Pandemic Story: Failures, Forebodings, Signs of Solidarity

W.T. Whitney in Counterpunch:

The long-term impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, while uncertain, promises to be far-reaching and profound. Here we look for signs evident now that point to various kinds of long-term effects in the future. One set of indicators has to do with U.S. failures in prioritizing and protecting the public’s health. These may provoke movement toward new ways of providing health care, or even of reorganizing society. Signs are evident too of increasing fragility of governance itself, likely to become more apparent as the pandemic’s adverse effects mount. Lastly, markers of human solidarity and of collaboration among nations are on display. Hopefully as regards the people’s cause, they portend durability.

Public health

Capitalist governments developed public health capabilities aimed, in theory, at putting bio-medical scientific advances in the service of all the people. The object has been to prevent illnesses and guarantee access to curative and rehabilitative care. The assumption long prevailed in the United States that sickness care was be bought and sold, or offered as charity, that is, until the advent of Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans’ health services. Prevention was always the responsibility of government or of private philanthropy. Now privatization and profiteering pervade the U.S. health-care system. Disease prevention, no profit center, has fallen by the wayside. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2019 conducted a six-month long simulation of an influenza epidemic that demonstrated that in the United States 110 million people would be sick and 586,000 would die. It revealed the health system to be “underfunded, underprepared and too disorganized to deal with a global pandemic.” The impact was nil. Under the Trump administration’s 2021 budget, spending on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropped by $1.2 billion. People whose job was to plan how to deal with health disasters were dismissed.

More here.