On Sunday night, Joe Biden declared in an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes that the Covid-19 “pandemic is over.” Not so coincidentally, this statement comes right after existing federal pandemic response funding has run out, and after attempts at approving more money were routinely removed from spending bills in order to designate more money for Ukraine. If the pandemic is “over,” the government can be excused for failing to provide additional support. But while official cases, hospitalization, and death counts are all much lower now compared to the peak of the Omicron wave in January, and while vaccines continue to mitigate the severity of illness, the Covid-19 virus is still wreaking havoc in the United States. The pandemic continues to still not be over.
Recent data shows that between 2019 and 2021, life expectancy (LE) in the US plunged almost three years while for Cuba it edged up 0.2 years. Yet, in 1960, the year after its revolution, Cuba had a LE of 64.2 years, lower by 5.6 years than that in the US (69.8 years). As I document in Cuban Health Care, the island quickly caught up to the US and, from 1970 through 2016, the two countries were nip and tuck, with some years Cuba and other years the US, having a longer LE. But neither country was ever as much as one year of LE ahead of the other. This continued through the beginning of Covid, which sharply changed the pattern. LE in the US suddenly dropped behind that in Cuba. Bernd Debusmann Jr.of BBC News wrote, "LE in the US fell “to the lowest level seen since 1996. Government data showed LE at birth now stands at 76.1 compared to 79 in 2019. That is the steepest two-year decline in a century.”
Life expectancy is one of the best measures of human development. In hunter-gather societies, on average, about 57-67% of children made it to 15 years. Then 79% of those 15 year-olds made it to 45 years. Finally, those remaining at 45 years could expect to reach around 65-70 years. So we can see that life expectancy at birth in these societies was very low, given high child mortality. But some 40% did make it to about 65 years on average. It seems to have been worse in the class-based feudal and slave societies. The average medieval life expectancy for a peasant was only a mere 35 years of age at birth, but it was closer to 50 years on average for those who made it beyond 15 years. You can see that measuring life expectancy at birth is not a perfect guide to how long humans did live in pre-capitalist societies. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that life expectancy on average rose sharply once science came to bear on hygiene, sewage, knowledge of the human body, better nutrition etc.
After signing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) last spring, President Joe Biden touted what the economic stimulus bill would deliver: food assistance to millions of people in need, lower healthcare premiums for millions of Americans, and $350 billion for state and local governments to spend on COVID-19 recovery. Economists say it was the largest infusion of federal funding in local governments in almost 40 years. A year later, ARPA became one of President Biden’s talking points to demonstrate Democrats are not out to defund the police. “[T]he American Rescue Plan … provided $350 billion that cities, states, and counties can use to hire more police, invest in more proven strategies like community violence interruption, trusted messengers,” Biden said during his State of the Union address this year.
Four and a half million people. That’s how many Chinese people would have died from Covid-19 had its government taken the same approach to the pandemic that the United States has taken, and gotten the same results. Instead, China has had 15,000 deaths from Covid—most of these from an outbreak in the spring of 2022 in Hong Kong, which has its own healthcare system. Meanwhile, the United States has lost more than a million people to Covid since the pandemic began. Deaths currently continue at the rate of about 450 a day, which would add up to roughly 160,000 a year if present trends continue.
Americans born in 2021 can expect to live for just 76.1 years — the lowest life expectancy has been since 1996, according to a new government analysis published Wednesday. This is the biggest two-year decline — 2.7 years in total — in almost 100 years. The Covid-19 pandemic is the primary cause of the decline. However, increases in the number of people dying from overdoses and accidents is also a significant factor. American Indian and Alaskan Native people have experienced a particularly precipitous drop in life expectancy since 2019, going from 71.8 to 65.2 years. This kind of loss is similar to the plunge seen for all Americans after the Spanish Flu, said Robert Anderson, the chief of the mortality statistics branch of the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Advocates for a more just healthcare system responded with alarm to Thursday reporting that the Biden administration is taking steps to stop paying for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments in the coming months, a move critics fear will lead to higher prices and more expensive coverage, enriching pharmaceutical and insurance giants at the expense of patients. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to meet with representatives from drug manufacturers, pharmacies, and state health departments on August 30 to "map out" how to shift the bill for coronavirus jabs and therapeutics from the federal government to individuals, according to The Wall Street Journal. The looming transition that many have anticipated and resisted since the onset of the ongoing pandemic is expected to take months.
COVID-19 cases persist all over the world, causing special concern in regions where vaccination rates are low due to inequities in access to vaccines. As the pandemic continues, analyses of the global response continue to point out the dangers of the predominant multi-stakeholder driven campaigns. One of the latest in line of such analyses is a report published by Transnational Institute and Friends of the Earth International in July. It zooms into how transnational corporations (TNCs) seized the opportunity to gain more power over international institutions and expand markets during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the launch of the report, Lauren Paremoer from the People’s Health Movement underlined that the capture of the multilateral system by TNCs and private philanthropies was already underway before the pandemic, but the extraordinary circumstances led to an unanticipated expansion.
Once upon a time there was a company called 3M. You might recall that name because everybody loved them when they made a billion face masks during the pandemic. Remember at the beginning everybody was like, “Where are we gonna get enough face masks?! We need roughly a quadrillion and the entire US only has... seven. What are we gonna do?” So people were wearing all kinds of weird shit on their faces. And then a few companies like 3M said, “We got it. We’re national heroes. We’re like the dudes who landed on the moon.” And I was like, “No you aren’t! You’re fuckin’ making a boatload of cash. You’re not sacrificing your life, running into enemy fire with a knife between your teeth. No, you saw that you could make a trillion dollars by pumping out face masks. Stop acting like you cured polio with a third grade chemistry set.
California - The COVID pandemic has thrown a harsh light on long-running medical neglect of incarcerated people and exposed the hold that the prison-industrial complex has on California politics. But even as it has done so, it has made openings for activism by and on behalf of the nearly 100,000 people in the state’s prisons, among whom people of color are dramatically overrepresented. California’s state prisons are once again in the midst of a COVID-19 crisis. In Winter 2020, cumulative infections among the incarcerated population topped 45,000, and cases reached over 10,000 in a single day. One year later, the highly contagious omicron variant swept through all the institutions, with cases topping 6,000 in a single day. No sooner had that outbreak subsided than a new wave of cases hit.
Minnesota emergency room nurse Cliff Willmeng remembers, during the early days of the pandemic, treating a patient at United Hospital who asked how the nurses were doing. The man was a Vietnam veteran, and Willmeng recalls that he said, “This is your war.” “I kind of laughed, like what do you mean by that?” said Willmeng, who recalled he didn’t grasp at the time how horrible the pandemic would become. “He said, ‘We dealt with this in Vietnam. You don’t know it yet but none of you are ever going to be the same again.’” More than two years later, Willmeng, like countless other nurses and frontline workers nationwide, knows all too well how true those words turned out to be. “The combination of the lethality of the virus and the seemingly total abandonment of collaboration from the management I was under produced anxiety and fear in me I had never felt, never,” said Willmeng.
In May and June of 2022 two milestones were passed in the world’s battle with Covid and were widely noted in the press, one in the US and one in China. They invite a comparison between the two countries and their approach to combatting Covid-19. The first milestone was passed on May 12 when the United States registered over 1 million total deaths (1,008,377 as of June 19, 2022, when this is written) due to Covid, the highest of any country in the world. Web MD expressed its sentiment in a piece headlined: “US Covid Deaths Hit 1 Million: ‘History Should Judge Us.’” Second, on June 1, China emerged from its 60-day lockdown in Shanghai in response to an outbreak there, the most serious since the Wuhan outbreak at the onset of the pandemic.
MPLP was established in 1971 by a group of physicians who were also members of the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA). They did this because they felt the need to translate words to action, to ensure that healthcare is accessible to the people who need it, and this included a way of providing people free health consultations. They started the first health house in Antwerp, and since then, we have managed to establish 10 more health houses, guided by the same ideals from more than 50 years ago. There are many more health workers working with MPLP now, too, and not only physicians: nurses, psychologists, they’re all part of our teams now. But of course, during this time, a lot of things changed: the impact of social determinants of health developed in one way, the pharmaceutical industry changed a lot, and so on.
Americans spend more on health care than people in any other nation. Yet in any given year, the piecemeal nature of the American medical insurance system causes many preventable deaths and unnecessary costs. Not surprisingly, COVID-19 only exacerbated this already dire public health issue, as evidenced by the U.S.’s elevated mortality, compared with that of other high-income countries. A new study quantifies the severity of the impact of the pandemic on Americans who did not have access to health insurance. According to findings published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, from the pandemic’s beginning until mid-March 2022, universal health care could have saved more than 338,000 lives from COVID-19 alone.
Major tobacco companies including British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International are funding an anti-regulatory, libertarian-leaning organization, Consumer Choice Center (CCC), that is working to restrict global Covid-19 vaccine access. CCC is mobilizing to defeat a proposal at the World Trade Organization to suspend intellectual property rules related to Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. The WTO proposal is aimed at expanding global access to life-saving Covid-19 products, and reversing staggering international inequities. By funding its opposition, critics say the tobacco industry is undermining public health, which will have impacts not only during this pandemic — but the next one. The CCC supports a broad array of deregulatory measures, and the tobacco industry is, famously, a champion of deregulation.