Coronavirus cases are increasing at drastic rates in some states. Some people are alarmed with this rise in coronavirus cases, while other people (including some elected officials) downplay the increase in cases by saying out that there’s more coronavirus testing than before, and that because of more testing, there are more cases.
I’m here to say that there is reason for alarm in some places. But the reason for alarm is not because of the increase in coronavirus cases in many places, but because many places are struggling to adequately handle coronavirus cases so severe that urgent intervention is needed.
In places hard-hit by the coronavirus, the local health care systems get completely overwhelmed by coronavirus patients. In parts of Italy, the health care system got so overwhelmed that doctors had to make heart-wrenching decisions about who to try saving and who to let die. In my hometown of New York, response times for emergency calls surged significantly at the height of the coronavirus, which in turn further endangered individuals already at risk. In Alabama, fellow blogger Kim reported a few weeks ago that hospitals in Montgomery were so overwhelmed that they were needing to start sending patients to Birmingham, which is 90 miles away from Montgomery; this additional wait for treatment also further endangered individuals already at risk. In places like these, the health care systems get so overwhelmed that lives are put at risk or worse—lives are lost. That is reason for alarm.
But, how is one to respond to the alarm? I have five words to say: wear masks and socially distance. People should do those two things, as much as possible. I know people want to give their friends a hug, and I know that the masks can feel hot during the summer, but this is not about you. It’s about others. Namely, it’s about saving others’ lives. It’s about making sure that our emergency responders, nurses, and doctors don’t get overwhelmed. It’s about making sure that the immunocompromised don’t catch the virus and end up seriously ill (or dead) because of irresponsible actions from others. If you don’t want to wear masks and socially distance for yourself, do it for others, because wearing a mask and practicing social distancing are the two best ways to do your part to limit the spread of this pandemic.
Note that I will not have a post next Monday because of the July 4th holiday the previous Saturday.
I actually had a different post in mind for this week, but given the situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19), I decided to make a quick change in plans. Given the wide range of both unjust and just reactions I’ve seen to the coronavirus, I thought I would make a list of things (with explanations) on how not to respond, and how to respond, to this.
Do not respond with anti-Chinese sentiments.
Anti-Chinese sentiments include a refusal to buy Chinese food from your local Chinese restaurant and getting angry at anyone who is or looks Chinese, simply because this strain of coronavirus was first discovered in China. Just because it first originated there does not mean that we should treat people of Chinese descent as any less than anyone else.
Do listen to medical health experts in your area.
Listen to guidance from people in your city’s and/or state’s Health Department. Those who are actually working on this virus on a day-to-day basis are the ones who will likely have wise advice on how best to proceed. So, listen to them…please.
Do not automatically get angry if you see someone who sneezes or coughs when they are out in public.
The other day, someone absolutely freaked out at me when I sneezed once…once! However, we must realize that there are many reasons for someone to sneeze or cough that do not necessarily involve corthe coronavirus. It could be a cold, it could be allergies, or it could be that someone randomly has the urge to sneeze…all of us have the urge to sneeze once in a while, even if we are perfectly healthy!
But, if at all possible, please do stay home if you feel sick.
Thanks to the lack of sick leave that some people have (a subject I wrote about at length in last week’s blog post), it is not possible for some people to stay home. However, for those who do have sick leave available to them, use it when you feel sick. By staying home when you’re sick, you’re doing a favor to yourself and to others.
Do wash your hands frequently.
People should use discretion, but should also remember to wash their hands with regularity and thoroughly. You want to do all you can to kill the bad germs you may end up coming into contact with.
Do find things to occupy your time, if other things that used to occupy your time (work, school, sports) are getting canceled.
Don’t just sit around. Give your friend a phone call or a video call. Pick up a book. Sing songs, play an instrument, or listen to a CD. Watch a DVD or a favorite show or movie on a service like Hulu or on-demand cable. Pick up a new hobby. Work on a garden. Write something. Do some painting. We need to look out not just for our physical health, but our mental health too, and these are all things that will help us look out for our own and each other’s mental health.
The situation with the coronavirus is a very hectic and fluid situation. However, I hope that these tips I offered are a good place for all of us to start in order to take care of our own and others’ physical and mental health. I am also open to hearing other tips in the comments section below!
“Don’t go to work if you’re sick!” This is a refrain I’ve heard all the time in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus.
I’m here to say that there’s a problem with this refrain.
What I just said may have some shock value, but hear me out. I wholeheartedly agree that, in an ideal world, someone should not go to work if they are sick. After all, we do not want the coronavirus, the seasonal flu, or any other sickness spreading around.
The problem, however, is that the laws on sick leave in many states, and in the United States of America, is so broken that many Americans have no choice but to go to work if they are sick. Furthermore, the culture at some employers encourages work while being sick and discourages taking care of yourself when sick.
For starters, there is no national paid sick leave law, and most states also do not have any paid sick leave law. In a country where 40% of Americans are just one paycheck from poverty, it is simply not affordable to take an unpaid sick day, even if there’s an option to take an unpaid sick day. Yes, we want people to stay home when they are sick, but what do we say to people who have to face a choice between being unpaid and facing poverty, and going to work while sick? Because America’s laws on sick leave are broken, we have to ask that difficult question.
Then, there are all the people who do not have any sick leave at all, not even unpaid sick leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does provide for some unpaid sick leave, but there are at least two limitations to the law (there may be more I am missing):
Not all companies are covered under FMLA. Namely, companies with fewer than 50 employees are not covered by the law; people who work for those smaller companies would need to hope that their home states have robust sick leave laws, or they’re out of luck.
The common cold and flu are not generally considered to be serious health conditions for the purposes of the FMLA, unless serious health complications arise. In fact, the only condition under which a cold or flu counts as a serious condition for purposes of the FMLA is “if the individual is incapacitated for more than three consecutive calendar days and receives continuing treatment by a health care provider.” I don’t know if the coronavirus will meet the seriousness threshold, but if it doesn’t (just as the flu doesn’t), then there is literally no federal sick leave protection for people with coronavirus. That should give people pause.
Worse yet, some companies, such as Walmart, are accused of punishing their employees for taking sick days. What are you to say to a person who genuinely fears that they would be fired if they tried to take days off because they were sick? Even in places where there are robust sick leave laws, such as New York City, employers have at times still been known to try to (illegally) fire workers for using sick days. Such work cultures are toxic, but for many, staying in that toxic work culture (even if it means working while sick) is the only way they can pay the bills and put food on the table.
So yes, I am in favor of people staying home when they are sick. However, if we are really serious about people staying home when they are sick, we must get to the root of why many people go to work when sick, which is that laws and many company cultures alike do not have a system that allows the sick to take care of themselves. And until we have a system that allows the sick to take care of themselves and stay home, we run the risk of a national health crisis.
Those of you who’ve been on my blog during the last week or so will know that I’m doing a mini-series on what it was like to have current candidate for president Michael Bloomberg as Mayor of New York City. I explained in Part One why his record as mayor is relevant, and I explained in Part Two the multitude of problems he had with his treatment of others. Today is the third and final part of my mini-series, which will go into his record on some other issues, as well as where we should go from here with the Bloomberg candidacy.
One of the most important issues this campaign is that of trying to “save our democracy.” And rightfully so, because there is a genuine fear among many that President Trump is dangerous to American democracy. However, if Mayor Bloomberg’s record tells us anything, it’s that he would also be a danger to American democracy. New York City voted not once, but twice, to have term limits for people holding elected office in New York City government (mayor, comptroller, public advocate, council members). Yet, Bloomberg, with the help of the city council at the time, overturned the voice of the people, and changed the limit from two terms to three (it was changed back to two terms…after Bloomberg won a third term). People fear that President Trump would try to overturn the election if he loses, or ruin our democracy further if he wins—those are understandable fears because he has been, for example, not always indicated a willingness to concede an election to a winning candidate, even if it is clear he loses the election. However, Bloomberg, with the help of the New York City Council, managed to do something that not even President Trump has managed to do (yet): actually overturn an election (Bloomberg overturned two, after all). If he becomes President of the United States, let’s hope he leaves his ability to overturn elections in New York City, and not bring that ability to Washington, DC.
He gets praise for his stance on the environment. And, in theory, I agree with him on the fact that the environmental crisis should be treated with urgency. However, I find that praise hollow when he drastically cut funding from public transit while he was mayor, even though use of public transit instead of the car does a world of good for the environment. It’s also hollow when his own environmental practices were subpar, such as having an entourage of SUVs that often idled (mostly to keep on the air conditioning unit on in the SUVs so that he could stay cool during the summer)—he apologized for the idling, but not for the use of the SUVs in the first place (or even an explanation of why those environmentally-unfriendly gas guzzlers were necessary for his team), to my knowledge.
Bloomberg also tries to cultivate an image for himself as being just on health care. Yet, his record on health care in New York City was anything but. Noteworthy was the number of community hospitals that, under his tenure, were forced to close. The New York Times editorial board accused Mayor Bloomberg of having long ago “checked out” on this issue, and a then-mayoral candidate by the name of Bill de Blasio got arrested for protesting the proposed closure of one of the hospitals. Bloomberg also vetoed a proposed law that would have required many city businesses to provide paid sick leave, so if he got his way (he didn’t, ultimately), then tough luck to those working for businesses that didn’t provide the paid sick leave—you’d better work through your flu with a fever of over 102 degrees, even though that would, of course, endanger yourself and others.
Economically, the wealthy became even wealthier. There’s no doubt about that. But if you weren’t wealthy? Not so much. While he thought that taxes on the wealthy were a dumb idea, he thought it was preferable to shoulder the burden of “fiscal responsibility” on unions by letting the contracts of every single one of New York City’s 153 unions expire—unions where many of the members are in the middle and working class. The most painful example of economic inequality under Bloomberg’s watch, however, was that was the increase in homelessness that happened while he was mayor—an increase that continues to this day. While I acknowledge that there may be certain factors with such trends that may not have been in his control (such as policies at the state or federal level), this is a fact worth reflecting on. Given that economic inequality is such a major issue of this era, it’s puzzling that the Democrats would even consider nominating someone for President of the United States who oversaw economic inequality become substantially worse when he was mayor of his own city.
The bottom line is that, when doing a thorough examination of his record as mayor, his record was overwhelmingly an ugly one on social justice issues. Even more alarming is the fact that many of these social justice issues he was poor on are issues that are relevant today, for whoever is President of the United States—issues such as racism, sexism, economic inequality, and protecting our democracy. As to whether you think Bloomberg is still better than the other candidates in spite of all the baggage I’ve presented, that’s for you to decide. Just make sure you vote whenever you have the opportunity.
As I announced last Monday, I will be doing a couple of posts on what it was like to have current presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg as mayor (and particularly justice-related topics from his time as mayor). This is the first of two such posts, as honestly, I have too much material to fit into one post.
This first post will focus on his treatment of other people while he was mayor, particularly his treatment of people of color, Muslims, women, and the poor. Buckle up, because this is going to be rough…
While he has apologized repeatedly for the existence of stop-and-frisk under his police force while he was mayor, I think it’s difficult to talk about his time as mayor without talking about that practice. The practice, which allowed police to stop someone temporarily to search, question, and detain someone, disproportionately targeted people of color. Consider the fact that, in the 2010 United States Census, African Americans made up under 23 percent of the total New York City population but consistently accounted for over half of stops. My family’s experiences match up with these statistics—while my brother, and I, and our white friends, never got stopped-and-frisked, my younger brother heard horror stories of friends of color in middle school (kids who were 11 or 12 years old) getting stopped-and-frisked by the New York Police Department, even though they (like nearly 90% of those stopped at that time) were doing nothing wrong! Mayor Bloomberg may’ve apologized for the practice, but the apology does not undo the damage done to my brother’s friends who were stopped, among many others. The apology does not take away the fact that his police force basically treated black and brown kids like accused criminals.
Nor does the apology undo other racist practices under the Bloomberg administration. It does not undo the fact that Bloomberg’s education policies deepened segregation in New York City schools—something he has not apologized for to my knowledge. He also has not apologized for the fact that his Department of Education created policies that denied educational opportunities to people who were thought to be black, including my brother! He has not apologized for the disinvestment in public housing in New York City—relevant because the population of public housing in New York is overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic. And he has not apologized for saying that the end of redlining, “a practice used by banks to discriminate against minority borrowers,” led to the 2008 economic crisis.
People of color weren’t the only people the Bloomberg administration discriminated against. He had and still seems to have an Islamophobic streak, for Bloomberg’s New York Police Department also had extreme levels of surveillance of Muslims. When he repeatedly says that his one regret is stop-and-frisk, it also means that he does not regret the discrimination of Muslims through this surveillance. That’s very telling.
For those of my readers interested in women’s issues and women’s rights, Bloomberg repeatedly struggled with sexism while he was mayor. Here’s an excerpt from an article at The Atlantic, a lot of which includes remarks he made while he was mayor:
There’s more: Bloomberg reportedly saying to a journalist and the journalist’s friend, as he gazed at a woman at a holiday party, “Look at the ass on her.” (He denied having made that comment.) Bloomberg, according to a top aide, seeing attractive women and reflexively remarking, “Nice tits.” Bloomberg, mocking Christine Quinn, the then-speaker of New York’s City Council, for going too long between hair colorings. (“The couple of days a week before I need to get my hair colored,” Quinn once said, “he’ll say, ‘Do you pay a lot to make your hair be two colors? Because now it’s three with the gray.’”) Bloomberg mocking Quinn again, she said, for failing to wear heels at public events. (“I was at a parade with him once and he said, ‘What are those?’ and I said, ‘They’re comfortable,’ and he said, ‘I never want to hear those words out of your mouth again.’”)
The same article I just cited also went into the culture of sexism at his company, and it is no secret that Bloomberg faces numerous allegations of fostering a hostile work environment for women at his company (something Senator Elizabeth Warren exposed in the recent debate). While my piece focuses on what it was like to have him as mayor, I don’t want people to forget about the workplace hostility against many women at Bloomberg, the company.
As for the poor, Mayor Bloomberg advocated for policies that hurt the poor. He argued for a tax on sugary soft drinks, which would have disproportionately affected the poor. He defended the proposed tax, even though he acknowledged that the tax would disproportionately hurt the poor! That, along with a lack of investment in public housing (which I previously mentioned) and the increasing unaffordability of the city while he was mayor, show that he was not a friend of the poor.
There is probably even more that I’m missing here, but you probably get the point by now: unless you are white, somewhat wealthy, male, and not Muslim, Mayor Bloomberg was not an advocate for you.
And yet, I have even more injustices to say about Bloomberg as mayor even beyond his treatment of others. To be continued…