Sunday, April 19, 2020

While the Elderly, Minorities, and the Imprisoned Die, A Push to "Re-Open" the Country by "Pro-Life" Christian Republicans

The U.S. saw a grim milestone this week: A record 4,591 patients in the U.S. with COVID-19 died in a 24-hour stretch ending at 8 p.m. ET Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University
According to the Wall Street Journal, the figure beats the previous record of 2,569 deaths. 
The sharp increase is likely because in New York City's probable coronavirus deaths are now being counted in the official tally. 
As of Friday morning, John Hopkins University reports that the death toll in the U.S. has reached 33,286, the highest mortality rate in the world.

Although African Americans make up about 14% of the U.S. population, they make up 30% of the deaths from the coronavirus, according to statistics released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control. But the federal data is missing racial information for 75% of all cases. About half the states, representing about a fifth of the U.S. population, have yet to provide demographic information, and a quarter of the states that have done so have not included racial data.

We know that Covid-19 is killing African-Americans at greater rates than any other group. You can see this most clearly in the South. In Louisiana, blacks account for 70 percent of the deaths but 33 percent of the population. In Alabama, they account for 44 percent of the deaths and 26 percent of the population. South Carolina and Georgia have yet to release information on death disparities, but in both states blacks are more likely to be infected than whites. The pattern exists in the North as well, where African-American populations in cities like Chicago and Milwaukee have high infection and death rates. 
Federal officials have tied these disparities to individual behavior — the surgeon general of the United States, Jerome Adams, who is African-American, urged blacks and other communities of color to "avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs" as if this was a particular problem for those groups. In truth, black susceptibility to infection and death in the coronavirus pandemic has everything to do with the racial character of inequality in the United States. 
To give just a few, relevant examples, black Americans are more likely to work in service sector jobs, least likely to own a car and least likely to own their homes. They are therefore more likely to be in close contact with other people, from the ways they travel to the kinds of work they do to the conditions in which they live.

On Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson reported that 55 inmates at a federal prison in Forrest City had tested positive for COVID-19. But inmates at the facility said that the Federal Bureau of Prisons is downplaying the extent of the outbreak and that their living conditions have made them especially vulnerable to the highly contagious virus.  

Over the weekend, a man incarcerated at Cummins Unit prison, an Arkansas state prison in Grady, tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first prisoner in the state correctional system there to do so. The corrections department responded by quickly testing all the other men housed in the same barracks—mass testing that most other states have not done in their prisons. 
The results, made public on Monday, were shocking: The state corrections department announced that a whopping 43 of the 46 other men in the housing unit had tested positive. They were all asymptomatic and are now quarantined.

"Confirmed Cases in Arkansas," KATV News

The number of prison cases is not officially confirmed or included in the numbers released today, but Dr. Jennifer Dillaha of the Health Department, mentioned during questioning but not during opening prepared remarks, that 230 inmates at Cummins prison havetested positive for corona, compared with 129 reported yesterday. Again: That number is NOT included in the daily state total shown above and the governor indicated in the future the prison count may be tallied separately from state numbers.

Now that the coronavirus has struck the U.S. in massive numbers and is spreading like lightning through prisons across the country, white collar criminals like Cohen have been begging for additional special treatment. And just today, Cohen got his wish.

The bump in coronavirus cases is most pronounced in states without stay at home orders. Oklahoma saw a 53% increase in cases over the past week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Over same time, cases jumped 60% in Arkansas, 74% in Nebraska, and 82% in Iowa. South Dakota saw a whopping 205% spike. 
The remaining states, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming each saw an increase in cases, but more in line with other places that have stay-at-home orders. And all of those numbers may very well undercount the total cases, given a persistent lack of testing across the US. 
This trend undermines the notion perpetuated by President Donald Trump and some of his Republican allies that the restrictive social-distancing measures aren't necessary in rural America -- and that these states even offer a model for reopening the country.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has refused to implement a statewide stay-at-home order, and now residents are paying the price. As of Tuesday, the state has nearly 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. An astonishing 768 of those are in Minnehaha county, which is where the Smithfield Pork plant that was forced to close indefinitely earlier this week is located. 
In fact, 644 confirmed cases in Minnehaha are from that Smithfield Pork plant. The Argus Leader reports 518 confirmed cases among Smithfield plant employees and another 126 cases in people associated with employees. One worker, 64-year-old Augustin Rodriguez, died of COVID-19.
The plant employs around 3,700 people, so that is an astonishingly high rate of infection. It is currently the largest cluster of cases in the United States. The South Dakota plant produces approximately 5% of the nation's pork.  ...
At the end of the day, what we are seeing in South Dakota is a giant flashing red warning about what can happen if people are forced back to work too soon without enough testing, without proper protective gear, and without social distancing measures. The situation is getting so bad that South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem may have to issue those stay-at-home orders after all.

Since March 29, when the first case was diagnosed in a Liberty student living off-campus, confirmed coronavirus cases in the Central Virginia health district, which surrounds Lynchburg and Liberty, have grown from seven to 78. One person has died.

Churches and their leaders in states across the country are suing governors for COVID-19-inspired orders that they say are infringing on their right to worship freely. 

There is a tremendous push, backed from the White House itself and the deep pockets of leading Republicans like the DeVos family, to "re-open" the country — though those making this push know full well that vulnerable Americans will die as a result of the push. The push is likely to work. States that have refused to enact stay-at-home-orders, like my home state of Arkansas, are being presented to the public as model states in which — so the public is being told — few people have been infected as most of us carry on business as usual. The Republican governors of those states are fudging figures to make infection rates appear lower than they are: the Republican governors of both Georgia and Florida have been accused in well-documented media reports of hiding numbers of people in nursing homes in their states who have COVID, and the number of nursing homes in which infections exist.

What most "pro-life" white Christian Republicans will not say out loud right now — though an increasing number are doing just that — is that they consider some human lives expendable when it comes to generating income for those who are already rolling in money.

This pandemic is disproportionately killing the elderly, those with pre-existing medical challenges,  members of minority communities including notably African Americans and Hispanics, and those in prison. People in the bottom echelons of American society already lack access to good medical care. Many people in this sector of society do not have the luxury of staying at home to avoid infection.

They have jobs, and they have to work, or they'll lose those jobs and not be able to pay their bills. 

These are — disproportionately — the people keeping the food chain operative and keeping supermarkets and grocery stores open.

They are also the people dying in disproportionate numbers in this pandemic, since they have no choice except to expose themselves to infection and continue working.

These are the people "pro-life" white Christian Republicans consider expendable, a necessary sacrifice to the god of dollars and cents that "pro-lfe" white Christian Republicans actually worship, rather than the God proclaimed by the Jewish prophets and Jesus, who has a preferential love for the least among us. 

The next time any of us hear these folks start to describe themselves as pro-life, we need to throw those words back into their faces and remind them of the real face they showed us in this pandemic, and what they showed us they really value above all.

For "pro-life" Republicans, some lives are expendable.

Others are not. 

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