By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan
The United States, the wealthiest and most powerful nation in world history, is also number one in COVID-19 infections and deaths. As White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Deborah Birx warned last weekend, “It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal urban areas. To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus.” President Donald Trump responded by calling Birx “pathetic.” Six months into the pandemic, he’s offered no national plan to stop the spread of the virus, which is thriving.
As Trump daily demands rapid reopening of schools and the economy, the lines for tests stretch ever longer, and the ever-expanding wait for test results, in many cases up to two weeks, renders the results essentially useless, making contact tracing and isolation of infected people virtually impossible.
The American Association of Medical Colleges recently released “A Road Map to Reset the Nation’s Approach to the Pandemic,” urging the Trump administration to invoke the Defense Production Act to overcome the unconscionable shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, testing supplies, and therapeutic drugs.
Further, and more fundamentally, the AAMC calls for addressing systemic racism and other inequities that exist in our healthcare system and for a massive increase in funding for our beleaguered public health infrastructure. Included would be the fair, equitable and rapid distribution of a safe, effective vaccine when one becomes available, not only nationally, but globally.
This roadmap sounds sensible, but what chance does it have with a science denier in the White House more concerned with his TV ratings and reelection than addressing the greatest pandemic in a century? Trump is providing socialism for multinational corporations, doling out billions to big pharmaceutical companies, supposedly to develop vaccines. Public Citizen’s Peter Maybarduk has said Trump’s $6 billion, taxpayer-funded program benefitting private companies has “a striking lack of transparency.” Pharmaceutical company insiders are making millions through stock options, as poor and uninsured Americans are left to fend for themselves in the “free market.”
A simple, overdue step would be to immediately expand Medicare, the national health insurance system for people 65 years old and above, to cover all Americans from birth. Medicare for All would separate health insurance coverage from employment status or wealth, saving trillions of dollars and, most importantly, saving lives.