Dec 7, 2020
The following is the editorial from SPARK’s workplace newsletters, for the week of November 30, 2020.
In October two million people were diagnosed with Covid; in November, there were four million new cases.
No, this rapid increase, doubling in one month, is not just more testing. People are dying. Twenty-five states recorded record-high deaths from the virus in November. In nine states, one out of every one thousand residents has died from Covid since January. Two of those states—North Dakota and South Dakota—recorded almost all their deaths over the last three months.
It’s a medical catastrophe. In its midst, one piece of advice is being drummed into our heads: “stay at home.” On Thanksgiving, don’t visit family. Don’t invite friends. Don’t have anyone in beyond your own household—maybe two households if you are sure they have been taking precautions for the last 14 days. (Do we ask our grandmother to show us her negative Covid test?)
Yes, of course, in the middle of a rapidly spreading epidemic, we should take precautions to protect ourselves and to protect others.
Certainly, some people have been careless. Some individuals may even have flaunted their unwillingness to protect others.
But individuals did not cause this pandemic. Covid became a widespread disease because of the actions of government, whether headed by Democrats or Republicans.
For decades, government raided public health funds in order to provide more money to the stock markets. Even after Covid hit, government didn’t restore funds for public health, the main system for battling an infectious disease.
Even after Covid overwhelmed hospitals in New York last March, government didn’t stock up on supplies or medicines that might have reduced the horrible explosion in other areas. It didn’t require companies to produce all the protective equipment and testing supplies needed. It didn’t require hospitals to increase staffs. In fact, it watched as hospitals around the country laid off nurses and other medical staff.
Slaughter houses and many other factories ran under conditions that guaranteed an explosion of the disease. Spreading out from the workplaces, whole towns became infected. Prisons became the new hot spots from which regions were infected. Government watched and did nothing. OSHA? OSHA’s been a joke for a long time.
Politicians debated about schools: stay open or run on the internet. But they didn’t come up with the money to do either. That would have required government to take money away from the corporations and the banks, whose profits have been fed with public money.
Government systematically continued to prioritize profit over the needs of the population—just as it always has done before the virus struck. This is why we are facing an out-of-control epidemic today.
Consider this miracle vaccine that is supposed to save us all—if we can only hang in there and wait. Billions of dollars have already been pumped into pharmaceutical companies for a vaccine. Practically nothing has been spent on preparing to carry out widespread vaccination. The same lack of public health infrastructure that allowed the virus to spread will prevent the vaccine from being delivered in a manner effective for the whole population.
“Stay at home, wait for the vaccine.” This may be the only answer this system has for us. But it is not the answer we need. Our kids need school, a safe school; they suffer without it. We need to work—safely; without work, we don’t cover rent or a house note. We don’t want our elders rotting alone in nursing homes where no one can see them, where we can’t monitor what is happening to them. And, quite simply, we need human contact.
Those are simple needs. A system that can not find the way to deliver them has no reason to exist. We have no reason to want it to go on existing.