As of this writing, the United States has a population of 329 million people. As of this writing, per the Covid Tracking Project as of March 16th, only 48,284 people have been tested. By comparison, South Korea with a population of 51.47 million, is testing 20,000 people a day1. The United States is drastically lagging behind the world with access to testing kits and testing citizens. Therefore, the true rate and magnitude of the coronavirus in the United States remain illusory and fragmented at best and a deadly moral and political catastrophe at worst.

The lack of a public healthcare system and equitable pandemic response infrastructure further handicaps the ability to wage a concerted emergency health campaign to treat the population. In the hands of the private healthcare industry, the results of the tests are uncoordinated and inaccurate. Truthout explains, “Because we have a patchwork medical system whose primary motivating engine is corporate profit, rather than a unified public medical system whose motivating engine is the health of the public, communicable diseases are treated in a mindset of individual outcome. Our system focuses on the immediate needs of insured patients rather than treating the overall disease as a public emergency, thus hampering the containment and treatment of epidemics like these2.”

This pandemic has made plain the human cost of a system that is built to maximize profit at the expense of providing care. 45 and his administration has not once mentioned vulnerable communities and has made a concerted effort to mention, repeatedly, that “everyone doesn’t need to be tested”; a result that could prevent early deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. This contrast in priorities is no more clearly made visible than the federal government injecting $1.5 Trillion into financial markets3, money which should have been given toward funding of mass testing, providing relief to the poor and unemployed, funding emergency mass testing sites, providing meals to all homeless and working poor, and wiping out debt!

“Among the working poor, Black workers will be harmed the most. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black, and Hispanic workers are more than twice as likely to earn poverty-level wages compared to their white counterparts,” reports Kristin Myers in Yahoo Finance.

We demand the federal government immediately do the following:

  1. Immediately remove the blockade against Cuba and allow collaboration with Cuban doctors to enable utilization of their Interferon-alpha 2b antiviral agent which is being used to treat the coronavirus in China and other countries.
  2. Immediately pass a coronavirus relief package now that provides emergency funding assistance to all states to cover expenses to massively test the population in the millions and provide emergency food and shelter to all homeless and poor.
  3. Providing immediate testing to the most vulnerable including the elderly and folks without healthcare.
  4. Provide a protection and testing plan for inmates while in custody and upon release.
  5. Expand SNAP and unemployment for the duration of the pandemic; past initial quarantine.
  6. Immediately pass Medicare for All with no work requirements.
  7. Immediately legislate fully paid sick leave for all workers regardless of wage, skill and time on the job.
  8. Release all people in detention, prisons and jails who are elderly or infirm including non violent offenses and juveniles.
  9. Implement an immediate moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and utility shut-offs.
  10. Free vaccinations and treatment for all.
  11. Emergency funding for family and community based childcare for working and cash poor families.
  12. Income replacement for small business owners who will not benefit from corporate tax cuts and wealth transfer schemes.
  13. Emergency funding for mental health services especially for healthcare workers and sanitation workers.
  14. Emergency funding for community based supportive services, community centers and other community options available for families during school closure.
  15. Guarantee the immediate and complete restoration of all civil liberties once the national emergency ends.
  16. Immediate destruction of all health records held by government as a result of coronavirus testing and treatment once national emergency ends.
  17. Immediately temporarily seize all vacant units through eminent domain for usage by the unhoused.

If we can learn anything from our neighbors overseas, we need to take cognisance measures that the coronavirus can be successfully contained only if immediate coordinated government action is implemented. At the current rate, the United States is at risk of experiencing not only a deadly healthcare crisis but one that has the potential to result in massive social, economic and political upheaval as systems reach crisis points and begin to fracture. We have seen the devastating effects of government abandonment that produced human rights failures like Hurricane Katrina, Maria, wildfires and earthquakes. Katrina and Maria showed how government abandonment typified by systemic racism and classism resulted in preventable death and devastation. We do not want to see this repeated with the coronavirus. We can prevent such devastation, if we act now.

Signed by:

Black Lives Matter Global Network

1 The New York Times
2 Truthout
3 The Wall Street Journal