A few days ago, the Center for Disease Control declared COVID-19 a pandemic. For those of you who don’t know, a pandemic is a disease that has spread over a large geographic area, usually a country.
There’s still a lot of information being released on COVID-19, and we won’t know the full impact of the disease in the US for several more weeks. However, you can keep up on the latest information at the CDC’s website here. Please read it and keep your family and friends safe and healthy.
Earlier today, Trump was critical of the CDC and its handling of the situation, even though he is the one that proposed cutting CDC funding for 2021 and eliminated the white house office designed to deal with pandemic disasters.
However, my goal today is not to write about COVID-19 and its potential impact. You should trust scientists and health professionals more than me – a random political blogger. Please refer to the CDC site listed above for the most accurate information.
Instead, I want to talk about what COVID-19 means in a cultural context, and how it highlights the need for progressive reforms like the ones Bernie Sanders is promoting. After all, while the impact on public health may be significant, the real damage of COVID-19 will come from the disease’s economic impact.
However, while mainstream media is regularly covering the effects the disease will have the stock market and trade, it is not doing enough to convey the damage done to poor and working class families.
Not only are these people more likely to spread the disease and catch it – because of a lack of paid sick leave and economic pressure to pay bills – they are also the people most impacted by the leading argument to prevent the disease’s spread: social distancing. Since this tactic depends on not going to work, many employees in food service, retail, and customer service will be forced to risk exposure just to maintain financial stability. Many are even facing layoffs in the face of the pandemic.
This is the ultimate case for Medicare For All, and about a dozen others of Bernie Sanders’ policies (and at least one he doesn’t propose). While M4A is too little too late to address COVID-19, it highlights the deep systemic issues our healthcare system and society has created.
People were initially avoiding testing because they lacked health insurance. But, even with free testing for the disease, many will avoid hospitalization just to avoid the insane medical bills associated with treatment. This will lead to tens of thousands of additional deaths, all thanks to the private health insurance industry.
And the disastrous way we overcharge patients isn’t the only problem the U.S. healthcare system faces.
Unfortunately, Medicare For All is neither here nor there when it comes to facing the crisis we have today. It is, however, important to highlight these systemic issues to show how a pandemic like this would have been addressed.
What about what we CAN do, though? Well, in light of Trump’s fumbling of the crisis and Joe Biden’s patently anemic response, Bernie Sanders came forward with actual policy solutions to alleviate the damage the pandemic will wreak on the most vulnerable members of our society.
I recommend watching the whole video, but here’s a brief rundown. Bernie Sanders wants to:
- Establish national and state hotlines to provide accurate and up-to-date information on the virus.
- Provide free healthcare for all individuals in regards to COVID-19, including prisoners, immigrants (illegal, detained, and otherwise), and those lacking health insurance.
- Free vaccines for the disease when one is produced.
- Paid family sick leave for all Americans when they get sick.
- Mobilize medical residents, retired healthcare professionals, and others to tackle the shortage of medical professionals in the country.
- No medications produced to tackle the disease will be sold at cost.
- Provide economic assistance to the elderly, automatically cover people who lose their jobs from layoffs, as well as provide unemployment insurance to “gig” workers and those whose incomes depend on tips.
- Place an immediate moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and shut-offs for utilities.
- Expand shelter for homeless individuals and students displaced by university shutdowns.
Bernie also highlights how gravely unprepared the U.S. is for catastrophes like this, in particular regards to Medicare For All.
It’s also important to note that Bernie’s call for unemployment insurance is essentially a watered-down Universal Basic Income, a policy that would significantly ease the burden this crisis poses.
This is Bernie’s moment to rise up as a true leader, and show why his policies will support the middle and working class families of this country. Based on his response to the corona virus, he is doing just that.
We will have to see how this continues during the debate against Joe Biden on Sunday. Until then, just remember that #BernieIsRight.