Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

COVID-19: The monster is finally at the door

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Hurricane Katrina was a climatic disaster for the great city of New Orleans, USA in 2005. 
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/reference/hurricane-katrina/

Mike Davis argues that Covid-19 could in 2020 provoke a social and medical collapse of the privately-owned nursing home industry -A Medical Katrina – in the land of Donald Trump.

We are in the early stages of a medical Katrina. Despite years of warnings about avian flu and other pandemics, inventories of basic emergency equipment such as respirators aren’t sufficient to deal with the expected flood of critical cases. Militant nurses unions in California and other states are making sure that we all understand the grave dangers created by inadequate stockpiles of essential protective supplies like N95 face masks. Even more vulnerable because invisible are the hundreds of thousands of low-wage and overworked homecare workers and nursing home staff.

The nursing home and assisted care industry, which warehouses 2.5 million elderly Americans—most of them on Medicare—has long been a national scandal. According to The New York Times, an incredible 380,000 nursing home patients die every year from facilities’ neglect of basic infection control procedures. Many homes—particularly in Southern states—find it cheaper to pay fines for sanitary violations than to hire additional staff and provide them with proper training. Now, as the Seattle example warns, dozens, perhaps hundreds more nursing homes will become coronavirus hotspots and their minimum-wage employees will rationally choose to protect their own families by staying home. In such a case the system could collapse, and we shouldn’t expect the National Guard to empty bedpans.

The outbreak has instantly exposed the stark class divide in healthcare: those with good health plans who can also work or teach from home are comfortably isolated provided they follow prudent safeguards. Public employees and other groups of unionized workers with decent coverage will have to make difficult choices between income and protection. Meanwhil, millions of low wage service workers, farm employees, uncovered contingent workers, the unemployed and the homeless will be thrown to the wolves. Even if Washington ultimately resolves the testing fiasco and provides adequate numbers of kits, the uninsured will still have to pay doctors or hospitals for administrating the tests. Overall family medical bills will soar at the same time that millions of workers are losing their jobs and their employer-provided insurance. Could there possibly be a stronger, more urgent case in favor of Medicare for All?
— Read on socialistresurgence.org/2020/03/12/covid-19-the-monster-is-finally-at-the-door/

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