This week’s Extra! Extra! COVID-19 takes a look at what’s going on in some of the worst-hit countries in the world, how reopening has been working out and ways to stay safe in the midst of everything.
Update on the Pandemic
This is the article I can’t stop thinking about from last week. It is so quintessentially American to blame the victim, and the pandemic is following this same horrifying pattern. This piece does a phenomenal job of connecting the pandemic, the nonsensical response to it and the disproportionate toll it’s taking on particular communities to the way so many other political battles have unfolded in America. If there’s one article you read from this week’s round up, let it be this one.
With so much about COVID-19 unknown, so many different experiences of how the disease manifests and so many of the affected people being part of communities that have long been discredited by the medical establishment, survivor groups are more critical than ever. They play a key role in helping people who have or have had Coronavirus connect with others who share their experience and compiling treatment recommendations from around the world.
An Update on That Disproportionate Toll in America
There is no escaping the weekly reminder of who is paying the price for Trump’s lack of leadership and for the Republican party’s and business leaders’ overall rapacity. Here is yet another update on that.
Updates From Some of the Hardest Hit Countries Around The World
The situation in Russia is pretty dire with rising case counts and fatalities along with a substantial hit to Russia’s economy. Part of what’s been so galling about the news from Russia is the high toll among health care workers. This scathing op-ed from The Moscow Times breaks down the history of dysfunctional health care in Russia. All of this is building up to the perfect storm, with opposition activists reporting a high level of political protest and discontent across a diverse mix of groups in Russia. Before any of this started, Putin had been planning a constitutional vote that would allow him to stay in power until 2036. The rising tide of anger over the pandemic has opposition activists trying to stop the upcoming constitutional vote and gain more political leverage in upcoming regional elections in September.
Over in Brazil, the situation isn’t any better. The disease has taken a terrible toll on the country and, as we’ve seen time and time again, particularly on the most vulnerable populations like the favelas, low income areas outside the cities. But Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro continues to deny the severity of the situation his country is facing and is particularly strident about reopening as soon as possible even as his own state governors oppose him. Indeed, the economic toll of closing down society is not to be under-estimated. That is particularly affecting trans sex workers who were already subject to rampant violence and discrimination prior to the pandemic. Every reasonable person knows, though, that the answer shouldn’t rely on reopening the economy and putting everyone at risk, but rather providing a sufficient safety net for everyone regardless of prior employment and any identity factors. Of course, most governments around the world are failing at just that. As in Russia, opposition leaders are seeing the possibility that the pandemic will lower support for Bolsonaro who is already being investigated for corruption.
And then there’s Sweden which decided early on to strive for “herd immunity” despite the fact that we still don’t know for sure whether having COVID-19 once gives you any kind of immunity, let alone sufficient immunity to prevent reinfection and stop the spread of disease. And the country is paying a sad, sad price for that decision with the highest mortality rate in Europe.
And on the Flip Side
As developed countries the world over pay the price for their arrogance, here is an uplifting update on how countries across Africa have tackled the pandemic to protect their people. Those of us in the so-called “Global North” have much to learn in terms of both leadership and innovation.
So in Spite of Everything, It Looks Like the US Is Reopening?
Before we get to what reopening has looked like, let’s first talk about new research which finds that if we had started social distancing even one week earlier, a staggering 36,000 lives could have been saved and 700,000 fewer people would have been infected. I hope all these political leaders who are clamoring to reopen take the time to let those numbers sink in. That’s nearly a third of the COVID-19 deaths in the US and about 40% of current confirmed cases. (Although the US’s case numbers aren’t accurate, so…)
Of course there was Florida, which never really shut down, and appears to have avoided the fate of California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts? But did it really avoid that fate? I recommend reading these two articles together:
Anyway, let’s take a look at what’s happened in some of the states that have reopened.
Unsurprisingly and unfortunately, Maryland saw a substantial uptick in the number of cases a mere four days after reopening. Over in Georgia, which was among the last states to shut down and started reopening almost a month ago, unemployment claims have not suddenly dropped as a result of the measures to reopen. As Politico reports:
“Georgia … presents an early reality check as the White House amps up pressure on governors to lift shutdown orders and President Donald Trump’s economic advisers predict jobless claims will nosedive after the reopening. The state’s persistent unemployment numbers suggest that government restrictions aren’t the only cause of skyrocketing layoffs and furloughs — and that the economy might not fully recover until consumers feel safe.”
I feel like that should’ve been obvious from the start, but somehow it wasn’t, especially among all these people who love using supply and demand to explain every damned thing in the world. But I guess supply and demand only applies when it’s convenient to you?
So even the states that are trying to do right by their residents are being strong armed by the Trump administration. The end of that article mentions Trump’s declaration last week that states must allow places of worship to reopen, and, despite what Trump thinks, he does not in fact have the power to force states to do that – only Congress does. I suppose that’s something to look forward to, although we know that this is a president who does not care about the rule of law surrounded by an administration, a Senate, and a court system that is basically willing to let him do whatever he wants.
Also, in case it wasn’t clear enough why diehard Republicans want to open so badly, basically they do not want to provide benefits to anyone, including, it seems, veterans:
So if We’re Reopening, How Can We Be Safe?
Since things are reopening, here are a few helpful articles I read about ways to stay safe.
Also, your employer might start asking you to self-report that you’re not sick. Because that’s going to work.
And, contact tracing doesn’t have to be a creepy advancement of the surveillance state! Let’s hope.