Coronavirus has been wreaking havoc in different parts of the world for weeks now, but the spread has reached a point that led the World Health Organization to officially called it a pandemic this week, and the stock market has taken a nosedive in response.
We’re not even going to try to hit everything there is to say about COVID-19. First, as someone who just spent the last day or so binge-reading Coronavirus news, I can tell you from personal experience it is not healthy. Second, there is just way too much news about it. This week’s Extra! Extra! focuses on some aspects of the pandemic but not all; a notable exclusion is the effect on the economy.
As the situation continues to unfold, the rest of life goes on. We didn’t even get to touching on other big items in the news from this past week, such as the femicide protests in Mexico on International Women’s Day, Slate’s survey of prisoners and all the news surrounding Chelsea Manning. Rest assured, we have many important, non-Coronavirus topics slated for next week.
Failures of the US Government
Rachel: There’s such a glut of info about COVID-19 and it’s so easy to get overwhelmed that I’ve been trying to focus on the service journalism – guides about how to realistically social distance, what to stock up on for medication in case you do contract it and need to self-quarantine, symptoms that distinguish COVID-19 from the cold or flu, etc. I’ve been consciously trying to avoid panicking, but instead checking in on older members of my family and community who may not be internet literate enough to have up-to-date or accurate info on the illness, safety precautions or on treatment and testing info, and offering to run errands for them or stock them up so they can stay indoors if I’m able.
One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot is how utterly and absolutely the federal government has failed us and is continuing to fail us on this – state governments have in some places been more responsive (my state instituted drive-through testing after the first confirmed case in its borders) but not all, and not enough. Most of the outreach, education, support and organization I’m seeing is from private institutions or community members – people offering to run errands or crowdsource wealth redistribution to gig and restaurant workers, people canceling personal or business travel they really wanted or needed for the safety of others, people offering their homes or resources to people who want to quarantine but live in unsafe or violent homes. It’s frustrating to be failed so utterly, but it’s also nothing new; queer people and other marginalized communities know more than most that governments and corporations have failed us before, and will again.
For me, it feels like a heartening and motivating reminder of how strong our communities are, and how capable of taking care of each other we are — we’ve always kept each other safe and alive when the state didn’t do enough, and we will again.
Natalie: It feels like this is the week where American finally started to take coronavirus seriously. Thanks, perhaps, to a boneheaded move by Rudy Gobert, a member of the NBA’s Utah Jazz, the social distancing necessary to stem the tide of this pandemic began in earnest. All of a sudden, shit started to get very real.
That said, the story about how the Utah Jazz got 58 COVID-19 tests — when states had only been averaging 55 tests per day! — serves as a reminder that the fundamentals of this country remain the same.
Natalie: This goes back to what Rachel was saying about the ineffectual response from the federal government. This administration has access to some of the world’s greatest minds and, instead, they opt to design the response to a global pandemic by soliciting recommendations from Facebook. Instead of meeting this unprecedented challenge — at least, since the 1918 Spanish flu — with new ideas and investments, like paid sick leave or a universal basic income, the administration just sings its favorite song: tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the rich.
Natalie: I mentioned the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic earlier…do you know why the Spanish flu is called the Spanish flu? It was war propaganda. The pandemic broke out during World War I and since neither side wanted to advertise their weakness to their enemies or negatively influence morale among the troops, Spain — who remained neutral in WWI — became the scapegoat. We’re seeing the same thing happen with coronavirus…a narrative driven by nationalism, fomented by the white supremacists working in the White House, being used to attack our fellow citizens. It’s so disheartening.
Failures of Governments around the World
Himani: One of the most disheartening aspects of this situation is seeing governments around the world fumble their response. Of course, the US is handling it worse than pretty much everyone else at this point – Republicans have created this awful situation and continue to make it worse, as Natalie discusses. Italy had an alarming uptick in the virus and rapid increase in fatalities because the health system is completely overburdened. And yet, a writer for The Intercept explains why she’d rather be over there during this crisis than in the US.
Just as outbreaks of Coronavirus have magnified the problems we already knew existed in the US, so we see around the world. Vox produced an informative video last week about why diseases like COVID-19 keep emerging in China and – surprise, surprise – capitalist, money-making interests are to blame. Meanwhile, the political situation in Hong Kong has been tense at best and violent at worst since last year; how the Hong Kong government has handled Coronavirus only adds to the puppet regime’s failures. Over in Iran, another epicenter of the crisis, there’s reason to believe that the government isn’t reporting COVID-19 cases honestly, which could have serious consequences, not only across the country, but also for other parts of the Middle East. I’m similarly concerned that the Trump administration’s cruel and inhumane deportation and immigration policies could lead the virus to spread to parts of Central and South America and, indeed, there’s evidence that may be the case already.
For anyone looking for guidance of what to do, I urge you to check the WHO website for resources. In a nutshell: watch your hands, cover your mouth, don’t touch your face, keep your distance and follow the regulations put in place by your local officials. And then maybe try to: find some comfort in the fact that scientists are making progress towards understanding the virus, distract yourself with a jigsaw puzzle, check out queer rapper Chika’s new album or reminisce about Babysitter’s Club to soothe your soul.