The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 600,000 people in the United States, according to the semi-official tabulation by Johns Hopkins University. But while more people have been killed in the US by coronavirus than in any other country, American state governments are moving pell mell to drop all public health protection against the deadly virus, while the Biden administration points to a July 4 reopening of the entire country. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday that all the state’s restrictions on social distancing, indoor gatherings and mask-wearing will be lifted next Tuesday, ending 15 months of state-mandated public health requirements. All capacity limits will be removed for bars, restaurants, arenas, churches and other indoor venues, and the state’s mask mandate will end 10 days earlier than the previous goal of July 1.
On Tuesday, Democratic President-elect Joe Biden gave what was billed as a “major speech” on the coronavirus pandemic. He spoke following a meeting with his coronavirus advisory panel. In perfunctory remarks that lasted barely 15 minutes, Biden provided a grim description of the mass death already occurring and predicted that things would get only worse in the coming months. “We will lose tens of thousands more lives in the months to come,” he said. “Hospitals are being stretched beyond capacity. That is data before the impact of cases coming from the holidays and this coming holiday of New Year’s Eve. “We have to anticipate that infections over the holidays will produce soaring death tolls in February.
Nearly 50 demonstrators lay scattered 6 feet apart wearing face coverings on the lawn outside the school administration's building, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Some protesters held signs resembling tombstones with phrases like "R.I.P. campus safety," or "In loving memory." The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in roughly 160,000 deaths in the U.S. since the start of the outbreak in January. Older adults are typically more prone to severe coronavirus infections, although individuals with weakened immune systems are also at high risk.
Many parents nationwide are questioning whether it’s safe to send their kids back to a brick and mortar school this fall. With varied life circumstances, and different districts and schools choosing different options, it’s a daunting decision to make. For Florida’s Raquel Pantoja Lias, a mom of a rising fourth grader in Broward County, it’s a hard “no.” Under an emergency order from the state education commissioner, most schools are scheduled to reopen on August 19 for in-person learning, five days a week, a plan supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Schools in the U.S. provide students with much more than an education. They provide child care, meals (for 14 million students), medical services (mostly for students with disabilities), psychological counseling, supervised physical activity and social connections. There are more than 135,000 educational institutions and 56.6 million students in grades K through 12. Since 2014 the majority of all public school students have been children of color. (National Center for Education Statistics) While all parents want their children to be able to return to school, more than two-thirds polled want schools physically reopened only if safe.
President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are threatening to cut off federal funding to schools that do not open their doors this fall due to coronavirus concerns. In a recent Tweet he suggests it is a Democrat ploy to hurt him politically by tweeting: “In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families.” In a conference call with governors across the country, Devos stated: “Risk is involved in everything we do, from learning to ride a bike to riding a rocket into space and everything in between.”
A society that is governed in such a way that it fails to protect its people from the catastrophic harm of the COVID 19 pandemic is a society ripe for revolutionary transformation. The pandemic crisis exposes capitalism’s inability to solve the problems it has created for humankind and the earth. The future depends on our class’ – the working class most impacted by the crisis – capacity to implement the visionary transformation necessary to literally save our lives and the planet. From the outset, the U.S. response to the virus illuminated the chasm between the needs of the public’s health and safety and the core corporate character of the government. It isn’t just a case of botched lab tests, or ramping up dwindling supplies. For decades the public healthcare system has been sidelined and intentionally underfunded.
Perhaps it is too difficult for a culture in pursuit of happiness to pause and face this immense loss. Perhaps it is too scary to accept the frailty of human life. Perhaps anger is much easier to access than grief. Anti-apartheid revolutionary and leader Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison. It was there that he learned about patience and perseverance, and acquired a deep, complex understanding of freedom for both the oppressed and the oppressors. In his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom, he wrote, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” If one’s freedom is stifled by social distancing and face masks, then sadly it was not freedom to begin with.
The U.S. has squandered its most important opportunity. Much of the nation implemented lockdowns or "stay-at-home" orders, which slowed the spread of the virus but had important social and economic consequences. The implementation of the lockdowns made perfect sense as an emergency measure, and it undoubtedly saved lives. However, the whole idea of imposing a lockdown is to buy time until the infrastructure for universal testing and the quarantine of infected people and their contacts can be implemented. This has simply not happened. As far as I know, there is no realistic possibility that the U.S. can implement universal testing, contact tracing, and selective isolation of high-risk individuals in the foreseeable future.
The federal government squandered the time the states spent in lockdown. We still face a national shortage of COVID-19 test kits and PPE and there is no nationwide testing or contact tracing program. The United States has 4 percent of the world’s population, but about a third of the world’s coronavirus cases. But some folks were not wasting their time. True to form, the rich are doing everything they can to benefit financially from the crisis—and their work is paying off. The richest 400 Americans were already worth a collective $2.96 trillion last year, more than the bottom 60 percent of Americans combined. Now many of the super-rich are poised to make even more during the pandemic—like the behemoth Amazon, which is propelling CEO Jeff Bezos even closer to becoming the world’s first trillionaire.
Ford Motors CEO Jim Farley said during a recent conference call, “The auto industry is [the U.S.] economic engine. Restarting the entire auto ecosystem is how we restart the economy.” (New York Times, May 18) But Farley has it wrong. It’s the 400,000 production workers at the Detroit Three automakers, Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler (FCA), who resume working today around the world who will have the final say. After a series of wildcat strikes across the industry in mid-March protesting unsafe working conditions in close quarters and lack of protective equipment, the workers are going back with some — but not enough — protection. Their temperatures with be taken after reporting to work each day, and masks, gloves and eye protection are required.
As we get close to two months of quarantine to stop the spread of COVID19 and the government has failed to put in place both public health infrastructure to effectively control the pandemic and economic support to see people through it financially, pressure is building to end it. In addition to the protests against the restrictions on movement and businesses, people are starting to question the rationale behind measures such as wearing masks, quarantining and vaccines. This is being fueled by a few people who are pushing unsubstantiated claims that are causing confusion. We speak with Dr. Andy Coates, a practicing physician in Albany, New York who also teaches evidence-based medicine, about what we know so far about the new SARS-CoV2 virus that is causing COVID19.
In recent weeks, the fabricated “Reopen America” movement, funded and focused by Right Wing billionaires and conservative media, has led to protests around the country, including in Michigan, where white supremacist militias have used it to their advantage for the purposes of recruitment and action. These militias have stormed the Michigan state legislature, interrupted business, and, as of this week, shut down the government of Michigan for fear of possible violence. Any student of history understands the process by which nations slide into authoritarian abyss. It comes, most often, after years of political and social decay, wherein the people lose faith in their corrupted governments and systems, are won over by a budding authoritarian, and watch lawlessness, both in the form of corruption and in out and out fascism, comes into full and unavoidable view.
“I think the bottom line is the politicians and companies don’t care and made a decision to get auto manufacturing going again. While the union is just playing their part and preaching safety protocols, there will be a human cost from this. Everyone knows that.” These remarks by a worker at the General Motors Fort Wayne Assembly plant express a growing feeling among autoworkers that they must take a stand to oppose the premature reopening of auto plants in North America. The Detroit automakers, with the full support of the United Auto Workers, are set to begin ramping up assembly lines Monday in the US, Canada and Mexico. Several Japanese and German automakers have already started producing cars.