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Pearl River Yes, we’re all tired of hearing about covid-19 and our powerlessness to protect ourselves, our federal government’s incompetence, our local government’s uncertainty, and the general chaos. On the other hand, perhaps the virus this time is teaching that this is a parade without an end with many more to come. If so, this national catastrophe may be moving to settle some contentious issues so that everyone’s voices are heard and the political issues resolved.
Take vaccines. Remember there used to be anti-vac folks in huge pockets here and there. Now, everyone from President Trump down to the school playground are pretending a vaccine for covid-19 is ready anywhere from in a minute in the president’s claim or as soon as possible in the public’s prayer. Maine is a prime example. A bill narrowly escaped their legislature that eliminated philosophical and religious objections to vaccinations in the state. The approval had been on hard partisan lines with the Democrats voting to remove the exemption and the Republicans wanting to continue to allow them. The division was supposedly so stark that an initiative made it to the ballot. The vote on Super Tuesday, if you missed the headlines, was a beatdown. 73% of the voters and every single county supported the end of any exemptions for any reason to vaccinations. Period. End of argument.
How about sick leave? A lot of talk, but not quite settled. A new notion of emergency sick leave has entered the debate in the fog of war around the virus, even as others are coming to understand that paid sick leave is not a personal benefit, but a community and common good. In Canada, 55% of a workers’ pay is being provided by the government for those forced to provide for their children with all day care centers closed. Now that’s a plan. Mandating paid sick leave without providing a way for it to be paid is a nonstarter. Regardless of the rightness of paid leave, our social enterprise coffeehouses wouldn’t have any income to pay workers if we were forced to shut down. We’re not alone. The gig economy is defenseless. We need a government and real leadership. I read a headline that the virus is Trump’s Katrina. Indeed!
Has this moved he needle finally on the Affordable Care Act and the need for a more comprehensive national healthcare system, even if not Medicare For All? Maybe. We’ll have to see. Hospitals are strapped. Tests are unavailable. There finally may be an understanding that public health means health for everyone, not just private pay plans for the rich and luckily employed.
We may not have consensus on this, but people will be judging politicians on what they do and say about responding to the virus. The fool Texas Congressman who claimed it was a hoax and then had to self-quarantine. The President who said “what me worry?” and then watched the country implode in sickness and concern. All will face the voters who might just have a different view now of what a community means and what its limits are without a real government ready to support all the people. When the hero is an octogenarian public health and infectious disease expert and not the president, politicians are going to take notice and start paying attention in class or pay the price.
That’s my hope anyway.