For 15 months, Covid theater was the only show in town.

How do you convince the world that human contact is deadly? Show them a city where the waves of fear are almost palpable. Show them wave upon wave of hospital tents, wrapped corpses, pine boxes, mini-morgues, death, death, death.

If corpses are in short supply, you improvise.

Two weeks into the lockdown, a friend sent me a link to Dana Ashlie’s short compilation of “citizen journalist” videos. While millions of scared New Yorkers warmed their hands by the TV, half a dozen actually went out to see what was going on, and captured this footage. The official narrative really starts falling apart around 1:10.

“So when you’re watching this,” narrates Ashlie, “the slant is the great need for the equipment. So the crowded ER shot demonstrates that we have an epicenter of this disease in New York, and we don’t have enough, we need 30,000 ventilators. But the only problem is, this footage has already run on Sky News on March 22nd, talking about Italy. Yeah.”

Sky News anchor:

This is the main hospital in Bergamo, in Lombardy Province. It’s one of the most advanced hospitals in Europe. But it’s the most hard-hit of all the hospitals…

It was a moment of truth for me: the mainstream media were selling fear, not facts.

I shared the link with some friends. One of them immediately dismissed Ashlie’s video as a fake, because his brother had seen bodies stacked like cordwood in the streets of New York.

On TV? I wondered.

I sat out the whole media circus, weighing my information sources carefully. I never experienced an event called “covid,” only the hysterical responses to it. Today, if someone says “before covid” as though it were an event that has mercifully passed, I know their immunization against the truth was successful.

Understandably, they want to move on. Yet, chained to a false past, they never will. Before we can learn from history, we must dismantle false history.

Naomi Wolf does that masterfully in her new book, The Bodies of Others. It’s a grim, but colorful, memoir of how anti-“covid” measures destroyed social interaction and wrecked lives. My personal “Eureka!” moment started on page 81.

In the spring of 2020, The New York Times memorably reported that the city had deployed a set of forty-five mobile morgues. The morgues were photographed lined up in a municipal parking lot, terrifyingly ready to absorb the purported excess number of bodies.

City functionaries now entirely altered the usual method of how bodies were disposed of in Manhattan. Previously, it was standard practice for funeral homes, which are not state or government entities, to retrieve bodies from hospitals to be processed for burial. But in this “emergency,” the city had replaced this system with its own, under the aegis of the office of the chief medical examiner.

A spokeswoman for the office told The New York Times that in addition to the forty-five mobile morgues, eighty-five additional units were to be delivered by FEMA.

Yet in fact, according to Mike Lanotte of the New York State Funeral Homes Directors’ Association, this “bottleneck” had been created because cemeteries had been forced to reduce their hours of operation, meaning that the number of bodies they could bury in a day had been restricted. In other words, the bodies were stacking up so graphically and alarmingly not solely because their overwhelming number meant that there were too many to process, but also because the cemeteries had not been allowed to process them during normal working hours.

The medical examiner’s office further declared that “under the final phase of its plan, the medical examiner’s office would coordinate with all local cemeteries to bury the dead in the ‘temporary mass internment method.’” The horrifying article concluded that under this method, “Ten bodies in caskets are placed lengthwise in a long, narrow section in the ground . . . The foot end of one casket is placed in close proximity to the head end of the next.”

It was, needless to say, traumatic reading. Who wanted such an end for a loved one?

But I was puzzled by the accompanying images of dead bodies on gurneys or under bright-vermilion plastic tarps being transported from hospitals to morgues; the bodies appeared to be tightly bound in medieval-looking winding sheets revealing their human shape. Even weirder, they were being rolled outside of the hospital loading docks, down ramps, and out onto the sidewalks on city streets, all but paraded in front of news cameras.

So I did not doubt the deaths. But I knew media messaging, and media availability, and I was struck that the discretion and privacy of death as handled by private funeral directors had been replaced by a graphic public display of dead bodies to the cameras from multiple angles, as well as by the fact that the city’s emergency officials, having taken over the process of handling the bodies, had evidently leaked to the press not just documents sure to terrify readers, but had made the bodies available to the cameras.

Also notably, news stories, accompanied by vivid photos of multiple caskets awaiting burial, described how Hart Island, off the coast of the Bronx, would be the final resting place for the COVID victims whose remains exceeded cemetery capacities in New York City. News features showed aerial photographs of vast trenches being dug deep into the ground on Hart Island and uniformed workers stacking plain pine caskets one on top of the other within the trenches. The images were shot from above, by drones. They were entirely shocking to most people seeing them.

As it happened, though, I knew about Hart Island, as before the pandemic I had been researching it for a book. It is a “Potter’s Field,” a burial ground for all New York City’s five boroughs. I also knew that shocking as the images truly were in 2020 to those unfamiliar with Hart Island, they were in no way unusual for the uses to which Hart Island had been put over its long history.

What I also knew was that no one was allowed onto Hart Island without government permission. It is a government facility. So I was especially struck by the aerial footage of caskets being buried in a mass grave, images reproduced and described in shocked tones by the BBC, The Washington Post, Sky News, and other outlets worldwide. I knew full well that drones cannot fly over Hart Island without official authorization. So unless someone was violating the law, government officials would either have had to provide the images or given permission for a news outlet to shoot them.

While all of Broadway was shuttered for 15 months (and then reopened only for the “vaxxed”), Andrew Cuomo was the ringmaster of a nonstop media circus.

Over the course of the spring and summer of 2020, Governor Cuomo had rolled out one spectacle of medical terror after another. On April 2, 2020, the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, a massive white hospital ship, docked dramatically at Pier 90 and was secured to great fanfare by the governor. The visuals were stunning.

The ship was an instant iconic symbol of disaster. It had a thousand beds. Yet by April 30, it had quietly departed, having treated fewer than 200 patients, and at times as few as 20, though the hospitals were full. Confusing.

The morgue vehicles ranged before the cameras on Thirtieth Street were succeeded by Governor Cuomo’s announcement that Central Park might be used for a field hospital. By April 17, 2020, Samaritan’s Purse, a private nonprofit organization aligned with Mt. Sinai Hospital, had indeed set up a field hospital in East Meadow in Central Park, made up of fourteen massive white tents. The field hospital made for new highly disturbing images in the news. Samaritan’s Purse ran stories about the desperate surge in cases.

But by May 2, 2020—“Field Hospital that Treated Coronavirus Patients in Central Park to Close,” announced It had been up for fifteen days and then disassembled. A similar indoor facility in Queens had cost $52 million dollars to assemble and treated a total of 79 people before closing after one month.

~Naomi Wolf, The Bodies of Others: The New Authoritarians, COVID-19 and The War Against the Human, 2022, All Seasons Press, pages 81-85.

Cuomo’s media circus had real tragic outcomes. While clowns played doctor in Ring #1 and hustled the audience into cages in Ring #2, the real tragedy was unfolding in Ring #3. Cuomo was routing the sick and dying directly into nursing homes, while hiding the disastrous results with false statistics.

We all have our lockdown memories. My wife and I were the only guests at a wonderful Italian restaurant on our twenty-ninth anniversary. Though it was the dinner hour, the gloved and masked staff had no one else to wait on. I found it a bit creepy.

But I have no “covid” memories. For me, it was a non-event.

~Alan Graham, staff writer