by Ralph Scharnau
published with permission
We are witnessing the onslaught of the COVID-19 virus at various locations around the world. The impact of COVID-19 has been most apparent over the last two years. The COVID-19 virus has truly reached a global scale as reports of outbreaks or surges come from cities and metro areas, rural areas and small towns and along borders. This virulent infectious disease spared no individual or country, rich or poor.
COVID-19’s dramatically different impact by age has been one of the virus’s defining characteristics. It tends to be mild for children and younger adults but more often severe for the elderly. Around three-quarters of all U.S. Covid deaths have occurred among people 65 and older.
The United States, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, fell victim to the scourge of this virulent infectious disease. The United States, in fact, just passed a somber milestone of 800,000 official deaths from COVID-19. This figure amounts to more than any other country, with the real death toll likely much higher.
Despite its wealth and renowned health care system, the United States has not avoided the scourge of this virulent infectious disease. The vast majority of deaths occur among the unvaccinated. In the weeks before vaccines became widely available in early 2021, Covid was the country’s No. 1 cause of death, above even cancer and heart disease.
Researchers have also observed higher COVID-19-related hospitalization and mortality rates among racial and ethnic minorities and low-income people than among the general populace. The factors associated with high poverty rates and racial discrimination include limited access to healthcare, poor housing conditions, and high-risk workplace environments. Studies have also shown a higher number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths among individuals belonging to Indigenous, Black, and Hispanic communities.
The United States has long been regarded as having one of the world’s leading health care systems with well-known doctors, scientists, and researchers. But it has not always delivered the best outcomes for the poor, workers, minorities, women, and people of color.
Ironically, the very persons experiencing inequities often provide health care to others. They work, for example, as nurses, aides, and transcribers. They function, in short, as essential healthcare workers.
Consider also media images of nurses facing relentless demands for care and support. These front line personnel appear exhausted. And inside and outside of hospitals and clinics issues of employment and sick pay provide a swirling context.
Looming as a basic, overarching contextual issue here is the fact that the United States has no free, universal health care system available to all. This lack of a national health insurance program affects everything from vaccine hesitancy to the ability to get tested to how we manage the virus going forward. Inequities are built into the U.S. health care system because healthcare is not considered a basic human right for everyone.
While the struggle to make healthcare a right continues, political action generates an agenda to improve the American healthcare system from access to treatment. In the midst of these healthcare issues, we receive daily media briefings on the course of the virus. And the World Health Organization reminds us that the pandemic is not over, countries should remain vigilant, and that vaccines and boosters provide the best protection against COVID and its variants like omicron.
The corona-covid pandemic has touched the lives of people everywhere. We need to take care of each other in our families, our communities, our nation, and our world.
February 28, 2022