Tags: Coronavirus | France | nhs | johnson | british | covid

Disadvantaged Bear the Brunt in Coronavirus War

frontline coronavirus health workers

 (Iago Lopez/Dreamstime)

By Monday, 13 April 2020 02:00 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The fight against Covid 19 pandemic, a crisis unprecedented in recent history, has been characterized as a war.

Donald Trump declared, "We are Going to Win This War."

Here in France, President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation and declared that we are in a state of war against the Covid 19 enemy.

In this war, the extreme challenge is that each and every one of us is, despite ourselves, both the enemy — and frontline fighter.

The enemy, because all of us are potential carriers of the virus and the means to infect one another.

The fighter, because by accepting confinement, an abandonment of the most fundamental right to freedom of movement, we ourselves are the defense against the attack, with some of we healthcare providers courageously exposing ourselves to the virus.

But although we are all on the battleground, there are those who, not through any volition on their part, are most likely to find themselves on the front lines.

In 20th century wars the strength of our fighting force were the men in the trenches; the first waves landing on enemy beaches.

Today in the Spring of 2020 although every one of us can be infected the elder, more fragile, or those with other serious medical issues, especially autoimmune diseases, are most susceptible to contracting the virus, experiencing its most serious consequences.

One other group not especially exposed, not headlined in the media, are those who are at the bottom of the socio-economic strata.

This group is disproportionally among the seriously sick and hospitalized.

Those who are not hospitalized represent a danger as agents to spread the disease because they, unlike the chronically ill and elderly, they are active.

In every war, the enemy attacks the most vulnerable position, a breach in the wall or the weakest point in the opposition's line.

The underprivileged find themselves proportionally on this front line tough role for four reasons:

—Social distancing works less well because residences and parks are likely to be overcrowded.

—Family members from different generations are more likely to live together.

—Greater numbers are uninsured so have not in the past had good medical support,

—Disproportionate numbers, because of lack of medical support and poor living conditions, are also likely to have medical pre-conditions — and to be overweight, have diabetes, and smoke.

Statistics that are beginning to be published support this sad conclusion.

In Michigan, blacks have died at more than eight times the rate of whites. In Illinois, they have died at nearly six times the rate.

In Louisiana, the difference is fivefold.

It's not an overreach to conclude that the most disadvantaged, in addition to their risk of contracting and suffering from the virus, will be at risk of losing their jobs and finding themselves without financial resources to buy food and medical supplies.

The ultra-rapid, unprecedented, and dramatic degradation in the living standards of millions of Americans, and others across the globe, presents a high level risk for a spike in violent crime and civil unrest.

Rarely has it been so clear that the weakness in our healthcare system is a problem for Americans in general.

America did not face this war with the determination, honesty, courage, and sacrifice that wars require.

The U.S. is now predicted to take its place as the global leader in serious illness and deaths per thousand, because the American government and Mr. Trump did not marshal emergency manufacturing resources for testing and masks, did not test passengers arriving on foreign fights, and most importantly failed to put on notice each and every American, in unequivocal terms, that he and she are in fact the cause and consequence of the danger.

If the federal government had acted responsibly, all of us, especially the disadvantaged, would have been much less affected by this crisis.

In face of what we have, a worsening dilemma, what will count now is how to fight back and win from behind. We shall overcome because globally America is the country best known for its resiliency.

At the same time as we wage and win this war, we will have achieved a new understanding of how much each of us impact the wellbeing of all of us.

We will become intensely aware that our politics didn’t serve us well, regardless of our political affiliations.

We will, as the leading country globally, in innovation and resources, be forced to think outside the box — to bring new medical and epidemiological (and also disease prevention) solutions to ourselves and the world in general.

We will be forced to reverse our sad status as one of the least successful countries in the developed world in finding ways to protect those with the fewest resources, with a recognition that too great an imbalance in health and living conditions for some of us is a serious national weakness.

Historically, we have considered that a natural and unavoidable consequence of a free economy is that there will always be those who will lose out and those who will be left behind.

This may be true for much of a society of wealth and luxury.

It can no longer be considered true for healthcare, or decent living conditions.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said but a few weeks ago, that this virus would be defeated in 12 weeks, became a victim himself to Covid 19.

When Johnson left the hospital on Sunday, he broadcast a heartfelt message expressing his debt to the National Health Service for standing in harm’s way to save his life.

This was understood throughout England as a tribute to health providers who themselves are over-represented both in the trenches, who are getting sick, and also among those serving in hospitals often at risk to their own health. It was also a tribute to a national health service that Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party, with its allegiance to free enterprise, never before applauded with such enthusiasm.

It's not a stretch to see the disadvantaged, poverty stricken, and the least compensated members of the work force as frontline soldiers, or as Boris Johnson called them, a "human shield" to protect us all.

Mark L. Cohen has his own legal practice, and was counsel at White & Case starting in 2001, after serving as international lawyer and senior legal consultant for the French aluminum producer Pechiney. Cohen was a senior consultant at a Ford Foundation Commission, an advisor to the PBS television program "The Advocates," and Assistant Attorney General in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He teaches U.S. history at the business school in Lille l’EDHEC. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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It's not a stretch to see the disadvantaged, poverty stricken, and the least compensated members of the work force as frontline soldiers, or as Boris Johnson called them, a "human shield" to protect us all.
nhs, johnson, british, covid
Monday, 13 April 2020 02:00 PM
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