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Health Care 501: First, Do No Harm

In the last 24 hours, President Donald Trump has privately and publicly suggested his desire to take a more aggressive approach… To roll back and discredit the emergency measures that federal, state, and local authorities have enacted to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

While Trump’s paying attention to corporate lobbyists and Republican operatives who are eager to “get back to business”, a return to “business as usual” amounts to a death sentence for millions of Americans. Considering my own father is at heightened risk, this is very personal for me.

First, here’s an update on my dad.
health care
Photo by Andrew Davey

Since his heart surgery at the third hospital in January, my father has gradually re-entered and re-adjusted to civilian life. For a while, he was even going out and about again. Then, the novel coronavirus struck. Like nearly everyone else, his life has completely changed. 

Fortunately, my dad doesn’t sound like he has COVID-19. And fortunately, he’s been adhering to the State of California’s rules and directions on social distancing. As long as he continues to stay at home as much as possible and stay away from others when he steps outside, I feel better about him surviving this coronavirus outbreak.

It’s important for all of us to remember that no one is completely invulnerable to the novel coronavirus, and that even children and young adults carry some risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19. Now with that being said, seniors and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk. And even though younger Americans are in less danger of becoming seriously ill themselves, they can nonetheless carry the virus and infect others.

Next, let’s see how the rest of the world is coping with COVID-19.

Last week, I did my best to explain the science behind COVID-19. Today, I need to add this: As of yesterday, the U.S. has embarked on an even steeper curve of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases than Italy, the current epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. In Italy, some are seeing signs of hope in two consecutive days of slower growth in positively tested cases and confirmed deaths. If this trend continues, it’s another data point that strengthens the case that aggressive societal shutdowns to enforce social distancing work in combating the novel coronavirus.

Earlier this month, the Italian government faced criticism for not acting quickly enough to contain the spread of COVID-19. More recently the British government came under fire for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s eye-popping “herd immunity” mass experiment, and Johnson has since been inching away from such “herd immunity” language as the U.K. is trying to avoid Italy’s fate.

Meanwhile, South Korea just reported its lowest number of new cases in nearly a month. Thanks to South Korea’s early and aggressive efforts to implement widespread testing, treatment, and and touting of isolation and quarantines, they’ve so far managed to avoid the huge spike of deaths that first hit China and is now hitting much of Europe. Yet despite this success, South Korean health officials are promising to remain vigilant as the novel coronavirus continues to spread around the world.

Just because Trump says it doesn’t mean it’s true. (If anything, he’s been anything but honest about COVID-19.)

So far, America’s COVID-19 trajectory is tracking much more closely to Italy and the U.K. than South Korea. This largely has to do with the lack of widespread testing and the federal government’s overall lack of preparation for this kind of pandemic threat. For all President Donald Trump’s current blaming of the Chinese government, Trump removed the CDC epidemiologist who had been embedded in China last July, and the Chinese government proceeded to hide its COVID-19 crisis from the rest of the world some five months later.

And for all Trump’s complaints about the Chinese government’s refusal to tell the full truth about its handling of the novel coronavirus, the Trump administration has often followed the same path of contradicting medical professionals, concealing the full scope of our COVID-19 crisis, and outright lying about what’s happening across the nation (such as state and local authorities’ lack of supplies). 

Perhaps those like Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman would have denied the full scope of this pandemic and encouraged outright defiance of doctors’ orders anyway, but Trump’s rhetoric only encourages more Americans near and far to deny reality. But if Trump actually follows through on his latest threat to discourage social distancing, encourage non-essential businesses to reopen, and press the entire nation to return to “business as usual”, he will truly endanger millions of Americans’ lives by encouraging even more denial of the truth.

Lies may feel good for a fleeting moment, but lies won’t cure us.

As with every campaign of lies, Trump’s latest social media missives touch upon a key grain of truth: The economy is plunging into recession as a result of the novel coronavirus and the societal shutdowns medical professionals have endorsed to “#FlattenTheCurve”. But as we and others have been saying all month, we can choose to lessen the pain and make society-wide social distancing more financially feasible for everyone in society by expanding the social safety net and providing critical financial aid across the board (and especially to the people and small businesses who need it the most).

That Trump and corporate executives like Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein and Hobby Lobby’s David Green are blithely dismissing real medical science out of “concern for the economy” suggests that they don’t really care about the real science or the real economics behind this crisis. Rather, as long as Trump continues such counterproductive measures like fighting against the Affordable Care Act (Happy Birthday, Obamacare?) when people are most in need of health insurance, and as long as some (read, Republicans) in Congress prioritize corporate subsidies over actual needed aid, they’re simply choosing to put Americans in harm’s way.

It doesn’t have to be like this. My dad shouldn’t have to worry about what might be happening at the hospital now, and I shouldn’t have to worry about whether someone’s reckless actions exposes him to COVID-19 while I’m keeping my distance (out of an abundance of loving caution). If federal policy-makers truly want to relieve us of our worries and worst fears, then they need to drop the delusional happy talk and pursue solutions that work in this real world of ours.

If you’re in need of medical treatment, contact your primary health care provider first. If you fear you can’t afford treatment from a hospital or doctor’s office, check with the Southern Nevada Health DistrictWashoe County Health DistrictCarson City Health and Human Services, or the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for resources in your area. For additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ respective resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Mutual Aid Disaster Relief and local groups like Three Square.

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