The coronavirus death toll in the US has passed 90,000. It continues to rise by over 1000 most days. Several states have lifted lockdown restrictions through May as Trump continues his push for “Opening Up America Again”.
But testing and contact tracing programs—the key requirement for easing quarantine restrictions—are drastically unprepared.
Local health departments are frantically hiring staff for contact tracing but are far behind targets. Los Angeles County for instance, with a population of 10 million people, is estimated to need 6000 contact tracers under California’s criteria for re-opening. It currently has 400. The number of tests administered in the US has increased significantly in the last month but still lags behind other countries relative to the population.
With the US’s leading immunologists voicing strong concerns, Trump has continued to rebuke advice that goes against his preferred views. US Infectious Disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned strongly against lifting lockdown restrictions and particularly against the plan to reopen schools in Autumn. Trump has since declared Dr. Fauci’s warnings “not an acceptable answer”. Government whistleblower and immunologist Dr. Rick Bright said in a statement to a government committee that 2020 in the US would be the “darkest winter in modern history”. Trump dismissed Dr. Bright as “a disgruntled guy”.
This pattern of science denialism is part of a response that prioritises the market over all else. Revealingly, a White House official quoted in the Financial Times described a conversation between Trump and Jared Kushner in which Kushner advised against increased testing on the basis that more known cases could “spook the markets”.
For workers, the lack of adequate social security compounds the problem. As stay-at-home orders are lifted, workers still in employment are now met with a choice between risking their health to go back to work or losing their eligibility for unemployment benefits if they refuse.
Trump’s America presents a gut-wrenching vision of the failure of free market capitalism to prioritise human lives. Workers resistance is the force that can intervene to put health before profit.
By Matilda Fay