The Pandemic Made Politicians Notice Basic Needs — The public health emergency resulting from COVID-19 has prompted an unusual display of U.S. bipartisanship to enhance social safety, as displayed by the House of Representatives’ passage on March 14 of an economic relief bill—however flawed—to protect families’ physical and financial health. Immigration services has been forced to stop a bill discouraging immigrants from using public benefits like Medicaid. And if the government has all COVID-19-related expenses waived, it may become harder in the future to turn Americans from humane treatment for other serious ailments like heart attacks, cancer, and flu. Truthout argues that now is the time to think big, and the chance for progressive politicians to shape coming political debates.
Workers Left Out of the Paid Sick Leave Discussion —In These Times covers the narrow and ineffective scope of discussion around paid sick leave by the Democratic party, The New York Times, and Washington Post. The Times failed to mention in twelve pieces that the current legislation passed by the House fails to cover informal economy and contract workers. But one article did criticize how the measures don’t include companies with 500 or more employees, guaranteeing coverage to only 20% of all workers. Additionally, companies with fewer than 50 employees can file hardship exemptions to avoid paying out. The Post too left informal economy workers out of coverage, which the International Labor Organization estimates comprises 18.1% of North American employment. Jacobin calls for a grander scale of wealth distribution for immediate relief and guaranteed income during this unexpected crisis—to all workers, no matter the employer.
DNC Shuts Out Sanders, But His Ideas May Salvage the Country — Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders won the most votes in the first three primary elections, but after centrist Joe Biden scored his first primary win, the Democratic National Convention consolidated the party around him; remaining centrists dropped from the race and nearly all former candidates endorsed Biden. Truthout explores how the DNC’s railing against Sanders’ campaign echoes its 1944 opposition to socialist candidate Henry Wallace.
Biden beat Sanders by wide margins on Tuesday, so to secure the nomination, Sanders must win 61% of remaining delegates. That is, if primaries can somehow continue amid COVID-19 and the abject polling failure Truthout describes in Chicago. But coronavirus has exposed weaknesses in corporate capitalism, prompting bipartisan support for Democratic Socialist measures that Sanders has been promoting throughout his career to patch the crumbling economy.
Delay or Hold Primaries Amid the Pandemic — Tuesday’s primaries saw Joe Biden extend his lead over Bernie Sanders with wins in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona. But because of coronavirus fears, 800 Illinois election judges, many of whom were elderly and at high risk, refused to participate, and 200 Chicago polling places were moved away from sensitive areas. Democracy Now! speaks with Vanita Gupta, president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which called with 100 voting rights groups for states to proceed with elections while protecting public health. Ro Khanna, Democratic congressmember from California and co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, suggests instead that states delay their primaries, as the governor of Ohio did, into June.
How to Avoid Spreading COVID-19 Misinformation — With coronavirus’ global spread comes proliferating rumors on social media: a viral Facebook post asserted that drinking warm water washes the virus into the stomach, where it is killed—this is false. But for non-scientists, it can be difficult to discern credible information. Mother Jones offers advice from science journalists on how to navigate social media responsibly. It’s OK not to know everything; it’s a new disease, scientists haven’t yet had time to peer-review, and speculation doesn’t help. Science is messy; with new data, findings can conflict, but together bring the picture into focus. Vet sources; question new advice, trust the CDC and WHO, and continue avoiding close human contact and washing hands thoroughly. If a source claims expertise, check for their work on Google Scholar.
Scientist Pushed from US to China Made a Fast COVID-19 Test — The Trump administration recently began cracking down on scientists for failing to disclose outside funding from China, ProPublica reports. This follows the National Institutes of Health alerting the University of Florida to professor Weihong Tan’s outside involvements, which included participation in China’s Thousand Talents program—an effort to lure top U.S. university scientists to China—and part-time work at Hunan University. Pushed to China following his investigation, Tan quickly pivoted from cancer to COVID-19 research at Hunan University, developing an efficient and portable test that produces results in 40 minutes. The U.S. government’s investigations for nondisclosure, an often minor violation previously handled within universities, may be helping China reclaim top people who had left for the U.S.
Inaction Will Make Jails and Prisons Ground Zero for COVID-19 — Americans living in or near jails or prisons face increased danger from coronavirus, which spreads quickest in closed environments, covers Colorlines. America’s 2.3 million incarcerated people do not live in quarantine; facilities’ various workers carry germs and viral conditions among both the roughly 612,000 people in jails and neighboring communities. Advocates have been calling for prison officials to release low-risk incarcerated people in an effort to curb the virus’ spread. They call especially for the release of elderly and otherwise infirm people, as the inhumane and unsanitary conditions in jails and prisons “represent a threat to anyone with a jail in their community.”
Trump’s Science Denial Delayed Response to COVID-19 — The coronavirus pandemic highlights the need for world leaders to pay attention to science. President Trump has consistently failed to do so, especially concerning the coronavirus and climate crisis—InsideClimate News lists his common tactics and blunders. Of coronavirus, Trump said “Anybody that needs a test can have a test.” As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases acknowledged, tests are not widely available. Trump later claimed to have always taken the “Chinese Virus” seriously—falsehoods abound. Public health experts criticized the administration’s poor preparation. And the World Health Organization issued best practices in 2015 excluding geographic location from its disease naming conventions, warning against stigmatization, backlash, and unjustified barriers to travel.
Coronavirus Profiteering —The Indypendent enumerates organizations and individuals profiteering from the COVID-19 outbreak. After Congress designated $3.1 billion for the pharmaceutical industry to develop vaccines and treatment options for coronavirus—plus another $300 million to buy back the commissioned medications—big pharma successfully shut down Democratic lawmakers’ attempts to control those medications’ prices.
Sellers on online retailers are price gouging prohibitively. While this reflects the flow of supply and demand, it exposes how capitalism marks basic survival requirements as commodities—food, clothing, medical treatment, and now, N95 masks and disinfectant—with deadly consequences. Snake oil salesmen, like Jim Bakker and Gary Null, have been using their platforms to sell worthless and expensive products and services claiming to protect against coronavirus. Bakker has been issued a cease and desist and is targeted by a Missouri lawsuit.
1. ‘We should start thinking about the next one’: Coronavirus is just the first of many pandemics to come, environmentalists warn (The Independent)
2. Red and Blue America Aren’t Experiencing the Same Pandemic (The Atlantic)
3. Mike Bloomberg Lays Off Entire Campaign Staff And Scales Back Election Spending Plans (HuffPost)
4. Coronavirus: US Senators face calls to resign over ‘insider trading’ (BBC)
5. Cuomo orders New Yorkers to stay home and non-essential businesses to close (The Guardian)