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Developing a response to COVID-19 and its variants

by Ralph Scharnau
published with permission

We are witnessing the onslaught of the COVID-19 virus in various places around the world. The impact of COVID-19 has been most apparent over the past two years. The COVID-19 virus has truly reached a global scale as reports of outbreaks or outbreaks are coming from cities and metropolitan areas, rural areas and small towns and along borders. This virulent infectious disease has spared no individual or country, rich or poor.

The radically different impact of COVID-19 by age has been one of the defining characteristics of the virus. It tends to be mild in children and young adults, but more often severe in older people. About three-quarters of all Covid deaths in the United States have occurred in people 65 and older.

The United States, one of the richest countries in the world, has fallen victim to the scourge of this virulent infectious disease. The United States, in fact, just passed a grim milestone of 800,000 official deaths from COVID-19. This figure is higher than any other country, with the true death toll likely much higher.

Despite its wealth and renowned healthcare system, the United States has not escaped the scourge of this virulent infectious disease. The vast majority of deaths occur among unvaccinated people. In the weeks leading up to the widespread use of vaccines in early 2021, Covid was the number one cause of death in the country, even above cancer and heart disease.

The researchers also observed higher COVID-19-related hospitalization and death rates among racial and ethnic minorities and low-income people than among the general population. Factors associated with high poverty rates and racial discrimination include limited access to health care, poor housing conditions and high-risk work environments. Studies have also shown higher numbers of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths among people from Indigenous, Black, and Hispanic communities.
The United States has long been considered to have one of the world’s leading health care systems with renowned doctors, scientists, and researchers. But that hasn’t always produced the best results for the poor, working people, minorities, women, and people of color.

Ironically, the very people who experience inequities often provide health care to others. They work, for example, as nurses, nursing assistants and transcriptionists. In short, they function as essential healthcare workers.

Consider also media images of nurses facing relentless demands for care and support. These front-line staff seem exhausted. And inside and outside hospitals and clinics, employment and sick pay issues provide a swirling backdrop.

The fact that the United States does not have a free and universal health care system accessible to all looms as a fundamental and overriding contextual problem here. This lack of a national health insurance program affects everything from vaccine hesitancy to the ability to get tested to how we handle the virus in the future. Inequalities are built into the American health care system because health care is not considered a basic human right for everyone.

As the struggle to make health care a right continues, political action is generating an agenda to improve America’s health care system’s access to treatment. Amidst these health concerns, we receive daily press briefings on the evolution of the virus. And the World Health Organization reminds that the pandemic is not over, that countries must remain vigilant, and that vaccines and boosters offer the best protection against COVID and its variants like omicron.

The corona-covid pandemic has affected the lives of people all over the world. We need to take care of each other in our families, our communities, our nation and our world.

Ralph Scharnau
February 28, 2022