MFA and COVID19 Update – January 17, 2021
By Dr. Bill Honigman, PDA Healthcare Human Rights, Coordinator – Progressive Democrats of America
This week worldwide total cases of #COVID19 rose by nearly yet another 5 million new cases, on track to reach about 100 million total worldwide by the end of next week, and with total deaths up by another 100,000 just this week, which is generally agreed upon to be underreported because not all deaths are being investigated to have COVID19 ruled out as an underlying cause. Thankfully, despite all of this, most countries are now showing a leveling off of cases, even in areas where the new more contagious variants are known now to exist, thanks to the more restrictive public health measures put into place to deal with this seasonal peak, with the exception of the autocratic nation of Brazil which is still showing a rise in new coronavirus cases overall.
Again, shamefully for us Americans this week, as in all weeks so far in this pandemic, the COVID19 cases per capita for the US is at about 6 times that of the global rate, and US COVID deaths were up by 23,231 this last week which is on track to reach the predicted 400,000 total for the pandemic by the time the new Biden/Harris administration is sworn in this coming week. The worst day yet in lives lost to COVID19 here in the US was in fact just this last Tuesday with a death toll reported on that one day of 4,327.
California surpassed Texas this week in total COVID19 deaths, as dire reports from Los Angeles County in particular have reached international attention. Just yesterday, LA announced its first confirmed case of the more contagious UK COVID19 B.1.1.7 variant. Or as Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.Ed., described it, “The presence of the UK variant in Los Angeles County is troubling as our Healthcare system is already severely strained with more than 7,500 people currently hospitalized. Our community is bearing the brunt of the winter surge, experiencing huge numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, five times what we experienced over the summer.”
And a study released this week out of the University of Southern California looked at the impact of COVID19 on life expectancy, in particular among the traditionally underserved demographics, showed that while the average US life expectancy in 2020 dropped by 1.13 years, bringing it down to 77.48 years overall, for Blacks it was a drop of 2.1 years, and for Latinx people dropping it even further by 3.05 years lower life expectancy. In contrast, the drop in life expectancy for white people was only 0.68 years.
Thus, prompting the study authors to conclude with the statement, “The COVID19 pandemic’s disproportionate effect on the life expectancy of Black and Latino Americans likely has to do with their greater exposure through their workplace or extended family contacts, in addition to receiving poorer health care, leading to more infections and worse outcomes.”
This is of course is what we have highlighted in these postings for months now.
So, what should we expect from the new Biden/Harris Administration to tackle this most immediate existential crisis of health and economic security for our nation, and the social injustices which are so clearly a part of it all? Even after 10 full months of being on shut down, COVID19 testing is still not universal in this country. Contact tracing remains by all appearances nonexistent. And vaccine roll outs have been yet another miserable public embarrassment, inadequate now even at warp speed.
And what of the very needed discussion of the other social determinants of health, those socioeconomic factors that cause those outrageous inequities leading to these differing life expectancies among our diverse communities? Not just dealing with COVID care and ensuring the vaccine actually gets to those more at risk and more importantly perhaps those more in need, but also more comprehensive Healthcare that controls chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease that put us all at risk of worse outcomes from COVID, and would be fully covered and fully treated under a #SinglePayer expanded and improved #MedicareForAll system? Is this not the perfect moment for putting such a system in place, or as Dr. King told us to abide by the admonition of “the fierce urgency of now”?
If it starts with budget reconciliations in the new Congress for new Health Care Emergency Guarantee provisions instead of more sweeping legislation, well I’m all for it. As long as it moves things forward to save lives and save money, but no doubt we will continue to push for more, both at the federal and state levels. And push we must at the local level with more resolutions and working to get more local elected officials on board who will help to champion such a movement for #HealthcareJustice, especially in those hardest hit communities that are being most severely and egregiously impacted.
Clearly, when it comes to this Healthcare crisis of COVID19, we can look and think globally, but we need to act locally, and do it now like our lives depend on it, because they do.