US pandemic response – profits before people

12th April 2020

COVID-TrumpDonald Trump – seeking re-election at any cost

The withdrawal of Senator Bernie Sanders from the race for the Democratic nomination to contest the US election in November is a blow to the chances of any major progressive input into the campaign.  Sanders has said he will let his name stay on the ballot paper in states which have yet to declare, in order to keep some pressure upon Joe Biden to acknowledge some progressive policies, but the nomination itself now looks to be Biden’s for the taking.

As a contest Trump vs. Biden looks set to only go one way, with Biden’s appeal to the Democratic base being little more than the calculation that he is less likely to frighten off the establishment and by implication moderate voters, than self styled democratic socialist, Sanders.

Given that US political nominations are largely down to bankrolling the way to a nomination, there has been talk of Biden being gazumped by New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, for example, whose straight talking approach to the COVID-19 crisis has been compared favourably in some quarters to the bumbling mendacity of President Trump.

The mounting body count and mass graves being prepared in New York state may take some of the shine off Cuomo’s prospects, although to date he has not declared any intention of standing.  It is clear though that the most the Democrats are hoping for is a stop Trump candidate and at present Biden is the best they can agree upon.

However, the galloping COVID-19 crisis may yet dent Trump’s prospects in November, with the US now heading to the top of the world league for deaths related to the virus, and unemployment rising rapidly.  Last week alone saw 6.6m Americans lose their jobs.

The early inaction of the Trump administration has come under scrutiny this week with evidence that Trump was warned of the impact of the virus in January but did not act quickly enough, instead making statements downplaying the virus and comparing it to the common flu. Trump was backed in his assertions by his allies at Fox News who rushed to his defence, accusing the media of “scaring people unnecessarily” and trying to “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.”

In seeking to apportion blame for the impact of the virus, upon US lives and the economy, Trump this week hit out at the World Health Organisation (WHO), accusing WHO of having “called it wrong” and being “China-centric”.

Trump went on to vow that he would put “a very powerful hold” on his government’s funding of the WHO, before backtracking and insisting that a freeze was only under consideration.

The facts remain that the WHO declared COVID-19 a public health emergency on 30th January, nearly a month before Trump tweeted: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA”, and proclaimed: “One day – it’s like a miracle – it will disappear.” He eventually declared a national emergency on 13th March.

While clearly mishandling action to halt the spread of the virus at home, Trump still finds time to direct fire at those attempting to tackle the pandemic internationally.  However, US efforts to characterise Cuban medical teams as “agents of communist indoctrination” has taken a blow, as Cuban doctors have flown off on new missions to battle COVID-19 in at least 14 countries, including Italy and the tiny principality of Andorra on the Spanish-French border.

In the city of Crema in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, 52 Cuban doctors and nurses set up a field hospital with 32 beds equipped with oxygen and three ICU beds.

“This is a strongly symbolic moment because the Crema hospital has been going through an extremely complicated situation from the start,” Lombardy’s top social welfare official, Giulio Gallera, said, “The number of patients who have filled and continue to fill the emergency room and departments has truly put the medical personnel to a hard test.”

The Trump administration has sought to cut off income to Havana as part of a long-term tightening of sanctions and continues to discourage countries from contracting Cuban medical workers.

Cuba currently has about 37,000 medical workers in 67 countries, most in longstanding missions. Some doctors have been sent as part of free aid missions, but many countries pay the government directly for their services. In some other cases, international health bodies have paid.

Pressure in the United States from the Wall Street business lobby could yet see social distancing restrictions lifted far sooner than the WHO would deem safe.  While the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) is opposing such a move the bankers appear to be backed by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the US.

Recent CDC guidance on 9th April, states that essential “critical infrastructure workers” could go back on the job as long as they were pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, even if they had been exposed to a virus victim within the prior 48 hours. The push to get everyone back to work, regardless of the danger, was stressed by Trump again recently, when he put forward the notion that the country should be ready for this by the end of the month.

Profits before people is unlikely to turn up anywhere as a campaign election slogan but that is precisely what Trump’s policies in relation to the pandemic amount to.  That is how things stand in the world’s richest and most powerful nation.

Meanwhile, 90 miles off the Florida coast a small island, against which the US maintains a 60 year long illegal economic blockade, continues to show that there is another way.



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