Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, another pest has come along—the long list of self-proclaimed experts who are trying to sell us the concept of disposable people to justify their dangerous plans to reopen the economy.
Mehmet Oz, aka Dr. Oz, defended the opening of the country’s schools, which “may only costs us 2 percent to 3 percent in terms of total mortality,” calling it “a very appetizing opportunity.”
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick suggested that the country’s seniors should be willing “to risk [their lives]” so that the economy can be saved. Etc., etc., etc.
This hideous, medieval mentality seems to be impervious to the fact that in the US, COVID-19 has killed more than 70,000 people, infected more than 1.1 million and turned our country into the world’s pandemic epicenter.
The reckless drive to reopening the economy, led by Donald Trump himself, brushes aside the warnings of healthcare workers, scientists and experts alike.
“The math is unfortunately pretty simple. It’s not a matter of whether infections will increase, but by how much,” Columbia University epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman told the Washington Post.
Trump’s own administration predicts that by early June the virus will kill 3,000 people a day, double the current rate.
Because of the absence of an adequate national testing regime, the response to the pandemic has been flying blind without a true understanding of the extent of the contagion. Trump promised that his administration would provide 5 million tests a day, only to be rebutted by his own testing czar, Dr. Brett Giroir, who said, “There is absolutely no way on Earth, on this planet or any other planet, that we can do 20 million tests a day, or even 5 million tests a day.”
This rush to reopen at any cost also dismisses that we Latinos and other communities of color—80 percent of those hospitalized in Georgia are African-American—disproportionately suffer the punishment of this virus. The numbers are heartbreaking:
-In New York City, the deaths per capita among Latinos are more than double of those of white residents.
-In New Jersey, almost 30 percent of those infected are Latino, whereas they are only 19 percent of the total population.
-And in Washington State, 25 percent of those infected are Latino with only 13 percent of the total.
Why? A great proportion of Latinos are frontline workers in crucial sectors of the economy, such as supermarkets, restaurants, healthcare, agriculture, meat processing and transportation. Low wages, migratory status, or lack of health insurance make us much less likely to seek or obtain medical care.
This situation is very similar to the consequences of another plague that has punished my community for decades—environmental injustices, the toxic bombardment we are subject to across the country.
A national Sierra Club survey revealed that 40 percent of Latino voters live, work, or study dangerously close to a toxic site, such as a refinery, a coal-burning plant, a freeway, or an agricultural field. Here are a few recent examples:
-The demolition of a dilapidated coal plant in Chicago blanketed a Latino barrio with a cloud of toxic dust.
-Clouds of toxic dust have sickened the overwhelmingly Latino communities around the Salton Sea in California.
-The frequent fires and explosions in the country’s largest cluster of petrochemical facilities in Houston directly impact the Latino barrios that surround it.
In the middle of the worst health and economic catastrophe in a century, we are hungry for solidarity and kindness. Such as the cab drivers in Madrid, Spain, who take patients and healthcare workers to hospitals free of charge. The millions who dedicate standing ovations from their windows to healthcare workers. Or the thousands of people who sent handmade facemasks to the governor of New York to be distributed among its suffering population.
Because in this world, there are no disposable people.
Javier Sierra is a columnist with the Sierra Club. @javier_SC
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