Stephen Bezruchka 3-Pack
What kind of bizarre twilight zone world are we in? The coronavirus pandemic is a global altering moment. It has exposed huge fissures of vulnerability. The dead from COVID-19 in the U.S. now exceeds Vietnam War levels. The health crisis has triggered an economic crisis. Tens of millions have lost their jobs in the largest mass unemployment since the Great Depression. The bread lines of the 1930s have turned into car lines as people wait for hours to get some free food. The lack of preparation, the shortages of tests and medical equipment plus all the dissembling has been mind-boggling. “I don’t take any responsibility at all,” intones the president. What will emerge from this pandemic emergency? A more equitable decent society living in harmony with the Earth or more rapacious destructive capitalism? The choice is clear.
The COVID-19 coronavirus disease pandemic has cast in deadly high relief that the United States, the richest country on Earth has a dysfunctional health care system. One should not even call it a system. “It’s unimaginable,” a CNN anchor commented upon seeing footage of hospital tents in New York’s Central Park and a refrigerator truck loading up corpses in Brooklyn. The reports of shortages of everything from testing kits to ventilators to masks to gloves to hospital beds boggle the mind. Where was the preparation? And now where is the coordination? States and countries are competing against one another. Viruses do not recognize borders. Collective global action is the only way forward. Universal medical protocols must be in place. An international public health infrastructure is urgently needed or the next pandemic will make this one look like a picnic.
The coronavirus pandemic has sent waves of fear across the globe. It is a dangerous moment. We are benumbed by the dizzying statistics of new cases and the number of deaths popping up all over the world. What is it? It is a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. It can infect both animals and people and can cause various illnesses and can be fatal. How contagious is it? Very. The top government infectious disease expert says “We’re at a critical point now. The worst is yet ahead for us.” It’s no time for happy talk. The deeper systemic societal health and economic problems are ignored. When the crisis subsides, we must examine those issues.
Dr. Stephen Bezruchka is on the faculty of the Department of Health Systems and Population Health at the University of Washington. He worked for many years as an emergency physician in Seattle. He worked in Nepal for more than a decade where he helped set up a community health project a week’s walk from the road. He also established a remote district hospital for training Nepali doctors whom he supervised. He is the author of Inequality Kills Us All: COVID-19’s Health Lessons for the World.