The Real Priorities in the COVID-19 Fight

Where Are the Coronavirus Tests?

Credit: R.J. Matson, Portland, ME

Where are the coronavirus tests? Where are the masks? Where are the ventilators? Where is the direct support to Americans who can’t go to work and whose rent and bills are due in days?

They are tied up in the severe dysfunctions of an administration that has ineptly confronted this crisis, and lost in the Republican leadership’s obsession with prioritizing corporate bailouts over investment in and relief for the rest of us.

We are facing an unprecedented moment. Health care providers are asked to make miracles happen while being denied basic equipment. Parents are being asked to school their children at home while they don’t know if they’ll have money for rent that’s due. Grocery store workers are being told that they are essential—and truly, they are heroes—while being denied the basic ability to stay safe at work, the time to care for themselves or their families in case of infection, or the confidence that there will be hospital beds left for them.

So forgive us for a moment if bailing out Boeing or reopening Mar-a-Lago isn’t our top priority.

We must campaigning for masks and protective equipment for health care providers, for immediate and significant financial support for all Americans, and for community safety measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

We’re in a critical moment to push our government to use its extraordinary power to put people first, focus on our individual and public health and our financial security, and help all of our communities weather this pandemic and emerge resilient.

Here’s some of what we need right now:

1. We need to care for the folks who are infected and the heroes who are caring for them. That means tests that are fast, accessible, and free; protective equipment, including masks, for all health care staff; more ventilators and hospital beds than we currently have; and assurances that this pandemic won’t bankrupt a generation with medical bills.

What we don’t need are excuses, attempts to downplay the crisis, delays in providing equipment, or deference to companies that don’t want to produce and distribute masks quickly and affordably.

2. We need to stop the spread — with solid public health recommendations based on science, not wishful thinking, with language that connects to people all across the country, and with measures that can actually work for working people. We need folks to stay home if they are able, and we need to care for and support those whose jobs and financial situations don’t allow them to stay home. We also need to be responsive to the people for whom staying home is a danger, including those living with domestic violence.

What we don’t need is to be urged to pack pews by Easter, or the idea that sacrificing only the older generation would be a good idea (which isn’t even how the pandemic is playing out).

3. We need to care for Americans whose lives have been turned upside down. We need freezes on rent, mortgage payments, and other bills, and we also need to move money directly to people who are impacted, so they can care for themselves, their families, and their communities. Support needs to be immediate, significant, and ongoing.

Those are big needs. And that’s just the starting place, as we’ll also need to secure and strengthen our elections, build a broader safety net, stand with the communities that are most under attack in this moment — such as Asian Americans, who are facing a surge of hate speech and attacks — and imagine and invest in the society that comes after this pandemic is over.

Here’s some of what we must do:

  • To produce masks and ventilators, we must pushing the Trump administration to overcome the objections of corporate moguls and actually use the federal power known as the Defense Production Act to direct industries to produce masks, ventilators, and other critical supplies as soon as possible. 
  • To confront the spread of the virus, moving public education and advocacy campaigns to urge all who can to stay home, to push local and state governments to listen to public health officials—and not Donald Trump’s Twitter feed — about when to reopen businesses and schools, and to support those who can’t stay home with measures that help their health and financial well-being.
  • To provide immediate relief, pushing for a stimulus that puts people first—with direct payments, rent freezes, expanded housing, paid sick and family leave, access to health care, and more. Push state governments and corporations to do what must be done.
  •  And we need to keep all of that going — and do even more.

Americans are also all juggling caring for family members that are home from school, or missing paychecks, or concerned about their health. So now is not the time to tighten our belts. Now is not the time to cut off our nose to spite our face. This is the time to put it all out there, to meet this unprecedented, high-stakes moment with everything we can.


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