Tag Archives: healthcare

Essential Workers Die First on the Job

New Orleans     The reports of pandemic deaths of essential workers are harrowing.  A lot of attention, deservedly, has been given to healthcare workers of all kinds who are living and breathing the virus in emergency rooms and intensive care units.  Others are also falling like flies.  A South Dakota Smithfield meatpacking plant was shut down with over 80 cases.  Delivery drivers for school lunch programs have died, stopping foot depot pickups in some districts that have been a lifeline for lower income children.  Grocery store chains are reporting numerous illnesses and deaths.  The conundrum is clear.  The workers are essential and in many of these cases these are lower waged workers who have to make money to survive, so they have no choice but to go to work, often at their own peril, given the laxness that employers are giving to their health and safety.

As the pressure increases and the President and his economic whisperers here and there try to push a reopening of the economy, ready or not, it is hard not to see their voices twisting the health advice from state and federal health officials as they prepare despite the risks.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) responsible for our food chain from farm to grocery stores is issuing guidelines that seem most concerned with keeping stores open and workers at their post.  According to the Washington Post, the FDA echoed,

“… the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has reversed its previous recommendations that workers exposed to someone with covid-19 (or even someone showing symptoms of the disease caused by coronavirus) should be sent home and quarantined for 14 days…. the agencies are not recommending that employees potentially exposed to the coronavirus be sent home and quarantined. Instead, the agencies recommend that employers assess the exposed workers’ health before they start a shift, including temperature checks. Potentially exposed employees should also wear masks, maintain six feet of separation from co-workers and assess their own health throughout the day.

The FDA is recommending six feet of separation for customers and in checkout lines, but is not recommending workers have masks.  Note that the priority is now keeping those exposed at work.  What could go wrong?  Everything from what other experts say.  Nothing as far as corporate executives seem to be advocating.

Nursing home workers are seeing the same pressure.  With thousands of deaths around the country suddenly, as the number of deaths increase, transparency is dying even more quickly than workers and clients.  Many states, and Louisiana is one, claimed that they adopted their new policy after discussions with the CDC, although earlier the CDC denied having instructed them to stop disclosing the names of the nursing homes.  Now the CDC is under fire in other states as well where communities are unable to find out where hot spots have developed.  Given the power of the nursing home lobby in many southern states, including Louisiana, it seems impossible that the association did not push for the veil to be pulled down on the information to protect the businesses of their members, regardless of their health.  The association denies having done so, and they will probably argue next that the Pope is no longer Catholic.

Cleaners, delivery workers, and hundreds of other jobs that are also essential have even fewer protections.  As the health system is compromised by politics and commercial interests, it seems that being an essential worker is seen by them as acceptable collateral damage.  Employers seem delighted to be able to continue to operate their businesses, but seem to be as willing to see some of their workers die first as well.


Please enjoy Yankee Fool by Cormac Russell.

Thanks to WAMF.


Some Changes the Coronavirus Should Bring

Pearl River     In the Age of Trump and the Time of the Coronavirus, there seems to be constant speculation about what changes in our society, habits, and government might be permanent given our collective experience.  Much of this is hyperbole.  One pundit argued that he went “to sleep in America and woke up in democratic socialist Europe.”  Oh, if dreams could come true!  Let’s instead talk about lessons we should learn in this crisis, and things that should absolutely change in the wake of this crisis.

The Affordable Care Act is now ten years old, celebrating its anniversary during the lockdown.  No matter Trump’s rhetoric and Mitch McConnell’s Senate Republican caucus, can anyone make the case that the private health insurance and the patchwork quilt of state health coverage is adequate for our people?  The elimination of mandatory coverage left our hospital network damaged, albeit their greedy pricing of their services, drugs, and the like are major players as well, forced mergers and left us with too many sick and not enough beds, equipment, and personnel.  Millions in states across the country are facing this crisis without any insurance.  That has to change.

How could we not learn that the internet has to become a public utility?  How could we not realize that we finally have to take this matter out of the hands of the telecoms and the pattycake FCC voluntary programs and eliminate the digital divide, here and around the world?  How can all the ideologues who want to argue that education is the answer, despite the facts, maintain their position as the country from elementary to college is pushed into on-line learning, leaving lower income families even farther behind?   Put this near the top of the list.

Living wages, paid sick leave, real unemployment benefits, the play pretend that gig workers are not employees, are all things that we have once again been taught have to be part of the safety net for everyone, especially lower waged workers and their families.   The failure of government in this crisis has to end the argument that somehow the private sector and the magic of market forces are somehow going provide for families.  They never have, and they never will.  That’s why we need a government, it’s time to make them do the job.

I didn’t put this on the top of the list, but our union represents home care workers, nursing home workers, developmentally disabled workers, and the government and society has depended on them for care as much as they do hospital workers, yet they are severely underpaid and under resourced.  Good health care is a top to bottom priority, and we have to guarantee our people that they will be provided for when in care, and when giving care.

Yes, people will finally learn to wash their hands better, but the virus ought to bring forward a host of changes that we desperately need and can no longer ignore.  The temptation by policy makers will be to fight the last war, rather than the next, by putting more respirators and masks into production.  Many of us will include different items in our “run for it” bags and storage closets for sure.  But we need to learn from this that there are fundamental changes that we have to make in protection and provision for our people, and we need to do it now.