The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Spreading Epidemic, Deadly System

Nov 15, 2020

The first wave of Covid-19 hit Washington state, New York City, New Jersey, Detroit and New Orleans last March. The second wave hit Florida, Texas and much of the South in the summer. The third wave broke out in early fall in the Northern plains and the upper Midwest.

Today, mid-November, the virus is engulfing the whole country. On Friday, 181,000 cases were diagnosed, double what it was a week before. Thirty states reached new highs. No state had fewer cases than the week before. States that thought they had recovered got worse. The virus, at one time contained in the cities, overtook the countryside.

Nearly 70,000 people are now hospitalized for Covid, double the number of a month ago. In many rural areas, which today are suffering under the virus, there are no hospitals at all. The big for-profit chains, which took over medical systems several decades ago, closed down the few that had existed, deserting the countryside.

In states like North and South Dakota and Wisconsin, the hospitals that do exist were flooded with patients. Protective equipment was soon in short supply. So were nurses. Hospitals, worried about their profit margins, had already cut staff and equipment. Nurses, without adequate protective equipment, became infected; staffing reached even lower levels, critically lower levels.

Tomorrow there will be more states hit at this devastating level.

Doctors had learned, after the first wave of the epidemic, that if patients are regularly turned over on their stomach many fewer die. Today, in hard hit states, there isn’t enough staff to carry out that simple procedure. Without it, people die.

On Friday, this past week, 1,300 deaths from Covid-19 were recorded, 50% worse than it was the month before.

All of these figures are going up rapidly, doubling in a short space of time. That means, it will be worse next week, and worse again the week after that.

Promises of a vaccine—available, perhaps, sometime in the future—don’t change the trajectory we are currently caught in. The only thing we can be sure of is that every pharmaceutical company producing a vaccine is on line to increase its profits.

It has been obvious since the “first wave” hit that we were facing a deadly virus. Given how interconnected the whole world is by business and travel, this virus had the potential to spread rapidly. It did spread, jumping from one part of the world to another, from one part of this country to another.

The disaster we are caught in today was predictable last spring. In fact, given what medical science already knew about this kind of coronavirus, it was predictable in January, after it first appeared outside of China.

A political system whose aim was to serve the needs of the population, faced with this emergency, would have responded with an emergency program. It would have reorganized itself, marshaled its resources, moved all the money needed from unnecessary expenditures. It would have gotten rid of tax breaks for the wealthy and subsidies for big banks and industrial corporations, put the money into public health.

Just the opposite happened. The 4-trillion-dollar CARES act devoted less than 5% of its money to the medical system—and little of this went to patient care. It devoted little more than 10% for direct payments to the population. The vast amount went to businesses—and thus to their banks.

In other words, the political system did what it has been organized to do: it continued to defend the interests of the capitalist class, at the expense of the population.

A system like this—both economic and political—needs to be thrown out, replaced by one that facing an emergency like this would organize emergency measures.

What those measures should be is not the issue. Medical science has long known how to prevent the spread of an epidemic. What is needed is a political/economic system committed to acting on what is known.