FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Coronavirus for All

Photograph Source: 2C2K Photography – CC BY 2.0

“Someone once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.”

Frederic Jameson

OK, maybe it’s not the end of the world – but it’s the end of the world as we know it – and it will be upon us within the next few days. The author heads up coursehero.com. Still, I believe that he’s right. Michael Moore says that the public health-types in government tell him that he’s right.

In Boston, Biogen’s name will forever be mud. One of the high-flying executives of the successful biotech corporation contracted the coronavirus somewhere other than Boston. They then brought it to the hotel conference room and, afterward, to the restaurant/bar, where (through those handshakes and hugs), in a soon-to-be-famous superspreader event, billions of virions made the jump from Boston’s Patient Zero to a bunch of other managers and scientists. Then they turned in unison toward Patient Zero and chirped, “Hey, thanks for the ride, sucker!” (OK, I made up that last part.)

Those biotech executives then went to “Man’s Greatest Hospital” (Massachusetts General Hospital), where the doctors told them, no, we can’t test you for coronavirus because you don’t meet the criteria for testing according to the CDC protocol. And the executives thundered, “What? Are you stupid? Who do you think I am? I have a PhD in molecular biology and an MBA, too!” But they were turned away, and they went home fuming, but being very careful to cough into their elbows, responsible and civic-minded citizens that they are.

The smart-ass intern at the nurses’ station said into his EHR screen, “If you’re so smart, why don’t you make your own RT-PCR for SARS-CoV2?”

Certainly it’s true in the U.S.A. it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. On the other hand, it’s also obvious that capitalist health care is going to faceplant in the face of the coronavirus. It’s going to be a choice between Medicare for All or Coronavirus for All.

But eventually, the coronavirus made its way into regular working people. And that fast food worker had to think, so I’m living paycheck to paycheck, and I’ve got this cough and this fever. Can I take time off from work? Can I afford to go to the doctor? For many who work for hourly wages – a day off from work means no pay for that day. While public health authorities may say, “Don’t go to work if you’re sick,” many who live paycheck to paycheck had to think that staying home meant having trouble paying for rent, food, water, electricity, or childcare.

The virus had an easy time infecting homeless people, who may not have homes, but do congregate in shelters. Nursing homes are also congregate living settings. What happened in old people’s homes in Wuhan? When we talk about a 14.8% case-fatality rate (CFR) among those 80 year-olds and older–it’s evident that Wuhan’s health system wasn’t ready for lots of old people in lung failure. Is the U.S. health system ready for that? Of course, the CFRs are related to the biology of the infecting organism: the coronavirus is much more virulent than, say, seasonal influenza. The CFR is, however, also related to the effectiveness of health systems. So, we can expect health systems to keep people from dying when they’re not overwhelmed – when health care workers in Wuhan or Lombardy are not having to decide whom to put on those scarce mechanical ventilators.

These days U.S. health system is run by health care executives, with their business smarts, their lean operations (except for their compensation packages), achieving just-in-time delivery. Until there was a nationwide shortage of IV bags of normal saline after Hurricane Maria, whoever knew that they were made in Puerto Rico? Until lots of losartan and ranitidine had to be taken off the shelves, whoever knew that they were made in China? The lax manufacturing practices of generic pharmaceutical corporations there contaminated the medications with NDMA. That’s what happens when you obtain your supplies from the cheapest sources on the planet. They’re the cheapest because they have the most lax environmental regulations and their labor is most exploited.

Until this past week, the only available option in for COVID-19 testing was your state laboratory, which was sending samples to the CDC. In order to obtain the COVID-19 test, it was required that the patient have a respiratory virus panel test done. This panel is a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for a variety of viruses, including influenza and the run-of-the-mill coronaviruses that cause the common cold. From a diagnostic perspective, this makes some sense. If the patient’s symptoms can be explained by influenza, then it’s unlikely that they would have COVID-19. The respiratory virus panel test, however, costs $1479.90. Now for a very ill, hospitalized patient, such a cost would be buried within the cost of the entire hospitalization – and health insurance would likely pick up the cost. For the outpatient who is not about to die, however, it means a bill for $1479.90. It appeared unlikely that insurance will pay for a $1500 test to confirm a common cold – especially if we were to start testing larger numbers of patients. An uninsured patient would find such a cost unaffordable, meaning that unless one is deathly ill, an uninsured person cannot get tested for COVID-19. This has hampered our ability to who has the virus in the U.S. In Korea, you can get tested via a drive-through. In China, the authorities will find you, and they will test you – free of charge – and they’ll warehouse you in a re-purposed exhibition hall.

Anthony Fauci says that we’re now moving from containment, the notion that we’re going to track down any individual with the virus and isolate them – to mitigation, just trying to slow down the spread so that your local hospital doesn’t turn into The Central Hospital of Wuhan. In the mitigation phase, we’re social distancing. We’re staying six feet away from each other. We’re going to hole up and subsist on macaroni and cheese. Or the government could lock it down the way China did – where a man was quarantined, and his disabled son starved to death, where a boy was found with the body of his grandfather because he had told him not to venture out.

Our government will compensate the petroleum, airline, cruise ship, hotel, and sports and entertainment industries for their losses. Socialism for corporations is the first order of the day. But if we want to get through the coronavirus with grandma and grandpa alive, we must have Medicare for All. Or would you rather have Coronavirus for All?

More articles by:

Seiji Yamada, a native of Hiroshima, is a family physician practicing and teaching in Hawaii.

Weekend Edition
August 14, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Lights! Camera! Kill! Hollywood, the Pentagon and Imperial Ambitions.
Joseph Grosso
Bloody Chicken: Inside the American Poultry Industry During the Time of COVID
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: It Had to be You
H. Bruce Franklin
August 12-22, 1945: Washington Starts the Korean and Vietnam Wars
Pete Dolack
Business as Usual Equals Many Extra Deaths from Global Warming
Paul Street
Whispers in the Asylum (Seven Days in August)
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Predatory Capitalism and the Nuclear Threat in the Age of Trump
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
‘Magical Thinking’ has Always Guided the US Role in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
The Politics of War: What is Israel’s Endgame in Lebanon and Syria?
Ron Jacobs
It’s a Sick Country
Eve Ottenberg
Trump’s Plan: Gut Social Security, Bankrupt the States
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s Fake News
Jonathan Cook
How the Guardian Betrayed Not Only Corbyn But the Last Vestiges of British Democracy
Joseph Natoli
What Trump and the Republican Party Teach Us
Robert Fisk
Can Lebanon be Saved?
Brian Cloughley
Will Biden be Less Belligerent Than Trump?
Kenn Orphan
We Do Not Live in the World of Before
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Compromise & the Status Quo
Andrew Bacevich
Biden Wins, Then What?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
The Criminology of Global Warming
Michael Welton
Toppled Monuments and the Struggle For Symbolic Space
Prabir Purkayastha
Why 5G is the First Stage of a Tech War Between the U.S. and China
Daniel Beaumont
The Reign of Error
Adrian Treves – John Laundré
Science Does Not Support the Claims About Grizzly Hunting, Lethal Removal
David Rosen
A Moment of Social Crisis: Recalling the 1970s
Maximilian Werner
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf: Textual Manipulations in Anti-wolf Rhetoric
Pritha Chandra
Online Education and the Struggle over Disposable Time
Robert Koehler
Learning from the Hibakushas
Seth Sandronsky
Teaching in a Pandemic: an Interview With Mercedes K. Schneider
Dean Baker
Financing Drug Development: What the Pandemic Has Taught Us
Greta Anderson
Blaming Mexican Wolves for Livestock Kills
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Meaning of the Battle of Salamis
Mel Gurtov
The World Bank’s Poverty Illusion
Paul Gilk
The Great Question
Rev. Susan K. Williams Smith
Trump Doesn’t Want Law and Order
Martin Cherniack
Neo-conservatism: The Seductive Lure of Lying About History
Nicky Reid
Pick a Cold War, Any Cold War!
George Wuerthner
Zombie Legislation: the Latest Misguided Wildfire Bill
Lee Camp
The Execution of Elephants and Americans
Christopher Brauchli
I Read the News Today, Oh Boy…
Tony McKenna
The Truth About Prince Philip
Louis Proyect
MarxMail 2.0
Sidney Miralao
Get Military Recruiters Out of Our High Schools
Jon Hochschartner
Okra of Time
David Yearsley
Bringing Landscapes to Life: the Music of Johann Christian Bach
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail