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A progressive agenda for COVID-19 pandemic preparedness

By Steff Yorek |
March 1, 2020
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Minneapolis, MN - As COVID-19 spreads in the United States, the potential exists for the corporate health care system to be overwhelmed. American capitalism has developed a health care system well-equipped with fancy technologies and expensive medical devices, but poorly-equipped to do basic public health. There is no profit in the basics of health care and disease prevention.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by a new type of coronavirus circulating the world. The virus, SARS-CoV-2, passed from bats to mammals to people in Wuhan China in December 2019.

For about a month the virus remained isolated in China. China undertook intense measures in an attempt to contain the virus. In so doing they gave the rest of the world some time to prepare for a possible outbreak. In this past week the viral illness Covid-19 has begun to circulate in the community in Iran and Italy in significant numbers.

The United States has had its first death from COVID-19 and the virus is circulating in some communities.

It’s important to be factual and scientific about the spread of COVID-19 and not to promote panic. For many people, the risk, even if infected by the virus, is low. It is still unknown whether this will become an epidemic in the U.S., though it seems more likely each passing day.

That said, the threat is not a hoax as Trump claimed and shouldn’t be minimized.

If large numbers are infected at the same time, the health care system would be overwhelmed by the number of patients as 20% of COVID-19 patients need inpatient hospital care. At this time the mortality rate is estimated at between .4 and 2%.

One of the irresponsible claims is that the COVID-19 outbreak will die out when the northern hemisphere weather warms. It may or it may not die out. There is no science behind the claim.

We need to demand that leaders on the local, state and federal level prepare for the worst and don’t leave working people in crisis. Some policies that could be put in place now include:

  1. Testing and treatment for COVID-19, when not covered by existing insurance, needs to be free.
  2. A special focus should be made to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in oppressed nationality communities who will be impacted differently by the epidemic - because they tend to have worse health, less money in the bank and less access to insurance. African Americans, for example, have much higher rates of asthma, heart disease and diabetes which are risks for worse outcomes from COVID-19.
  3. Unemployment laws and regulations need to be revised so workers who can't work due to business closures and quarantine get paid immediately with no waiting period.
  4. Non-violent prisoners and detained immigrants need to be assessed now, with preparations made for release. Prisons and county jails and detention centers will be epicenters of infection.
  5. Stocks of personal protective equipment, masks, gloves, gowns etc., need to exist for every worker in a high density environment, from doctors to janitors.
  6. We will need health workers with personal protective equipment visiting the homes of vulnerable people to check on their health and preexisting conditions. A system needs to be in place for this in the event of quarantine measures.
  7. Price controls and food distribution systems need to be planned for the possibility of localized quarantines.

Let's not let a natural disaster turn into a larger human-made disaster.