Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

Pick a SPECIFIC date to explore

Nov 15: Trump tweets that Biden won the election because it was rigged.

Nov 16: Moderna announces that its COVID vaccine is nearly 95% effective. President-elect Biden calls for a unified, coordinated coronavirus response. Local and state governments renew their restrictions as cases soar. The FBI announces that hate-crime killings in the United States surged in 2019 to 51. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) says that Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), have been pushing him to question the validity of absentee ballots that Raffensperger knows were legally cast. Trump announces that he will drastically cut the number of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Nov 17: President Trump fires Christopher Krebs, the head of the federal election cybersecurity agency, for rejecting Trump’s false vote-fraud claims. The FDA approves its first complete at-home rapid COVID-19 test. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reverses one of the few legal victories that Trump has won in the election battle. They rule that that Republican election observers were not improperly prevented from watching ballot counting in Philadelphia, which heavily favored President-elect Joe Biden. The Wayne County, Michigan, Board of Canvassers late Tuesday votes to certify the Nov. 3 election results, breaking an earlier 2-2 deadlock along party lines. The board’s two Republican members previously opposed certifying the results in the county. The Pentagon announces there will be troop reductions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Nov 18: Pfizer announces that its vaccine is 95% effective. The U.S. COVID-19 death toll passes 250,000. A judge says Trump can’t use coronavirus as reason to turn away migrant children. NYC suspends in-person classes. Rudy Giuliani, representing President Trump’s campaign, on Wednesday asks a federal judge to scrap election results and essentially declare Trump the winner in Pennsylvania, which Biden won by 82,000 votes.

From the Cutting Room Floor...

The initial surge of coronavirus carved its way down the coasts, then to the American South, now up through the middle, killing a quarter of a million Americans. Most historical accounts peg the number of American World War 1 dead at 117,000 over two years of fighting plus disease across the European battlefields.[1] In nine months, twice that many Americans have died—now at a pace of one every minute.[2] It’s safe to say we are in the throes of a surge that some predicted wouldn’t arrive until winter temperatures forced most Americans indoors. Despite all of it, too many of our countrymen and women still believe the threat is overblown, a matter for cities, for nursing homes, for the poor, for not-them.[3]

Have we learned many lessons as a society during the last nine months? Evidence suggests not many. Large universities are about to send thousands of college students back to their home communities. There’s no telling what precautions most of them have taken to avoid spreading coronavirus to their families. While some campuses have insisted students test before leaving, the provisions are much, much looser at some state schools that enroll an enormous number of students.[4] Compounding the overall sense that we are about to walk into a very troubling set of events next week, a Tripadvisor poll suggests over half of Americans are still going to travel over Thanksgiving, making it a likely source of coronavirus transmission – especially because the places that are “recovering” from the pandemic are in areas that are not robust in their restrictions.[5] It won’t happen to me, many of us seem to be saying over and over again. That’s someone else’s issue. As a result, the cases keep climbing and the hospitalizations soon after.

There does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel, provided we can hold on until we get there. Moderna announces its first vaccine trial shows results similar to Pfizer’s—a 94.5% effectiveness rate.[6] They also claim to need a less-cold environment to store their vaccine, making it a better candidate than the Pfizer vaccine for broad distribution.[7] Granted, these claims are according to their business-oriented press release, not a laboratory study that’s been peer reviewed. And even Moderna’s CEO admits that there is no way they’ll be able to mass produce their vaccine for several more months.[8] Still, the Moderna has some reassuring star power behind it—none other than Dolly Parton put up millions in funding.[9]

Much like the Pfizer announcement nine days ago, scientists urge caution.[10] These are amazing and positive claims, assures Francis Collins, director of the NIH and one of the directors of the Human Genome Project, two decades ago now. Yet the FDA still needs to review everything before providing the all-important Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Like the case with the Pfizer vaccine, there is that suspicion expressed by David Gorski in September—though Collins doesn’t express it—that the regulatory power of the FDA has been captured by the corporations. If Moderna stock is sold off in bulk today, at the height of its price, much like the Pfizer CEO did on November 9th, then the suspicions will seem even more justified.

Parton’s support of the vaccine hasn’t made her a target of the conspiracy theorists in arms, thankfully. Their preferred villain, billionaire Bill Gates, continues to bang the drum that vaccine development, crucial though it is, is only the first stage. Back in March, even before the waves of coronavirus crippled New York, Gates began shoveling his own money toward building vaccine manufacturing capacity.[11] The US still falls desperately short in our capability to develop these vaccines in the historically large quantities necessary. And that doesn’t even touch on the supply chain problems that the nation faces.[12] If this supply chain does not get sorted quickly, we may see something akin to what we experienced with milk during the spring—the lifesaving treatment we need to get out of the pandemic and no way to get it to us fairly and efficiently.

These supply and distribution bottlenecks have already led to a kind of rising “vaccine nationalism” that makes countries, like India, fear that their citizens will be left out as the vaccines filter out across the globe.[13] The World Health Organization’s COVAX program is attempting to address this problem by coordinating governments, global health organizations, manufacturers, scientists, private sector, civil society and philanthropy, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines to the world.[14] Unfortunately, the Trump administration refused to join COVAX because it’s led by the WHO and locks the US into sharing vaccine, which it doesn’t want to do.[15] Hopefully, a Biden/Harris administration will change this policy, because otherwise the world’s most vulnerable will be waiting for years for a vaccine while the already-advantaged nations defend their supplies. On a happier note, even if the US stays protective, however, there are other candidate vaccines that can be ramped up and distributed across the globe more easily.[16]


[1] Gillian Brockell, “250,000 Lives Lost: How the Pandemic Compares to Other Deadly Events in U.S. History,” Washington Post, November 19, 2020,

[2] Christina Maxouris and Theresa Waldrop, “US Sees Highest Covid-19 Death Toll in Months as Deaths Top a Quarter of a Million,” CNN, November 18, 2020,

[3] Marc Fisher, Shayna Jacobs, and Pam Kelley, “America’s 250,000 Covid Deaths: People Die, but Little Changes,” Washington Post, November 18, 2020,

[4] Jillian Berman, “Colleges Are Trying to Prevent Superspreader Events as They Prepare for a Mass Migration of Students Going Home,” MarketWatch, November 10, 2020,; Shawn Hubler, “Thanksgiving Will Soon Empty Campuses. Will Students Bring Coronavirus Home?,” The New York Times, November 9, 2020, sec. U.S.,

[5] “Tripadvisor Reveals 2020 Thanksgiving Travel Index: Over Half (56%) of Americans Still Traveling,” Tripadvisor, November 9, 2020,

[6] “Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate Meets Its Primary Efficacy Endpoint in the First Interim Analysis of the Phase 3 COVE Study,” Business Wire, November 16, 2020,

[7] “Moderna Announces Longer Shelf Life for Its COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate at Refrigerated Temperatures,” November 16, 2020,

[8] Stephen Gandel, “Moderna CEO Says Its Coronavirus Vaccine Won’t Be Ready until Spring of next Year,” CBS News, October 1, 2020,

[9] Timothy Bella, “Dolly Parton Helped Fund Moderna’s Vaccine. It Began with a Car Crash and an Unlikely Friendship.,” Washington Post, November 18, 2020,

[10] Helen Branswell, “Vaccine Experts Say Moderna’s Covid-19 Data Leave Big Questions,” STAT (blog), May 19, 2020,

[11] Bill Gates, “Opinion | Bill Gates: Here’s How to Make up for Lost Time on Covid-19,” Washington Post, March 31, 2020,; Henry Zeffman, “Bill Gates Pledges Billions to Find Coronavirus Vaccine,” April 7, 2020, sec. news,

[12] Lora Cecere, “Vaccine To Vaccination. The Need For Supply Chain Innovation.,” Forbes, November 11, 2020,

[13] T. V. Jayan, “Covid Vaccine: Distribution, Not Production, Is Challenge,” The Hindu Times, November 13, 2020,; Kai Kupferschmidt, “‘Vaccine Nationalism’ Threatens Global Plan to Distribute COVID-19 Shots Fairly,” Science, July 28, 2020,

[14] Seth Berkley, “COVAX Explained,” Gavi: The Vaccine Alliance, September 3, 2020,

[15] Tommy Beer, “U.S. Won’t Join Global Coronavirus Vaccine Effort Because It’s Led By The WHO,” Forbes, September 1, 2020,; Emily Rauhala and Yasmeen Abutaleb, “U.S. Says It Won’t Join WHO-Linked Effort to Develop, Distribute Coronavirus Vaccine,” Washington Post, September 1, 2020,

[16] Annalisa Merelli, “What’s Going to Happen to All Those Other Covid-19 Vaccine Candidates?,” Quartz, November 18, 2020,

Read more

Kate Woodsome, “Opinion– Inside the ‘Million MAGA March’: Hate groups, families and false claims of election fraud,” Washington Post, November 18, 2020,

Kelly O’Donnell, “As Protesters Clash At Million MAGA March, Trump Attacks ‘Human Radical Left Garbage’,” TODAY Sunday, NBC, November 15, 2020,

Eva Pilgrim, “Moderna announces COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough,” ABC World News Tonight, November 16, 2020,

“Dolly Parton helped fund Moderna COVID-19 vaccine research,” CBS Evening News, November 17, 2020,

“Michigan Republicans Disgrace The GOP With Failed Attempt To Block Certification Of Election Results,” The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, November 18, 2020,

Rod Maloney, “Wayne County Board of Canvassers certifies election results after GOP refusal,” WDIV NBC 4, Click on Detroit, November 18, 2020,

Brockell, Gillian. “250,000 Lives Lost: How the Pandemic Compares to Other Deadly Events in U.S. History.” Washington Post, November 19, 2020.
Fisher, Marc, Shayna Jacobs, and Pam Kelley. “America’s 250,000 Covid Deaths: People Die, but Little Changes.” Washington Post, November 18, 2020.
Chan, Eugene Y. “Pro-Mask or Anti-Mask? Your Moral Beliefs Probably Predict Your Stance.” The Conversation, November 16, 2020.
Williams, Corey, and John Flesher. “Trump Influence Seen in Deadlock of Michigan Election Board.” AP News, November 18, 2020.
Alexander, Peter, Dareh Gregorian, Monica Alba, and Heidi Przybyla. “Trump Invites Michigan GOP Lawmakers to White House after Calling Officials in Key County.” NBC News, November 19, 2020.
Chishti, Muzaffar, and Jessica Bolter. “The ‘Trump Effect’ on Legal Immigration Levels: More Perception than Reality?” Migration Policy Institute, November 19, 2020.
“Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate Meets Its Primary Efficacy Endpoint in the First Interim Analysis of the Phase 3 COVE Study.” Business Wire, November 16, 2020.
“Moderna Announces Longer Shelf Life for Its COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate at Refrigerated Temperatures.” Business Wire, November 16, 2020.
Social Media
Additional Links