Life in Dystopian Times: Coronavirus Edition
The unthinkable has happened under Trump and we are in a worldwide pandemic.
This week’s news has included the highest number of unemployment claims, surpassing even statistics from the Great Depression and we don’t yet have precise numbers because state unemployment offices have been so overrun with new applicants that they’re way behind in processing those claims. Service industry workers were first to be let go, with restaurant and hotel workers comprising a large portion of the first wave of service industry layoffs and furloughs. But given that we now expect to have 20-30% unemployment by June 2020, the rate of unemployment across the board will most likely be astronomical as well.
MedPageToday, a medical news publication, reports that non-essential medical practices are also in trouble, with specialists and primary care doctors having to decide whether or not they should keep their practices open. Many have already closed for fear of infecting patients. Telemedicine, while covered for those who receive MediCare and Medicaid, is not widely covered under private insurance, at this point in time. This presents a problem for those doctors who have the ability to offer their services that way. It presents a different set of issues for those doctors whose patients don’t have smartphones. At any rate, both sets of physicians will, within days, have to decide whether they can keep staff on the payroll.
Then, there are those whom we never count: gig workers. Most, if one goes by the chatter on sites like Reddit, have most likely stopped working for rideshare companies at the beginning of the month of March. My husband is among those who stopped on March 8th. He noticed that there was a significant drop in rides beginning in mid-January. That drop continued through February and business came to a standstill for him by the start of the month of March. This is a catastrophic loss for us as a family, as we are among the many millions for whom the Great Recession never really ended.
Stopping work as a rideshare driver has meant returning the only car we had. We are now without a means of transportation for emergencies or resupply. Our small stockpile of toilet paper is now dangerously low, and the nearest store is six miles away. Even if they did have stock, it would be nearly impossible to get there in time to get some. Taking the bus, around here, is not an option. Taking an Uber or Lyft comes with the same risks we would rather avoid as COVID-19 cases are now doubling every four days. Entering this new depression, we are further behind than where we were at the height of the Great Recession.
One of the rare politicians to even talk about gig economy workers is Senator Sanders whose Senate floor speech was a very rare display of dissent in what has become a largely establishment body politic:
If you watch this speech to the end, hang around and watch the first few minutes of Senator Ben Sasse’s speech. It is enough to make one ill.
As news of COVID-19 cases beginning to double and triple every two to three days, how will Americans who are already worried react? Will those whose primaries are yet to take place buck the current trend and vote for the other candidate? Is there any chance the establishment can be defeated? How is it possible that so many, all of whom who’ve had a chance to compare Biden and Sanders, decide that the “known quantity”, as weakened and damaged as he is, is better than risk a departure from the status quo? As remote the possibility of steering the ship away from the path of the iceberg seems that chance is still there, no matter how small. Many of the primaries that were to take place in April have been postponed to the month of June. Maybe, just maybe, this is the window voters need to reassess, as they are confined to their homes. Maybe, just maybe, this is a window of opportunity for Americans to decide that self-preservation in the form of self-interest isn’t found in the middle of a political map, but on its left edge?
Senator Sanders has been using his social media accounts to inform the public, with guests from the House of Representatives as well as medical experts:
You can subscribe to Sanders’ YouTube channel and receive notifications of live broadcasts by clicking the bell icon immediately after subscribing. Senator Sanders has stopped fundraising for his campaign for president and is, instead, raising funds for organizations that help people in need during this crisis. Sanders has raised over $2 million so far. You can read about the senator’s efforts and contribute here.
Sanders’ opponent, on the other hand, is dedicating the scant public appearances he is making to oppose Medicare for All as we enter the most brutal phase of the coronavirus crisis:
After again complaining that Trump does not listen to the experts, Joe Biden continues to not listen to the experts himself, as well as Democratic primary voters and Bernie Sanders, in still hating Medicare For All in the Corona crisis. pic.twitter.com/RlplUltzky
— Andrew Jerell Jones, Luke 1:37 (IG:twdbk3) (@sluggahjells) March 30, 2020
I don't think anyone is arguing that single-payer healthcare would prevent diseases from happening, but rather that it would prevent financial ruin and care delays for millions of people. Would love to see Joe Biden debate this important question 🙂 https://t.co/zJBAhvrPXY
— Elizabeth Bruenig (@ebruenig) March 30, 2020
This is absolutely barbaric. The cruelty and absurdity of our for-profit health care system is more obvious in the midst of this crisis than it has ever been. We need Medicare for All. https://t.co/jUsEA1Lp5M
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 28, 2020
The organization, Common Dreams, has laid out the differences between the two candidates on healthcare as it pertains to the crisis we are now all living through.
Today’s Fiscal Times newsletter informs me that:
Health Insurance Rates Could Spike 40% Next Year: Report
The coronavirus pandemic could cost commercial insurers in the U.S. anywhere from $34 billion to $251 billion, and possibly more, according to a new analysis by Covered California, which runs that state’s public health insurance marketplace. The surge in costs could mean higher insurance premiums in 2021 for the roughly 170 million Americans who are covered by private plans, with increases ranging from 4% to 40% — or even higher.
“Health plans went into 2020 with no hint of coronavirus on the horizon,” Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, told The New York Times. “No insurer, no state, planned and put money away for something of this significance.””
Enormous uncertainty: The range of possible cost increases is huge, but some actuaries say that expenses for insurers may not soar when all is said and done. While spending on testing and treatment for Covid-19 will almost certainly increase, spending on just about everything else, from heart surgery to hip replacements, will likely fall as hospitals cancel procedures in order to focus on the pandemic. And, gruesomely, some patients may not be able to receive care in hospitals flooded with patients. For those who are able to receive treatment for coronavirus infections, costs could range anywhere from $20,000 to more than $70,000 per patient.
Insurance for insurers: The insurance industry is pushing Congress to create a new reinsurance program to cover some portion of the cost of coronavirus claims, in order to limit the increase in premiums next year, the Times’ Reed Abelson says. A group representing employers and health care companies, the Alliance to Fight for Health Care, which recently scored a victory in its battle to keep the so-called Cadillac tax in the Affordable Care Act from taking effect, has also expressed interest in some kind reinsurance program.
Lawmakers need to act fast: Insurers will submit their proposed rate hikes in May, with approval typically occurring by July 1. While some states will likely push back against unusually large increases, others may allow them if insurers are hit with huge costs increases. Without significant federal intervention, Lee says, “[c]onsumers will feel these costs through higher out-of-pocket expenses and premiums, as well as the potential of employers dropping coverage or shifting more costs to employees.”
If that isn’t the case for Medicare for All, I don’t know what is. Biden, however, is intent on shoring up an Obamacare that isn’t cutting it now, wasn’t cutting it in 2016, and won’t ever cover everyone in a way that is egalitarian and comprehensive.
Every day now, more large businesses, Macy’s being the latest, are announcing mass-furloughs. $1200 a head, even in states that have a moratorium on mortgage and rent payments along with the “unemployment on steroids” that is now available – none of these things will suffice to keep most people afloat. The Washington Post reported last week that mass layoffs have begun among white collar workers. Unlike other times there is no option for mass-demonstrations. There isn’t even an option for going out onto the streets and parks, to eat from soup kitchens the way people did during the Great Depression because of the need for social distancing. Here in Orange County California, people have been swarming pop-up drive-thru food bank distribution centers like the one at the Honda Center in Anaheim to receive grocery bags in a very orderly manner.
What about those who don’t have a car? A home? Our governor has been reporting on what is being done to relieve homelessness during this crisis and the numbers being given are in the thousands when there are over 100,000 homeless in the state.
We are witnessing the unthinkable unfolding before our eyes. The unthinkable is both the worst possible scenario and the worst possible leadership this nation could experience.
How this all ends up, I’m afraid, is pretty bleak looking at the short, middle, and long-term, given who is in control.
Trump openly admitting if we made voting easier in America, Republicans wouldn't win elections
Trump: "The things they had in there were crazy. They had levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again." pic.twitter.com/x5HmX6uogo
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) March 30, 2020
I will post one piece like this each week until I can go live on my YouTube channel. I am still in too much pain, after my shoulder surgery, to be able to manage a broadcast. I will soon, though! That’s a promise!
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The latest California announcements:
The latest New York announcements:
Some informative articles:
POLITICO Nightly: Coronavirus Special Edition Who Lives, Who Dies
National Geographic: What scientists do and don’t know about treating coronavirus Six leading physicians explain what we know so far about treating COVID-19 in the emergency room and at home.
** The Washington Post is making all of its Coronavirus coverage free to all to read.
France 24: Can the coronavirus infect someone twice?
The Atlantic: How the Pandemic Will End
The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
Haaretz: Plasma From Recovered Israeli Coronavirus Patients to Be Used to Treat Serious Cases: The use of antibodies in plasma is well-established to treat other viruses, and has been used in China against the coronavirus, but its effectiveness has not yet been proven
The Intercept: Is the Trump Cult a Death Cult?
Politico: Mask mystery: Why are U.S. officials dismissive of protective covering? Other nations recommend wearing masks to avoid coronavirus, but the Trump administration has not seen a benefit.
Coronavirus Statistics Website nCov2019.live
Pew Research Foundation: States Begin Prep for Mail-In Voting in Presidential Election
Since you’ve made it this far…
The graphic for this post comes from my recent Amazon search for toilet paper. Imagine my surprise when I noticed what forms of it are being offered…