It feels like the United States has been unraveling since the coronovirus traveled there from Europe. Things aren’t great in Europe but the countries here seem to have a better handle on how to deal with a public health crisis. For one thing, there are national health systems here, where people are insured through their governments and medical care is a right, not a priviledge. In the U.S., the majority of people under 65 are insured with health care policies they have through their workplace. Now that 22 million people in the U.S. are out of work, how will they be covered for regular medical care, to say nothing of care if they get sick with covid-19? This, alone, is a catastrophe.
We are now starting our sixth week of lockdown in Spain. As of today, April 22nd, Spain has 208,389 covid-19 cases, including 21,717 deaths. Spain currently has the most deaths from the pandemic among all European countries. But the United States has almost four times as many cases! It has 819,175 reported cases as of today, with 45,343 deaths, more than twice as many as Spain.
Here in Spain, people understand the need for a lockdown, given the massive numbers of covid-19 cases. Of course, people don’t like to be forced to stay home, but we understand why it is necessary. So far, I haven’t heard of any people going out to demonstrations to protest the lockdowns, like you read about in the United States. These protests have happened in more than a dozen U.S. states. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52359100. These include:
- North Carolina
- New Hampshire
In addition, in the United States, five governors never even issued stay-at-home orders, despite having covid-19 cases. They are North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas and Iowa. Georgia’s Republican governor Brian Kemp has even decided to end the short-lived lockdown he instituted in that southern state. Kemp said businesses like bowling alleys, tattoo studios and hair salons would reopen this week if they met safety standards and enforced social distancing. Movie theaters and restaurants could reopen on Monday, according to news reports. This seems really dumb to me. The pandemic hasn’t gone away. Yes, businesses are suffering but peoples’ lives are more important than the almighty dollar.
I think this attitude of profits before people is one of the reasons the U.S. is unraveling. For example, meat packing companies in the U.S. have been hit with huge outbreaks of covid-19 illinesses. Rather than stop production long enough to figure out a safe way to continue operating the plant and supply workers with masks when the epidemic hit, company owners kept operating as usual and hundreds of workers got sick in eight states. Some meat packing workers have already died, including Saul Sanchez, who died at a beef plant in Greeley, Colorado. For details, read this NPR report. https://www.npr.org/2020/04/19/838195049/meatpacking-plant-working-conditions-stoke-coronavirus-spread. At the same time, these low-wage workers rarely have paid sick leave, so if they do get sick, many of them would be more than likely to come to work anyway.
I think that putting money-making ahead of saving people’s lives is a terrible way to run a country. And the U.S. currently has a president who is all about making money and helping his rich friends to do the same. That’s why he is in a hurry to open the country back up despite the risks to public health. He doesn’t care about people dying and has never once expressed sorrow for all the pain and suffering the American people are experiencing right now. He just wants the economy to get back to normal so he can hopefully still win the presidential election in November.
Trump has his signature put on the $1,200 checks most Americans got in mid-April to help them deal with the economic upheaval caused by the stay-at-home orders most state governors have instituted. But now that we are closing in on May, what are people who can’t work supposed to do now to help pay their mortgages or rents, their utility bills, their insurance payments, their car payments, etc?
At the same time, how is anyone expected to confidently go back to work if there isn’t adequate covid-19 testing in place all over the United States? If you go to work or just go out shopping to support a local business, couldn’t you catch the virus from someone you interact with? And then if you start to feel sick, how would you know if you even had the virus if you can’t be tested?
Here in Spain, you can get tested at the local pharmacy, either to see if you have covid-19 or to see if you have antibodies from covid-19, such as for those people who have already been ill from the virus and are now recovering. The antibodies test is 85 euros with same day results while the covid-19 test is 215 euros and you get your results within 48 hours.
I took this photo at a pharmacy about 10 minutes from our house. In addition to offering covid-19 tests, they also sold me some masks for when we want to visit a pharmacy or go to the grocery store. Tests are available here and that does not appear to be the case throughout the U.S.
So let’s review the great unraveling that is taking place in the U.S. More than 22 million people are out of work so far, many have lost their health insurance, more people are dying there than anywhere else in the world, the president doesn’t take responsibility for what is happening, some businesses don’t want to close long enough to keep their workers safe, sick people are going to work because they don’t have paid sick leave, some people are protesting the lockdowns because it is an infringment on their “freedom,” some governors are opening up their states to economic activity despite grave risks, and many Americans are having difficulty paying their bills and getting tested to see if they have covid-19. Need I say more?