Just a week after the midterm elections, the Senate voted to end the National Emergency Declaration on Covid-19. This vote, in which Democrats joined Republicans 62-36, comes after the U.S. handled the Covid-19 pandemic in impressively pitiful fashion, with over 1 million dead and millions more grappling with long Covid-19 symptoms. It also comes as winter months approach and respiratory illnesses are on the rise, particularly among children as pediatric intensive care units reach capacity. Ending the National Covid-19 Emergency declaration could affect anything from the access to medical supplies to helping cover costs of Covid-19 testing. Its end could also help pave the way to restart student loan payments. Ironically, the vote comes with the help of the Democrats, members of the same party who claimed just a week earlier that they needed the public’s support at the ballot box so they that could keep protecting the public interest, from Covid-19 policies to protecting abortion rights.
American citizens pride themselves for living in a country that most of them believe is superlative — freest, most powerful, most entrepreneurial. Yet despite the spheres where it has high standing, the United States ranks dismally among its peer nations when it comes to deaths from COVID-19. “Dismal” might not be a strong enough adjective, actually: the U.S. ranked dead last among its peer nations, with the most deaths per capita. The data comes from a new study published in the medical journal JAMA, which also analyzed state-by-state vaccination and public health data. Alarmingly, researchers noted that if every state in the United States had the same vaccination rates as those states with the highest vaccination rates, more than 100,000 lives would have been saved.
In the last week of October, João Pedro Stedile, a leader of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Brazil and the global peasants’ organisation La Via Campesina, went to the Vatican to attend the International Meeting of Prayer for Peace, organised by the Community of Sant’Egídio. On 30 October, Brazil held a presidential election, which was won by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, affectionately known as Lula. A key part of his campaign addressed the reckless endangerment and destruction of the Amazon by his opponent, the incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro. Lula’s victory, helped along by vigorous campaigning by the MST, provides hope for our chance to save the planet. This week’s newsletter contains the speech that Stedile gave at the Vatican. We hope you find it as useful as we do.
Natalie Rhodes, PhD candidate at University of Leeds, and People’s Health Movement, along with Remco van de Pas, researcher at the Centre for Planetary Health Policy, and People’s Health Movement discuss in detail about the implications of the newly established World Bank fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response and the Bank’s other policies pertaining to public health.
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.
These are deeply upsetting times. The COVID-19 global pandemic had the potential to bring people together, to strengthen global institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO), and to galvanize new faith in public action. Our vast social wealth could have been pledged to improve public health systems, including both the surveillance of outbreaks of illness and the development of medical systems to treat people during these outbreaks. Not so. Studies by the WHO have shown us that health care spending by governments in poorer nations has been relatively flat during the pandemic, while out-of-pocket private expenditure on health care continues to rise.
International comparisons to U.S. health outcomes make clear that GDP (Gross Domestic Product) cannot reliably suggest a healthcare system’s quality. Defined by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as “a monetary measure of the value of final goods and services,” GDP tells us nothing about the efficiency of health services or the accessibility of critical medical care such as vaccination, hospitalization and basic health exams – all important determinants of a healthcare system’s adaptability when emergencies put pressure on our health infrastructure. This is particularly true in the case of Cuba.
As COVID-19 continues to rage, another health crisis persists — one that is decades long. In the first year of the pandemic, the United States hit the devastating milestone of 100,000 overdose deaths, a nearly 28.5 percent surge from the record numbers we saw the previous year. Now, fentanyl is the leading cause of death in Americans ages 18-45. The reaction from many of our leaders has been to call for more arrests and criminalization, but this response is rooted in fear, not science. We have spent the last 50 years trying to treat a public health issue with a criminalization response, yet people are dying of overdose at record rates. This response is clearly not working. The evidence is clear: Criminalization worsens public health outcomes.
n a shake-up of an institution named for one of the world’s wealthiest and most influential oligarchs, Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa was appointed to the Gates Foundation’s board of trustees this January. He will be joined on the board by a seemingly diverse cast of corporate elites known for their embrace of technocratic and neoliberal policies. Back in 2007, Masiryiwa helped orchestrate a failed attempt to overthrow the government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe alongside the US and the Zimbabwean opposition party it was backing, the Movement for Democratic Transition. Both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency were made aware of the regime change plans by the Zimbabwean telecom magnate Masiyiwa, and were advised by the US embassy in Pretoria, South Africa to share “elements” of the US government’s “strategy” with him.
A year after Joe Biden’s inauguration, things seem bleak. Despite the existence of life-saving vaccines, tests and masks, on January 21, more than 3,000 people were reported to have died of Covid-19, and the last time daily deaths were below 1,000 was in August. With the more transmissible Omicron variant spreading like wildfire, and only 63% of the country with two doses of the vaccine (only 43% of adults with their booster), things may continue to get worse before they get better. Hospitals are filled to the brim while schools and industries deal with absences. Clearly, we need a policy reset. We need to provide people with the resources and information they need to get through this surge and the rest of the pandemic.
On January 13, 2017, a family including a husband, wife and three small children scurried from building to building in East Mosul, Iraq. They were seeking refuge as a battle between ISIS (also known as Daesh) and U.S.-backed forces swirled around them. The family was huddled in an abandoned school surrounded by other civilians when a U.S.-operated drone struck and destroyed the structure. The father and one of his sons narrowly escaped with their lives. The tragic fate of his wife and other children would not be confirmed until months later when he watched as their bodies were excavated from the rubble. This account was just one of several described in a recent publication of Pentagon reports documenting the extensive civilian casualties resulting from U.S. drone and air strikes.
On Friday, Chinese health authorities began testing every single resident of Zhengzhou, the capital of China’s central Henan Province, after a handful of COVID-19 cases were detected in the massive city of 12.5 million. Just six hours later, they were finished, achieving a rate of 2.1 million people tested per hour, or 583 residents per second, according to the Global Times. For comparison, that is equal to New York City and Chicago combined. On Sunday, health officials set about trying to do it again with the even larger city of Tianjin, home to 14 million people. China’s National Health Commission reported a total of 157 new cases in all of mainland China on Sunday, 97 of which were domestically transmitted. Of those 97, 60 were in Henan, including 24 in Zhengzhou, and 21 cases in Tianjin, a port city southeast of Beijing. The city also said over the weekend that it had detected two cases of Omicron.
As the Omicron variant continues to surge, despite 90,132 new positive cases reported in New York on Saturday and one in three Covid-19 tests coming back positive in New York City, schools have been forced to stay open with insufficient safety measures as many students, and staff continue to test positive. Eleven members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Solidarity Caucus filed a lawsuit seeking mandatory remote learning until all students and workers can be tested, but Mayor Eric Adams continues to insist that schools must stay open at all costs, and even that schools are the safest place for students to be. Students and teachers are being forced to return to extremely unsafe conditions so that parents can go back to work and the economy can go “back to normal.”
A new study out of York University in Toronto, Canada finds that the US military plays a large role in the spread of diseases globally, including past and present pandemics. Clearing the FOG speaks with one of the lead authors, K J Noh, an expert analyst on the geopolitics of the Asian-Pacific region and health, about the study. Important factors in the spread of disease are Status Agreements that the US military makes with local and national governments that exempt members of the military from being required to follow public health measures and a culture of impunity within the military that leads to members defying all public health restrictions, even those measures imposed by the military. Noh also explains how the weaponization of disease is causing harm to everyone and why the US establishment doesn't want the public to know there are governments designed to serve their populations.
Two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released sobering statistics showing a record-breaking number of drug overdoses in the U.S. in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 260 advocacy groups called on lawmakers Tuesday to urgently pass public health proposals to mitigate the crisis. Led by the Drug Policy Alliance, People's Action, the National Harm Reduction Coalition, and VOCAL-NY, the organizations said the unprecedented number of overdoses in the 12-month period ending in April 2021 was "grim, but not unexpected" considering the criminalization of drug use in the United States and lack of resources for people with drug use disorders.