box warnings to alert potential consumers to a product’s dangers, and as applied here, people should be warned not to rush to call their upset “mental illness.”

When people are struggling, suffering, or responding in unusual ways, they frequently fear their feelings mean they are “mentally ill,” and that they should be “doing better” than they are. One of the most helpful things that therapists can do is to let them know that their feelings are deeply human reactions, not signs of illness.

A hard look at four facts makes it clear that caution is warranted before pathologizing reactions to the current pandemic:

  • Little is known about COVID-19 or how to protect oneself from it, and its effects can be fatal, so feeling confused, frightened—even terrified, powerless, and helpless—should not be classified as psychiatric disorders but rather as normal and understandable reactions to extremely unusual events.
  • As poet Heather McHugh observes, in our daily lives under ordinary circumstances, we tend to avoid “our fundamental terror at our own deaths,” but the pandemic’s massive concentration of so many deaths at once, and the fact that our own death is now more likely to be imminent, “makes the burden of the knowledge of mortality weigh” heavily on us. McHugh cites Audre Lorde’s poem, “”A Litany for Survival,” which ends with the line “we were never meant to survive.” Suddenly to be confronted with something so terrifying for many people that they usually drive it out of awareness is a shock, and this is disorienting in its own way: The fleeing doesn’t work as well now, so how to begin finding other ways to cope with our mortality?
  • Physical isolation from others interrupts the participation in community that is proven to be healing; and social distancing and stay-at-home policies drastically reduce participation in community. Connections via zoom calls have skyrocketed and can be helpful but have drawbacks. Many include numerous participants, which can inhibit deep conversations about feelings and creation/maintaining of meaningful relationships. Further, there is some strain involved in monitoring who is speaking and when to jump in, and it requires extra energy to remember to stay within camera range, monitor when to mute and unmute oneself, and project enough to be heard. No zoom call can replace human touch, which promotes security, happiness, and belonging. Being unable to hug a loved one without fear of unknowingly transmitting or getting the virus seriously interferes when we want to see people with whom we do not live—grandparents, elderly parents, grandchildren, friends, neighbors.
  • Many people are grappling with increased loneliness, alarm about losing jobs and work identity, new financial crises, and child or spousal abuse. Asians and Asian Americans have been targets of discrimination and abuse because of claims that COVID-19 originated in China. Many African Americans and Latinx people and people in nursing homes, prisons, and psychiatric hospitals know that their risk of getting the virus is higher than that of others, compounding fear, suffering, and anger about the reasons for the increased risk. Upset due to any of these causes should not be called mental illness. The same applies to frontline healthcare and other essential workers and people who have suddenly had to provide constant care for family of all ages and education for offspring or those grieving loved ones’ deaths. As with military veterans traumatized by war, or victims of all forms of oppression and violence, the last thing such people need is to be told their reactions are proof that they are psychiatrically disordered; the message that they should be “coping better” only adds to their burden.

No wonder so many people are feeling upset!

People who are suffering emotionally from the effects of COVID-19 deserve help, but it must be real help, such as lifting their economic burdens, protecting them from violence, and increasing community support, including all of us showing we are willing to listen to what they are going through and acknowledging how common these struggles are. Importantly, we must let them know that their suffering does not warrant classifying them as mentally ill (as psychiatrist Dainius Puras, Special UN Rapporteur, notes).

An increasingly pervasive pattern is the leaping to recommend “therapy” or “mental health services” when attention is drawn to human suffering. This relates to the older meaning of “black box” as something whose inputs and outputs can be viewed but whose internal workings are unknown. The terms “therapy” and “services” are black boxes, so vague that they can include the entire range of good and bad therapists and approaches. Often, well-meaning friends and family, and certainly legislators, feel they have done their bit by sending someone to therapy or voting to increase funding for such services without ensuring that the therapists are caring and effective or that the services actually help. Some therapists are terrific, and some approaches classified as “mental health services” help some people, but some therapists cause harm.

Likewise, psychiatric drugs sometimes help but very often harm, and their use has skyrocketed early in the pandemic, perhaps due to people assuming they would need them, but has now declined to around pre-pandemic levels. Other approaches can cause harm, and some services actually increase suicides. Furthermore, as soon as a person is diagnosed as “mentally ill,” their own focus and that of professionals tend to veer sharply away from nonpathologizing, low-risk and no-risk approaches that are known to be effective.

More than two dozen of the latter, such as involvement in the arts, physical exercise, meditation, having a service animal, doing volunteer work, and having a listener, can be seen here (these are from a conference about veterans but can be helpful for anyone) (see also here). But entities like the APA do not tend to mention such approaches but only focus on therapy and drugs, and the MHA screening tool they cite urges people to see a mental health professional.

Lauren Tenney, Ph.D., a psychologist with expertise in trauma and human rights violations, says that “emotional responses people are having to the unnatural and traumatic circumstances created by the pandemic are not signs of supposed ‘mental illness.’” She stresses that people who are “experiencing a range of emotions outside of their comfort zone ought to see these emotional upheavals as par for the course and attempt to embrace the depths of feelings social isolation can create.”  She urges those who are suffering: “Actively work to connect with others who are having similar experiences” and suggests that “People should be supported in finding resiliency in the face of environmental adversities.”

Even Google is getting into the act, partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to post an “anxiety self-assessment” tool. The announcement of the partnership included description of NAMI, which is heavily funded by Big Pharma, as a “grassroots” organization, and they use a tool that is based directly on a psychiatrized description of anxiety and is titled with a psychiatric disorder’s name. Furthermore, they will “provide access to resources”—there’s that black-box word again, “resources,” developed by NAMI.

A major source of confusion is that when the terms “mental health problems” or “mental health conditions” are used—instead of, for instance, “emotional upset” or “suffering”—they are very often taken to mean “mental illness.” As a result, media reports of increases in which understandable reactions to the pandemic are described as “mental health problems” are easily assumed to indicate increases in psychiatric disorders. Compounding the confusion is that psychiatric disorders are widely—but wrongly—assumed to be scientifically validated entities, so in the face of claims of increases in mental illness, rarely is the basic question asked, “But isn’t ‘mental illness’ defined unscientifically and by whoever has the power to define it?” Instead, the assumption is made that it’s clear what “mental illnesses” are and that they are rising.

One example is a recent warning that the pandemic will increase “postpartum depression” and “perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.” The author, a psychiatrist, comes nowhere near to questioning the validity of these categories and simply alleges that they are partly neurobiologically caused, and she pathologizes expectant mothers’ totally reasonable fears the pandemic provokes, despite acknowledging that social supports (harder to get in the coronavirus era) are crucial to preventing what would more properly called postpartum isolation, fearfulness, and sadness rather than psychiatric disorders.

Curiously, the World Health Organization’s Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns that the “pandemic is highlighting the need to urgently increase investment in services for mental health or risk a massive increase in mental health conditions in the coming months,” despite noting that pandemic factors like “social isolation, fear of contagion, and loss of family members is [sic] compounded by the distress caused by loss of income and often employment.”

The psychiatrizing of America has been so efficacious that many professionals and laypeople readily assume the traditional mental health system can and should solve all emotional problems. Evidence of the limitations of that system include high and increasing rates of suicide and death and high and increasing rates of long-term disability of people treated in that system. Good therapists—and laypeople—can help normalize feelings and explore useful ways to cope.

But therapy must not be seen as the only option or as the one that will definitely help. What has been proven helpful to suffering people has included freedom from economic pressures, poverty, violence, oppression, and inadequate physical health care; a safe place to live; and meaningful human connections. Even the authors of a recent British Medical Journal article warning of a “tsunami” of “mental health cases” note that the people most at risk are those with “precarious livelihoods” and “poorest health,” and fortunately, some groups are assuring people that their upset is understandable in light of the strange, new, massively and abruptly changed circumstances and being torn from their usual communities and sources of support.

Controlled studies of approaches aimed to reduce emotional suffering are nearly impossible to create, but an interesting contrast of the effects of a traditional, pathologizing approach and those of nonpathologizing ones is reported in a recent article about two neighboring Ohio regions. Although more information is needed from similar contrasts, the report from these two is of interest.

The Richland County Mental Health Board, which has encouraged the traditional use of counseling and crisis hotlines, reports a recent increase in suicides. Nearby, Ashland Mental Health and Recovery Board executive director Steve Stone, whose Board advocates nonpathologizing approaches, or what he calls “self-care” and “natural support systems,” reports that their crisis services have not increased and in some respects have slightly decreased, and there have been no suicides and no increase in new people seeking help. He cited peer support programs as crucial to keeping their numbers low, including a sewing group, in which community members made hundreds of face masks, and a writing group that will write letters to patients in state hospitals during the pandemic. Stone is quoted as saying that they rely very little on state hospital and inpatient programs, and he “thinks the need for professional mental health services will remain low based on common sense approaches of people taking care of themselves as well as each other.”

It will add to the tragedies caused by the current pandemic if all hope is focused on the mental health system and is diverted from the many things that reduce suffering and that do so without calling all suffering mental illness.

***

Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for a great blog! Communities like Ashland County, Ohio are possible anywhere where there are respectful, open hearts and minds. It was home to Pat Risser, survivor and advocate, whose relational imprint continues there. In Ashland County “mental health professionals” and other humans collaborate for communal thriving. Steve Stone and David Ross have partnered with their community to enrich opportunities for all members to build opportunities for collective wellbeing. It’s time to grow more communities that honor their differences and forge more just cultures.

  2. And it’s turning us into misanthropes too.

    A blogger I follow is worried about how his alleged brain disease is flaring up. Being forced to stay unemployed and at home all day has nothing to do with it. He thinks.

    Of course, like me, he’s dealt with “sadness shaming.” Our shallow culture can no longer handle anyone the least bit glum or serious. So it’s either a disease we must cure immediately or a shameful sin we must repent of so we can grin ear to ear perpetually like we’re s’posed to. 😛

    Now that I no longer see my depression as a disease I no longer struggle with it for days or weeks at a time. If I feel blue I ask myself, “What can I do to feel better?” It never lasts more than a day or two. Amazing how changing that mindset helped me cope with it successfully.

    • This right here, Rachel! I spent so many years beating myself up and lamenting why I couldn’t ever seem to *get better* from an “illness” that seemed beyond my control. Now when I’m feeling down, I can *always* ascribe it to circumstantial issues. Even the ones beyond my control (people are assholes) are easier to deal with because I can identify them. Simply knowing it’s not an internal flaw helps me shrug it off when life is stressful.

      I do think those of us who have spent so much effort and energy getting to this state of mind are having an easier time coping with COVID stress than those who don’t have our histories of struggle with the system.

  3. Dr. Caplan,

    Excellent article. The great tragedy of all this, however, is that according to the psychiatric establishment, it doesn’t’ matter why we are upset or how valid our feelings and fears are. If you’ve got the fears and they meet psychiatry’s simplistic criteria, then you’re mentally ill! Period. It’s charlatanism, pure and simple.

    Thanks for exposing it so graphically and clearly.

    • Yes, Philip, anyone who is distressed for any reason ever, is “mentally ill” for life, according to the DSM believing psychologists and psychiatrists. Thank you for speaking out against the psychiatrists’ DSM “bible,” Philip and Paula.

      I made the mistake of being distressed by 9/11/2001, in 2001. God forbid I innately knew never ending banker’s wars against invisible enemies were a bad idea way back then. But distress caused by 9/11 was proof of a “life long incurable, genetic mental illness,” to the DSM “bible” thumpers back then. Can you say, political abuse of psychiatry?

      I’m quite certain we need to get rid of the DSM “bible,” and take power away from the systemic child abuse covering up DSM “bible” thumpers. My former “mental health” workers’ actual goal was covering up the abuse of my child for an ELCA pastor, and my former, now systemic child abuse covering up religion, according to medical records.

      https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2019/01/23/18820633.php?fbclid=IwAR2-cgZPcEvbz7yFqMuUwneIuaqGleGiOzackY4N2sPeVXolwmEga5iKxdo
      https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/04/heal-for-life/
      https://books.google.com/books?id=xI01AlxH1uAC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

      But the bottom line reality is, all those distressed by the Covid19 “pandemic” do not have a “life long incurable genetic mental illness,” as the unethical, systemic child abuse covering up, DSM “bible” thumpers will claim.

    • Actually, anyone can have fears and emotional upset. What matters is that they don’t get expressed to people who will cause you harm or take away your freedom in order to assuage THEIR fears – it’s fine to fear for your professional license, for example, and to lock someone up in order to protect yourself. So, to be clear, only those of us not in positions of power need to be careful who we express ourselves to. This is why mutual aid will always be a better method of support than going to see any professional anywhere.

  4. Agree with you all thank you. a friend of forty years plus who was distressed (or whatever we want to call it ) asked me for advice our friend with early onset Alzheimer’s who she is guardian and next of kin for as his large family abandoned him due to their shame about his gayness he is in a nursing home and she has been banned from visiting now for almost 5 months. The care (using the word very loosely) home suggested she seek psych care for herself as she was so “upset” by this inability to see her friend she pre covid visited 5 times a week. Unbelievable… Stuff this is the most intelligent,energetic and resilient focused person you could ever have the privilege to meet! My advice nothing wrong with you .. Write to your political reps and get angry do not buy into this Bs. Lots of people will tho trot off to see a clin psych believing something is “wrong with them..truly a tragedy thank you paula

  5. “Asians and Asian Americans have been targets of discrimination and abuse because of claims that COVID-19 originated in China.”

    The Australian Prime Minister has said that China is lying when they issued a warning to their citizens about travelling to Australia as a result of the increase in attacks on people who look Chinese and thus being the ’cause’ of the COVID pandemic. It’s been strange, one minute the media is showing our Politicians in Chinese restaurants saying “Australia, stop being racists” and then when China says “your racists” they respond with “No we’re not, that’s a lie” lol.

    Combine that with the fact that a Nation which has arbitrary detention and the ability to torture citizens under the Mental Health Act and call it medicine (need a lesson, ask me how), is complaining about the possibility of China passing laws allowing arbitrary detention. I also note the attempt to link the Uhiger population with religious persecution of Muslims. These people are being ‘reeducated’ on cultural, not religious grounds. They are not being stopped from practicing their religion. But it’s a good way to get other countries to make noise.

    There are of course lessons being learned during these ‘shutdowns’ we are experiencing. Lesson that may be valuable (including the easing of ‘anxiety’ etc) when the bombs start dropping. Though I wonder if the saber rattling of our Prime Minster towards China might result on a fairly quick exchange, and the three hours we get to ‘shutdown’ the population before we are defeated in the shortest war in history might not be worth the cost (270 billion for weapons, and we can’t afford to provide healthcare to our indigenous population because ‘remote’. Oh sorry, 16 bed psychiatric unit to go with the new prison that was supposed to replace the old prison they were going to close, but have now decided is necessary despite it being unfit for purpose. I guess the ability to drug anyone who complains will resolve any problems regarding their ‘mental health’. Our Minister for Health standard line, any complaints refer to mental health for treatment. We will not be held accountable, and will silence any complaints with drugs and incarceration [and the odd unintended negative outcome if needed]).

  6. Thanks Paula for another very important blog.
    As you always say, it’s as soon as people are labelled for having normal human reactions to life’s struggles that things really go wrong. It’s scary to think many in ‘MH’ may be happily anticipating all the new ‘clients’ in the making regarding COVID. I discovered even if you don’t have the “reactions” they simply lie and twist facts to suit their agenda. Also learned there’s nothing you can do to change or scrub any lies and made-up labels from your records as this totally subjective, punitive “opinion” (defamation/judging/gossiping) of a psychiatrist is akin to the word of God. The whole labelling thing is a totally corrupt sham. Psychiatrists can defame people without any evidence and with complete impunity. It’s appalling how this scam is allowed to keep ruining so many lives.

  7. Funny you should mention our “leaders” speaking out against POC’s(Persons of Chinese) being targets of bad acts from folks blaming them for the Communist Chinese Party coronavirus Covid-19. I’ve heard exactly ZERO verified news reports of that actually happening. But multiple warnings about that were issued by our erstwhile “leaders”…. Also, boans, I wrote about you in another comment on another story here at MiA, so please let me know any feedback you might have about that, ok?….
    And Paula Caplan, BLESS YOUR HEART. You use such polite and professional words to describe what I’m seeing too! TPTB, the “system”, the “government”, create a life-threatening existential crisis, exaggerate, distort, confuse, obfuscate, bloviate, and terrify “We The People”, then proclaim that they alone can deal with, cope with, “treat”, etc., the results of their creation! So-called “gain-of-function” experiments in Wuhan Biolab in collaboration with Fauci’s NIAID may or may not be responsible for the deliberate or unintentional creation and release of a “novel” (“fiction”) coronavirus. But gee, maybe it’s a naturally occurring zoonotic coronavirus virus after all! You’d think CRISPR and the manufacturing process known as “PCR” would have resulted in more actionable microbiological knowledge by now. Maybe Nobel-prize winning Dr. Kerry Mullis was wrong that his PCR invention was NOT sufficiently reliable to serve in a diagnostic role, and that they have nailed down how many dozen PCR iterations are sufficient for a plausible definitive diagnosis, positive OR negative!
    So good to hear your breath of fresh air and common sense, Paula. Yes, I really, really mean that….

    • Sorry Bradford I can’t say I have seen your response, though I did unsubscribe from a number of articles a short time back. Can you remember which article it was in relation too?

      I was in a Petrol station a few days back and stood and watched a truck driver complain about a young Chinese appearing woman move into a spot he wished to access. I say complain, his exact rather loudly expressed words were “Fuk off you Asian C*(^t”. Now a bit like our government here, she didn’t seem to understand the complaint so it needed to be repeated a number of times, until she removed herself from where the truck driver wished to get his fuel, and the need for his ‘intervention’ and ‘treatment’ for her obvious mental illness of thinking she came before a white man with tattoos whose family stole this country from its rightful owners about 200 years ago lol

      Perhaps I should have filmed the exchange, but then again I realise that in my State any inconvenient truths are covered up by the ‘Party of the Downtrodden’ who manage their image via intimidation and threats. Police more than willing to enable arbitrary detentions for mental health services via doing ‘referrals’ of people collapsed (person asleep in his bed, referred to mental health services under s. 195 of the Mental Health Act due to a suspicion they are a person suffering from a mental illness. How much more “arbitrary” does it get?) as a result of being ‘spiked’. Any complaints about the rampant corruption resulting in citizens being snatched from their beds and ‘treated’ for their illness of disagreeing with the State authorities.

      But don’t believe me, ask our ex Treasurer how it works (he is a much better communicator than I will ever be). Police were despatched to snatch him from his home, and he had to flee the State to receive ‘treatment’ for his bi polar disorder, which apparently couldn’t be done here as a result of what might happen when they removed his human and civil rights because ‘medicine’. The outcome may have been one of those many negative ones which seem to be ‘slipping through to the keeper’ here lol.

  8. Mental illness. The normal human reaction to life in the world at the time, where some people were without the necessary basic human needs, such as, feeling known, cared about, and belonging. Happened to humans, but other humans pretended it was puzzling to them that any of their species would have such reactions. The affected people were assigned various labels to help determine what was done with them, such as, giving them chemicals to interfere with the functioning of their minds, or placing in the care of other specially trained people, who sometimes kept them in buildings designed to isolate them from others. One of the most incomprehensible periods in human history.

  9. Thanks, Paula, for your incredible article.

    As a person with lived experience of psychiatric abuse, I am aware of medical intervention into people’s mental and life problems. This is largely driven by control and money.

    Aren’t the interventions driven by this pandemic into the larger society fired by the same motives?

    I will not go into where this virus came from or causes of the pandemic, but suffice it to say, it gives the medical community an additional boost of power and profit.

    • Don Karp that’s why I’m so miserable.
      Sorry, I have no reason to trust any doctors. Especially bureaucrats with degrees in medicine.

      I would rather take my chances with the Bubonic Plague itself than let these micro-managing control freaks ruin the world. THEY are what really scare me. Not the Covid-19. Even if it had 70% fatality rates like many of the ignorant imagine.

      No, I realize Dr. Fauci never said this. All a bunch of hysterical pearl clutching from watching the News on TV. But this insane fear encourages compliance to the lockdown.

      This is supposed to be for the greater good and save countless lives. These people aren’t dead yet and won’t die–in this segment of the multiverse–if we all hunker down and OBEY the Medical Experts. They’re doctors after all. They don’t make mistakes and only want to save lives.

      If lots of people die it will be in spite of lockdown. Or because we didn’t follow it strictly enough they’ll say. If mortality rates drop it will be because of the lockdown.

      This whole scenario is all too familiar to me. Very depressing. And it may never end.

  10. More info we probably won’t see repeated in the U.S. (at least until there’s no choice):

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-immunesystem-idUSKBN24B1D8

    The next chapter in the COVID saga will likely be an effort to forcibly “vaccinate” everyone; be prepared.

    Probably couldn’t hurt to add this from Ron Paul (ignore the warnings about “socialism”; this is a mischaracterization of what socialism is, and would be more accurately be portrayed as corporate neoliberalism):

    https://orders.stansberryresearch.com/?cid=MKT462034&eid=MKT465922&step=start&assetId=AST143754&page=1

  11. Just as problematic is the idea the there is some sort of medical or scientific consensus on all this. And there are areas where COVID started to spike AFTER mask mandates were introduced.

    No one is saying the virus is a hoax, though its danger is highly exaggerated and it is being used by someone (or many) to manipulate things on many levels.

    Here are two credible articles for those who want some alternate perspectives. One is by a presidential advisor, one by a highly regarded holistic expert; both have been suppressed by social media:

    https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2020/09/11/can-a-face-mask-prevent-coronavirus.aspx

    https://www.hoover.org/research/doctor-scott-atlas-and-efficacy-lockdowns-social-distancing-and-closings-1

    As for Fauci, he is a longtime medical bureaucrat in cahoots with Bill Gates, who is responsible for spreading polio throughout Africa with his “vaccines”:

    https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/un-forced-admit-gates-funded-vaccine-causing-polio-outbreak-africa?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=miximedia&utm_campaign=zerohedge

    Funny how COVID has found its way back into the comment section after all that effort.

    (Point of Information: US COVID deaths are currently at the lowest level since mid-June.)

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