COVID-19 Infection Rates Surge While Millions Are Forced Back to Work

By Abayomi Azikiwe

There were more than 55,000 new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States on July 2.

These figures represent a pattern of a rapid escalation of people being sickened by the potentially deadly disease which has killed nearly 130,000 individuals since March.

Overall in the U.S., there have been approximately 2.8 million confirmed cases, far outstripping the total number in any other country. During the first week of July, the number of COVID-19 cases surpassed the record for infections in one day previously set by the South American state of Brazil. Despite this perilous situation involving public health which has economic and social implications, the administration of President Donald Trump at present largely ignores the plight of those impacted by the pandemic.

Trump stated during recent campaign speeches in Oklahoma and Arizona, two states with escalating cases, that he is encouraging his appointees to limit the number of tests being given aimed at identifying those with the disease. The president has refused to wear a mask in public even though members of his own White House Task Force on COVID-19 repeatedly advised that this is an effective means to slow the spread of the pandemic.

Researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore indicated that generally cases are growing in 40 states. However, the largest concentration of illnesses is centered in the South, southwest and west coast regions of the country.

States such as Arizona, Texas, Nevada, California and Florida are breaking records formerly established in previous months such as March, April and May. The escalations in COVID-19 cases are taking place amid a major effort to “reopen” the U.S. economy.

This reopening has been encouraged by the White House and its political supporters who have never accepted the recommendations of healthcare professionals and scientists. Trump initially described the pandemic as a hoax and later sought to attribute the spread of the virus to the People’s Republic of China and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The White House accused Beijing of not reporting the extent of the spread of COVID-19 in its early phase. This allegation has been refuted by the Chinese government as well as the WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. In addition, to these false charges, Trump has also said that the WHO favors China in any dispute with Washington.

Nonetheless, these boisterous and unfounded claims by the Trump administration cannot conceal the deteriorating situation in the U.S. Hospital staffs are stretched to the limit with rapidly increasing numbers of patients being admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICU).

An article published by CNBC on July 2 says of the present situation that:

“Arizona reported a record spike in new cases and deaths on Wednesday (July 1), recording nearly 4,900 new coronavirus cases and at least 80 new deaths, according to the Hopkins data. Arizona’s intensive care units were at 89% capacity as of Tuesday, according to the state’s health department.  Gov. Doug Ducey rolled back the state’s reopening plan Monday, closing bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks. The state has since reported a surge in its positivity rate, or the percentage of total tests that are positive, from a low of 4.9% in May to 20.1% in June, he said when announcing the rollback.”

To further ignore the reality of a continuing public health emergency, Trump praised the government statistics which reported that 4.8 million jobs had been created during the month of June. No mention was made of the fact that many people are being forced back to their jobs under extremely unsafe working conditions.

Michigan COVID-19 cases from March to end of June
Michigan COVID-19 cases from March to end of June.

Allowing restaurants, bars, weddings, funerals, religious gatherings and private parties to flourish amid the pandemic has contributed to the resurgence of cases. Michigan, a state which experienced one of the worst infection and death rates in the country during March and April, had as a result of various mitigation efforts including shelter-in-place orders reduced substantially the number of illnesses and deaths.

Nonetheless, a new outbreak of COVID-19 confirmed cases is being traced to social gatherings at bars in East Lansing along with several counties in the Upper Peninsula. Right-wing proponents of the same theories which Trump advances had held several demonstrations outside the State Capitol in Lansing demanding that Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer lift the restrictions. Some of these measures were removed after the precipitous decline in the number of cases.

Consequently, Whitmer was compelled to reverse the lifting of a ban on indoor bars for the Federal holiday weekend in early July. Automotive plants are resuming production although workers at the Detroit FCA Jefferson North Assembly plant held a demonstration after five workers were reported ill. The corporation said the sicknesses were not related to COVID-19. Similar protests are taking place among auto workers around the country concerned about the threat of the pandemic.

FCA Warren Truck plant workers returned to work amid COVID-19 pandemic
FCA Warren Truck plant workers returned to work amid COVID-19 pandemic. | Photo: Paul Sancya / AP Photo

COVID-19 Pandemic and U.S. Foreign Policy

The socialist Republic of Cuba mobilized the entire population and societal institutions to carry out a fierce battle against the pandemic. Not only did this policy apply domestically, the Cuban government through their Henry Reeves Medical Brigades deployed missions of healthcare workers to various countries which were facing tremendous challenges in identifying, testing and treating patients infected with the disease.

An article published on June 30 in Granma International, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), said of the work done over the last three months inside the country that:

“One hundred and ten days after the first three positive cases of COVID-19 were detected in Cuba, yesterday, June 29, the figures continued to be encouraging and testify to the work done to contain the epidemic. With eight new patients, ten medical discharges and no deaths the previous day, the positive trend continues….  Thus, in the capital, with encouraging figures, but without overconfidence, preparatory work is underway, to ensure that the city is ready when the current epidemiological situation allows Havana to join the rest of the country in the transition to the recovery period’s first phase.

“Keeping the COVID-19 epidemic under control is the great challenge today.”

Despite its enormous achievements as a socialist state, the U.S. has maintained a hostile position towards Cuba. Since the consolidation of the Revolution after 1959, Washington has continued a blockade against this Caribbean state.

Contrastingly, the South American state of Brazil in recent years has aligned itself with the Trump administration through its ideological orientation. President Jair Bolsanaro, like Trump, has denied the threat posed by COVID-19. Bolsanaro has described the pandemic as a “little flu” although over one million Brazilians have been infected leading to almost 60,000 deaths.

On June 29, demonstrations were held both inside of Brazil and internationally, calling for the right-wing president to resign. The actions were largely online due to the pandemic. In the capital of Brasilia protesters placed 1,000 crosses on the lawn of the Congress to memorialize the many more killed by the virus.

COVID-19 and Electoral Politics

As the presidential elections approach in early November, the people living in the U.S. are facing economic and social problems which are rendering tens of millions to unemployment and homelessness. Since most people’s healthcare coverage is linked to their jobs, the numbers of people living without medical insurance will rise tremendously.

Yet in the discussions surrounding the platforms of the Democratic or Republican parties nothing is being proposed to effectively address the essential questions related to the well-being of working and oppressed peoples.  Democratic Party presumptive nominee former Vice-President Joe Biden during the primary debates argued consistently against the U.S. adopting any form of national health insurance.

In addition, the need for a guaranteed annual income for residents of the country and a freeze on rents and mortgages has not in any remote sense entered the Biden political lexicon. The record of the former VP and Delaware senator is cluttered with troubling views on cross district bussing in the 1970s; support for ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings in 1991; and voting in favor of the disastrous wars of aggression and imperialism in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Haiti and Syria. There has never been one word spoken in solidarity or sympathy with the Palestinian people suffering under Zionist occupation which is subsidized by the tax dollars of working people in the U.S.

Biden is projecting himself as the one to “heal the nation” suffering from record-levels of unemployment and a pandemic. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen that even if Biden wins by default in November, whether his administration will be able to stem the tide of economic and social crises.

The recent demonstrations against racism and police brutality attracting millions within the U.S. and abroad provides the only real glimmer of hope for change. These actions prefigure the necessary broad based alliance of the working class, nationally oppressed and popular forces required to bring about the fundamental transformation of the U.S.

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