U.S. surpasses 200,000 coronavirus deaths, with no end in sight
by NYT, PBS, Washington Post, agencies
22 Sep. 2020
U.S. surpasses 200,000 coronavirus deaths, with no end in sight. (Washington Post, agencies)
The coronavirus death toll in the United States surpassed 200,000 on Tuesday, marking another milestone of loss at a time when many have become numb to the ever-rising fatality count.
The tally represents the upper boundary of a fatality range that President Trump in March said would signal that his administration had “done a very good job” of protecting Americans from the coronavirus.
But the number of deaths continues to grow, averaging more than 800 per day, as the country still lacks an approved treatment or a vaccine to combat the pandemic. A forecast released by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington this month predicted that U.S. fatalities could reach 410,000 by the end of the year.
Infectious-disease experts have expressed fear that the coming months could prove particularly brutal if a flu outbreak coincides with the coronavirus pandemic to overwhelm health-care systems. Cool, dry weather and more time spent indoors is expected to increase transmission of the coronavirus in fall and winter.
Seven months into the pandemic, the United States continues to average more than 800 deaths per day. Progress in slowing the virus has stalled, and the pathogen is spreading at dangerous rates in many states as cold weather begins to settle across the nation, public health data show. Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico Wisconsin, Wyoming and Utah set record highs Monday for seven-day averages of new confirmed cases.
Those killed by the coronavirus have been disproportionately Hispanic, Black and American Indian, federal statistics show. While more than 75 percent of victims under 21 belonged to those racial and ethnic groups, they represent 41 percent of the U.S. population. For people under 65, the death toll is twice as high among people of color than for White Americans.
According to a rolling tally by Johns Hopkins University, 200,182 Americans have died and 6.86 million have been confirmed infected by the novel coronavirus.
"It is completely unfathomable that we've reached this point," said Jennifer Nuzzo, a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins University.
The US has had the world's highest official death toll for months, ahead of Brazil and India, with 137,272 and 88,935 deaths respectively.
Overall, the US accounts for four per cent of the world's population and 20 per cent of its recorded coronavirus deaths.
Critics say the statistics expose the Trump administration's failure to meet its sternest test ahead of the 3 November election.
"Due to Donald Trump's lies and incompetence in the past six months, we have seen one of the gravest losses of American life in history," his Democratic rival Joe Biden charged Monday.
Reacting to the bleak new milestone, the top Democrat in Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, blamed the soaring toll squarely on "Trump's deadly disinformation and negligence - including his cover-up of the catastrophic nature of the virus."
Mr Trump, insists that the United States is already "rounding the corner" - while hopng for a swift approval of a possible and potentially inadequately tested COVID-19 vaccine to boost his reelection chances.
Mr Trump has previously stated that by April of next year, most Americans who want to be immunised will have a vaccine. But most experts argue that betting on vaccines is not a viable strategy. Without adhering to masks, distancing and contact-tracing, and without ramping up testing, tens of thousands more may still die before life returns to normal in the US.
"Covid will be the third leading cause of death this year in the US," said Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under former president Barack Obama.
"The staggering death toll from the virus is a reflection of a failed national response, but it's not too late to turn it around," said Dr Frieden.
It's likely that the US actually crossed 200,000 deaths in July, said Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Institute, citing the excess overall mortality rate. The initial lack of tests led to an undercount of the virus' toll.
"We are the outlier to have been caught totally flat-footed with no testing, and just not learning from mistakes," Mr Topol said. "We never got adequate suppression, and yet we're opening everything and trying to make believe that everything is just great.
Critics say Mr Trump abdicated responsibility and left it to the state governors to deal with the crisis and decide on lockdowns. "We had a crazy quilt of responses across the country that totally confused the average person," William Schaffner, a health policy professor at Vanderbilt University, told AFP news agency. "We needed a unified, coherent, strong, national response."
22 Sep. 2020
Today, the American Medical Association (AMA), American Hospital Association (AHA), and American Nurses Association (ANA) released a joint statement on the amount of deaths caused by the coronavirus in the United States.
'Today we mark a somber milestone as more than 200,000 people in the United States have died of COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic. Those lost include mothers and fathers, grandparents, children, teachers, and frontline workers. The steps required to stop the spread of this virus should be well-known by now, but with more than 6 million COVID-positive Americans, we say again: wear your mask, wash your hands, and practice physical distancing.
By scale and raw numbers, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our country, affecting Americans at a rate that represents a nearly worst-case scenario.
As autumn begins and as we continue working to minimize the suffering and death of this pandemic, we urge all Americans to get their flu shot early. With no end to COVID-19 in sight, a bad flu season has potential to cause additional strain on our health system that is still battling the pandemic. America’s physicians, nurses, and hospitals and health systems thank you for doing your part.
21 Sep. 2020 (PBS Newshour)
The slow beat of bells at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, 200 tolls as the nation approached 200,000 American lives lost to the coronavirus.
It's a daunting number, one that's hard to fully grasp. It's nearly twice as many Americans who've been killed in every major conflict since the Korean War combined.
So, as the country marks this solemn occasion, we felt it important to take a moment to lay out what the numbers tell us so far. It's been 242 days since the first reported case of this novel coronavirus in the United States. Since then, there have been nearly seven million more reported across all 50 states.
Daily cases have fallen from a peak of more than 70,000 in July to under 40,000 today. All told, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arizona have seen the most cases per capita so far. But over the last week, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Utah have seen the most cases per capita.
New York, which suffered the worst outbreak early on, accounts for more than 16 percent of all COVID deaths, with roughly 33,000. In New York City, one in every 360 residents died. New Jersey, California, Texas, and Florida each have seen at least 10,000 people die.
But the five states with the highest death rates in the last week are Arkansas, Mississippi, Virginia, Florida, and North Dakota. So far in the U.S., the virus has a nearly 3 percent case fatality rate. More than 90 percent of deaths involving COVID-19 were people over the age of 55. And more than 40 percent of deaths occurred in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
We also know this virus has taken a disproportionate toll on communities of color in this country. Blacks, Hispanics and Latinos, and Native Americans are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to get virus than whites. Those same groups are roughly five times more likely to be hospitalized. And Black Americans are twice as likely to die.
Globally, among these major developed nations, the U.S. has, by far the highest number of daily deaths. It's a number that will likely to continue to grow as we wrestle with our national response to this global tragedy'.
http://www.ama-assn.org/about/leadership/marking-tragic-milestone-200000-covid-19-deaths http://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/understanding-the-magnitude-of-the-u-s-coronavirus-death-toll http://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/the-u-s-has-lost-200000-people-to-covid-19-how-did-this-happen http://www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-19-united-states-coronavirus-deaths-projection-400000-by-end-of-year/ http://www.healthdata.org/news-release/first-covid-19-global-forecast-ihme-projects-three-quarters-million-lives-could-be http://wapo.st/2ZWt80U http://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/09/22/coronavirus-covid-live-updates-us/ http://www.vox.com/coronavirus-covid19/2020/9/22/21441353/us-covid-19-deaths-how-many-total-deaths-200000 http://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2020/9/9/21428769/covid-19-coronavirus-deaths-statistics-us-canada-europe
16 July 2020 (Washington Post, agencies)
The US set a daily record of 67,632 cases in less than 24 hours, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. The world's worst-affected nation has seen a surge since June, especially in the southern and western parts of the country.
For the last 10 days, new cases have been within the range of 55,000 and 65,000 per day. More than 137,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the US.
Meanwhile, the state of California reported its second worst day in terms of cases and deaths on Wednesday, with more than 11,000 new infections and 140 fatalities. The number of tests and those testing positive has also risen in the state.
Many nations across the globe saw coronavirus cases rising on Wednesday, forcing them to reconsider plans of reopening. The number of cases has crossed 13.4 million and more than 579,000 have died worldwide. Latin America, the world's second hardest hit region topped 150,000 deaths on Wednesday.
‘Let’s stop this nonsense,’ top infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci says of federal coronavirus response as he comes under fire from White House.
Sidelined by the White House and harshly criticized in an extraordinary op-ed from a top adviser to the Trump administration, Anthony Fauci — the nation’s top infectious-disease expert — said in an interview with the Atlantic that the country needs to focus on a surging virus “rather than these games people are playing.”
“We’ve got to almost reset this and say, ‘Okay, let’s stop this nonsense,' ” he said after being asked to state “the truth about the federal response to the pandemic” in the United States. “We’ve got to figure out, How can we get our control over this now, and, looking forward, how can we make sure that next month, we don’t have another example of California, Texas, Florida, and Arizona?”
Here are some significant developments:
The total number of coronavirus infections reported in the United States is approaching 3.5 million, according to data tracked by The Washington Post, including at least 137,000 deaths.
The greater Washington, D.C., region recorded its highest daily coronavirus caseload in weeks as the District lost more ground in its fight to quell the pandemic. Hospital capacity in several hard-hit states is running low as officials scramble to keep their expanding outbreaks from spinning even further out of control.
Health experts and hospital officials warn that an abrupt change in how the Trump administration requires them to report coronavirus data will increase the burden on facilities already strained by the pandemic.
Support for mask mandates continued to grow a day after another of the country’s top health officials said universal face-covering could bring covid-19 “under control” in the United States. Alabama and the city of Tulsa mandated masks on Wednesday, while Walmart announced it would require all shoppers to wear masks.
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US COVID-19 strategy failing the poor, says UN expert
The poor in the United States are being hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government must urgently take additional steps to prevent tens of millions of middle-class Americans from being plunged into poverty, a UN human rights expert said today.
'Low-income and poor people face far higher risks from the coronavirus due to chronic neglect and discrimination, and a muddled, corporate-driven, federal response has failed them', said Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights who made a fact-finding visit to the United States in 2017.
'With record layoffs, a weak safety net, and the Government focusing primarily on businesses and the well-off, significant portions of the country will soon face destitution unless Congress takes far-reaching action', the independent expert said.
More than 22 million people filed for unemployment in a four-week period, and Federal Reserve economists project up to 47 million lost jobs by summer. Almost a third of US renters reportedly did not pay rent on time in April and food bank use is skyrocketing.
'People in poverty are disproportionately threatened by the coronavirus. They are more likely to work in jobs with a high risk of exposure, live in crowded and insecure housing, reside in neighbourhoods that are more vulnerable because of air pollution, and lack access to healthcare', he said. 'Communities of colour, who face a persistent racial wealth gap, are at particular risk and are dying at much higher rates'.
The poor have fewer resources to cushion the economic effects and are more adversely affected by measures to slow the spread of the virus, the Special Rapporteur noted. Low-paid workers are more susceptible to mass layoffs and pay cuts, while fewer low-income children can access classes online.
'Despite these severe risks, federal relief is not yet reaching many people in need and is fundamentally inadequate in scope and kind given the magnitude of the crisis and its longer term impact', Alston said.
'The one-time payments provide less than a month's living wage, may not reach some of the least well-off until September, and exclude millions of taxpaying undocumented immigrants by design', he said. 'The temporary expansion of unemployment insurance is reliant on overwhelmed state offices, resulting in widespread delays'.
More than half of workers were left out of sick leave legislation, and student debt relief excludes millions of borrowers with loans from private companies. No comprehensive steps have been taken to cover medical treatment despite tens of millions having no insurance and intensive care costs as high as US$70,000.
'Accessible, affordable treatment is essential, and planning should begin now to ensure that any vaccine is made available widely and fairly, not rolled out first to the wealthy and only eventually to those most at risk', Alston said.
'Poor people will be harmed if Congress continues to deny meaningful assistance to state and local governments, which are considering cuts to services like public transportation, education, legal aid, and healthcare.
The response has also ignored the looming threat of climate change, and despite the risks that pollution and carbon emissions pose to poor communities, the Environmental Protection Agency has ceased enforcement of many reporting and monitoring regulations'.
The American cash bail system also means that many detainees are held because they can't pay. 'As the coronavirus spreads in overcrowded and unsanitary prisons, jails and detention centers, even trivial offences can be a death sentence', Alston said. 'While some authorities have implemented common sense releases, others, such as in Texas and New York, have doubled-down on cash bail'.
Even before the crisis, an estimated two out of five Americans could not cover a US$400 expense without going into debt, and according to the US Census Bureau, 38.1 million people lived in poverty in 2018.
'Poor people in the US already have abysmally insecure working conditions, low pay, and unaffordable rents, and enjoy few of the guarantees that are the norm in most developed countries such as universal healthcare. The country could use its significant wealth to resolve many of these issues, but a response that favors corporate interests and entrenches inequality will be catastrophic'.
'The United States should provide immediate relief, such as rental assistance and suspensions of debt collection and evictions, as well as long-term solutions to protect rights and combat insecurity, such as a green stimulus, a living wage and cancellation of student debt. This is a moment to re-evaluate failing health, housing and social support systems that have made this crisis especially painful for the less well-off', the Special Rapporteur said.
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Address Impact of Covid-19 on Poor. (Human Rights Watch)
The COVID-19 outbreak in the United States has put a spotlight on economic inequalities and a fragile social safety net that leaves vulnerable communities to bear the economic brunt of the crisis, Human Rights Watch said today. US policymakers will need to consider these underlying inequalities in responding urgently to the mounting challenges of the pandemic.
While the virus infects people regardless of wealth, the poor will be most affected due to longstanding segregation by income and race, reduced economic mobility, and the high cost of medical care. Low-income communities are more likely to be exposed to the virus, have higher mortality rates, and suffer economically. In times of economic crisis, these vulnerabilities will be more pronounced for marginal groups - identified by race, gender, and immigration status.
'The US government needs a response to the coronavirus that prevents people from having to choose between a missed paycheck and risking their and their families health', said Lena Simet, senior poverty and inequality researcher at Human Rights Watch. 'The government should target its economic stimulus packages to the low-income communities that will be hit first and hardest, and ensure an adequate standard of living for all'.
Low-income jobs in fields like retail, hospitality, childcare, and the gig economy cannot be performed remotely, and in the US the majority do not offer paid sick leave or health insurance. Research has shown that low income is associated with higher rates of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, factors that increase vulnerability to COVID-19.
Most of the 40.6 million people living in poverty in the US have no savings to weather a lack of income, and even stocking up on food can represent an impossible financial hurdle.
In the US, economic inequality is closely linked to a racial divide in income and wealth. Incomes and wealth are lower, and poverty is most acute among Blacks and Latinos. About 21 percent of Black people and 18 percent of Hispanic people live under the poverty line, compared with eight percent of white people.
The median white household has 41 times more wealth (measured as the sum of assets held by a family minus total household debt) than the median Black family and 22 times more than the median Latino family. Past recessions have disproportionally affected Black and Latino families, partly because they have less wealth to fall back on.
Due to the lack of resources to prepare and protect against the coronavirus, the poor face a higher risk of contracting and subsequently spreading the virus. Under international human rights law, the government has an obligation to protect people's right to an adequate standard of living, which includes ensuring adequate food and nutrition, the highest attainable standard of health, and social security.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was passed by the US House of Representatives and the Senate, is intended to address the effects of the coronavirus and provide a safety net for families and workers whose livelihoods are affected. Human Rights Watch is concerned that the legislation guarantees sick leave to only 20 percent of private-sector workers, because companies with more than 500 employees are exempted, and those with fewer than 50 employees can apply for exemption. Many workers at large restaurant chains, supermarkets, and retailers who fall in these categories and often have low-wage positions thus remain unprotected.
The US government has also considered large payroll tax cuts and bailouts to the airline, hotel, and shale industries. Such responses are expensive, with little or no direct benefit for most working people. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that eliminating the payroll tax would largely benefit the richest 20 percent of taxpayers, and the benefits going to the poorest 20 percent would make little difference in meeting their needs.
Moreover, payroll tax cuts would not benefit people without income, who are furloughed, or whose working hours have been cut in response to COVID-19. Unauthorized and informal workers, like street vendors, caregivers, or construction workers, would also be left out.
And even workers who would benefit from the tax cut would only receive an amount proportionate to their low income, which would be insufficient to protect them from falling behind on rent or mortgage payments.
The US government's most recent proposal is to send checks directly to everyone living or legally working in the US, except those making more than $1 million a year, by the end of April. Direct payments are intended to provide immediate help to workers who lost their jobs or have hours cut back as economic activity contracts from social distancing measures.
While immediate income support is important, long-term and targeted support will be needed, Human Rights Watch said. If the crisis prevails for several months, one-time income support will not prevent families from facing foreclosure or eviction. For people working remotely, direct checks are less crucial than for those who lost jobs but are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Checks also won't reach the eight million unauthorized workers in the US, who generally earn low wages in restaurants, hotels, and on farms.
The government should consider a response that would support all low-income workers and people who have lost wages. Direct payments should be accompanied with assurances that people can get child benefits and disability and social security benefits in the event of unemployment, sickness, or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control.
'The US government policies proposed so far have yet to take into account existing social and economic inequalities', Simet said. 'The government should strengthen the safety net to protect millions of people who face devastating job and wage loss and inability to pay essential bills. Unless the stimulus package tackles those issues head on, it won't protect those most in need, and that is bad for everyone in America'.
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Trumpism is not the answer, by Joseph Stiglitz. (Project Syndicate, agencies)
For 40 years, US Republicans have been insisting that 'government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem'. The bankruptcy of this has been laid bare.
As an educator, I'm always looking for 'teachable moments' - current events that illustrate and reinforce the principles on which I've been lecturing. And there is nothing like a pandemic to focus attention on what really matters.
The COVID-19 crisis is rich in lessons, especially for the United States. One takeaway is that viruses do not carry passports; in fact, they don't observe national borders or nationalist rhetoric at all. In our closely integrated world, a contagious disease originating in one country can and will go global.
The spread of diseases is one negative side-effect of globalisation. Whenever such cross-border crises emerge, they demand a global, co-operative response, as in the case of climate change. Like viruses, greenhouse-gas emissions are wreaking havoc and imposing massive costs on countries around the world through the damage caused by global warming and the associated extreme weather events.
No US presidential administration has done more to undermine global co-operation and the role of government than that of Donald Trump. And yet, when we face a crisis like an epidemic or a hurricane, we turn to government, because we know that such events demand collective action.
We cannot go it alone, nor can we rely on the private sector. All too often, profit-maximising firms will see crises as opportunities for price-gouging, as is already evident in the rising prices of face masks.
Unfortunately, since Ronald Reagan's presidency, the mantra in the US has been that 'government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem'. Taking that nostrum seriously is a dead-end road, but Trump has travelled further down it than any other US political leader in memory.
At the centre of the US response to the COVID-19 crisis is one of the country's most venerable scientific institutions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has traditionally been staffed with committed, knowledgeable, highly trained professionals.
To Trump, the ultimate know-nothing politician, such experts pose a serious problem, because they will contradict him whenever he tries to make up facts to serve his own interests.
Faith may help us cope with the deaths caused by an epidemic, but it is no substitute for medical and scientific knowledge. Willpower and prayers were useless in containing the Black Death in the Middle Ages.
Fortunately, humanity has made remarkable scientific advances since then. When the COVID-19 strain appeared, scientists were quickly able to analyse it, test for it, trace its mutations and begin work on a vaccine.
While there is still much more to learn about the new coronavirus and its effects on humans, without science we would be completely at its mercy, and panic would have already ensued.
Scientific research requires resources. But most of the biggest scientific advances in recent years have cost peanuts compared with the largesse bestowed on the richest US corporations by Trump and congressional Republicans 2017 tax cuts. Indeed, US investments in science also pale in comparison with the latest epidemic's likely costs to the economy, not to mention lost stock-market value.
Nonetheless, as Linda Bilmes of the Harvard Kennedy School points out, the Trump administration has proposed cuts to the CDC's funding year after year (10 per cent in 2018, 19 per cent in 2019). At the start of this year, Trump, demonstrating the worst timing imaginable, called for a 20 per cent cut in spending on programmes to fight emerging infectious and zoonotic diseases (that is, pathogens like coronaviruses, which originate in animals and jump to humans). And in 2018, he eliminated the National Security Council's global health security and biodefence directorate.
Not surprisingly, the administration has proved ill-equipped to deal with the outbreak. Though COVID-19 reached epidemic proportions weeks ago, the US has suffered from insufficient testing capacity (even compared with a much poorer country like South Korea) and inadequate procedures and protocols for handling potentially exposed travellers returning from abroad.
This subpar response should serve as yet another reminder that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But Trump's all-purpose panacea for any economic threat is simply to demand more monetary-policy easing and tax cuts (typically for the rich), as if cutting interest rates is all that is needed to generate another stock-market boom.
This quack treatment is even less likely to work now than it did in 2017, when the tax cuts created a short-term economic sugar high that had already faded as we entered 2020. With many US firms facing supply-chain disruptions, it is hard to imagine that they would suddenly decide to undertake major investments just because interest rates were cut by 50 basis points (assuming commercial banks even pass on the cuts in the first place).
Worse, the epidemic's full costs to the US may be yet to come, particularly if the virus isn't contained. In the absence of paid sick leave, many infected workers already struggling to make ends meet will show up to work anyway. And in the absence of adequate health insurance, they will be reluctant to seek tests and treatment, lest they be hit with massive medical bills.
The number of vulnerable Americans should not be underestimated. Under Trump, morbidity and mortality rates are rising, and some 37 million people regularly confront hunger.
All these risks will grow if panic ensues. Preventing that requires trust, particularly in those tasked with informing the public and responding to the crisis.
But Trump and the Republican Party have been sowing distrust toward government, science, and the media for years, while giving free rein to profit-hungry social-media giants like Facebook, which knowingly allows its platform to be used to spread disinformation. The perverse irony is that the Trump administration's ham-fisted response will undermine trust in government even further.
The US should have started preparing for the risks of pandemics and climate change years ago. Only governance based on sound science can protect us from such crises. Now that both threats are bearing down on us, one hopes that there are still enough dedicated bureaucrats and scientists left in the government to protect us.
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COVID-19 could push millions into exploitation or slavery
by Tomoya Obokata
Special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery
COVID-19 risks pushing millions of children, women and men into contemporary forms of slavery and other forms of exploitation unless governments act now to protect them, a UN human rights expert warned today.
“Historical levels of underemployment or unemployment, loss of livelihoods and uncertain economic perspectives are some of the complex consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic which have hit the most vulnerable hardest,” said Tomoya Obokata, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, as he presented his report to the 45th session of the Human Rights Council.
“Combined with weak safety nets and a dismantling of labour rights and social protection regulations in some countries, there is an acute risk that the poorest will be pushed into bonded labour, forced labour or other contemporary forms of slavery for survival, he said.
“States may see dismantling labour rights as a quick fix in light of increasing pressure on businesses as a consequence of the global economic recession,” Obokata said. “In the long term, however, these same States will pay a high price for removing people’s protection and dignity at work.”
He particularly called for accountability for businesses that exploit vulnerable workers producing, processing and providing medicine, medical equipment or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the pandemic.
“Labour rights must be upheld and social protection ensured across all economic sectors,” he said. “States must ensure that in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, no one is left behind and pushed into slavery-like practices.”
* The Special Rapporteur received multiple submissions raising concerns about the worsening situation of people who were already in situations of or at risk of contemporary forms of slavery before the outbreak. The experiences outlined in the report do not represent the full spectrum of the existing and evolving risks in the context of COVID-19. However, they provide information about trends that can inform further data-collection strategies and policy responses.
The socioeconomic impact of the outbreak will be much harsher for the 2 billion people in the informal economy, constituting 62 per cent ofthe global workforce.
Their employment relationships are more easily broken and the safety nets available to them are fewer and weaker than those available to people in the formal economy.
Informal workers have no access to paid or sick leave entitlements, and are less protected by conventional social protection mechanisms and other forms of income support.
This concerns day labourers and temporary, non-contracted and own-account workers, including those in the so-called gig economy, promoted by digital labour platforms which employ, for example, taxi drivers and delivery workers.
Based on estimates by ILO, almost 1.6 billion informal economy workers have suffered massive damage to their capacity to earn a living due to lockdown measures and/or because they work in the hardest-hit sectors.
Furthermore, it is estimated that around 70 per cent of gig workers, many of whom quit their jobs due to a lack of demand or to protect their own safety, now have no income.
In the absence of alternative choices, informal economy workers are more likely than before the outbreak to accept abusive and exploitative employment and may become tricked into forced labour.
Those living in low-income and middle-income countries will be particularly affected, as informal employment represents 90 per cent of total employment in low-income countries and 67 per cent of total employment in middle-income countries.
More workers will incur debts in order to survive, a trend already observed among informal workers in India and employees of brick kiln factories in Pakistan. As a consequence, the risk of becoming trapped in debt bondage increases.
As more workers are likely to enter the informal economy due to loss of formal employment, these additional workers may compete fora shrinking piece of the informal economy with those already working there. Consequently, incomes and working conditions will gradually deteriorate.
Women: Experiences from previous pandemics show that women often encounter the effects of such crises in different, more negative ways than men.
They tend to be overrepresented in low-paid jobs and the sectors most affected by the crisis. They include those employed in the garment industry, where large numbers from low- and middle-income countries are employed.
In light of the massive layoffs and lack of access to social protection mechanisms, they are in an extremely vulnerable situation.
ILO estimates that nearly three quarters of domestic workers around the world, predominantly women, are at risk of losing their jobs. Many have no access to social security or other safety nets.
In addition to bearing the brunt of massive job losses, women have been increasingly subjected to intimate partner violence and gender-based violence as a result of the lockdown measures.
Domestic violence may also become a push factor, increasing the vulnerability of victims to trafficking in persons and sexual exploitation.
Gender inequalities, discrimination based on race, caste group or other category and stereotypes about suitable forms of employment for women, combined with lack of labour protection laws and policies, perpetuate conditions leading to their exploitation. Furthermore, older women are less likely than men to receive a pension.
Young people aged between 15 and 24 years old will be among the most affected by the longer-term impact of the global recession and unemployment.
More than three quarters of young workers in 2019 were in informal jobs (most notably in Africa and South Asia), which render them vulnerable to economic crises and shocks. In addition to unprecedented job losses, the crisis has disrupted their education and training.
It is estimated that between 42 and 66 million children could fall into extreme poverty, adding to the 386 million children who were already in extreme poverty in 2019.
Temporary school closures, combined with pressure from the sudden loss of livelihoods, ood shortages and breakdown of community safety nets, may result in a permanent end to education for many children and a rise in child labour, including the worst forms of child labour.
Currently, there are 152 million children in work, 72 million of whom are in hazardouswork. ILO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have warned that the crisis is expected to push millions more into child labour.
Indeed, an increasing number of children are reportedly working on farms and/or selling vegetables or fruit in the streets. Once they enter the workforce, it becomes difficult to incentivize them and their parents to return when schools reopen.
The rising number of children in street situations is yet another reflection of the pandemic. Reports from some countries indicate their increasing engagement in street begging due to loss of livelihoods, family violence or sexual exploitation. As a result,they are also at higher risk of being exposed to trafficking in persons. In Ghana and Nigeria, more children are seen in street situations and used in criminal activities, such as theft.
Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur is concerned about anecdotal information from Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique and the Niger suggesting that the combination of severe economic shocks, food shortages, school closures and deteriorating security situations creates fertile ground for the forced recruitment of children by armed groups.
Children from marginalized minority groups, child migrants, children with disabilities, children who are homeless or from single or child-headed households or disaster-affected areas are more at risk of child labour and other forms of exploitation and abuse.
* Access the full report: http://undocs.org/A/HRC/45/8
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