The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

RSV €’ the Latest Sign of a Sick Society

Nov 21, 2022

Infants under six months old are being hospitalized due to Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, seven times as often as they were in 2018, before the Covid-19 pandemic. That, combined with an unusually high rate of hospitalizations among children due to the flu, has hospitals and pediatricians calling on President Biden to declare an emergency to help them out. The outbreaks of RSV and the flu, and the continuing Covid-19 epidemic are also creating huge problems for working class parents, and particularly working women.

RSV is a fairly common virus that spreads every year from the fall to early spring. In most people its effects are no worse than a cold, but may be followed by bronchitis or pneumonia. During the worst part of the Covid-19 pandemic, when many people commonly wore masks, fewer people caught the virus than typically might have. Now that the rate of Covid-19 infections has gone down, fewer people are wearing masks, so other viruses like RSV and the flu are spreading more easily.

Also, because young children were kept from having contact with other kids earlier in the Covid pandemic, they are less likely to have developed immunity to the virus from previous infections. The first time someone is infected with RSV, they generally experience the worst symptoms, which partially explains why so many young children are now being hospitalized.

As a result, over 3 out of 4 pediatric hospital beds are currently filled, with more than 80% in at least 17 states.

This “tripledemic” of RSV, flu, and Covid-19 is contributing to worker “shortages” in daycare centers and public schools. Public schools have 300,000 fewer workers compared to prior to the Covid pandemic, and daycare centers have 80,000 less.

Of course, what the bosses refer to as worker shortages is also related to the fact that workers in education and daycare are paid so poorly. The median childcare worker is paid less than $12 an hour, according to Elizabeth Palley, a professor at Adelphi University. She points out workers can make more money at McDonald’s, so workers are leaving the childcare industry.

This means daycare is more costly for workers who have to rely on it, and likely means they are more crowded, which makes the spread of viruses more likely.

As a result, these illnesses are forcing workers to make difficult choices between going to work and staying home to care for their sick children. Often workers catch the virus from their kids who bring it home from daycare centers or schools. Though 96% of the highest-paid workers have paid sick leave, only 40% of lower paid workers have the same benefit, according to federal data. Hence, many workers go to work sick, where they often spread their viruses to others. Working class parents also have to deal with child care when public schools are forced to close due to illnesses.

The inability of this society to deal with infectious diseases any better than this in this day and age is absolutely ridiculous! Unfortunately, it is part and parcel of a system that puts profits before the well-being of its population. It’s the system of capitalism—a system that has long outlived its usefulness and it needs to go.