COVID-19: Is The Bill Good Enough?
Finally a crisis spurs bipartisanship.
By Phillip | 3/16/20
Me and Luca’s school recently closed for four weeks due to fears that staying in community would accelerate the spread of coronavirus. Experts are reporting this as perhaps a once in a generation pandemic and we’ve all seen drastic changes in our daily lives. In the Bay Area, California announced a shelter in place order that will keep people in their homes until April 7 (at least) in an attempt to lower the amount of people who will get COVID-19 in any given time span. However, the crisis will only be over until we either find a cure or enough people get the disease and become immune to it (and 1% die in the process). In the meantime, stocks have plunged in an economic crisis that could spiral to be greater than the 2008 financial crisis. Although the disease would have devastating effects on America regardless of the government’s actions, Donald Trump, his conservative cronies, and Fox news’ misinformation have made a bad thing worse. These groups have been putting party over country for the past four years, but have finally run up against a real disaster and have been quickly beating a tactical retreat. Today, the White House announced a dirty commie program called giving people a thousand dollars for the duration of the pandemic, Fox has taken anchors off air who have railed against the Coronavirus hoax, and bipartisan legislation was passed in the house (although I wouldn’t be surprised if Moscow Mitch leaves it chilling on his desk indefinitely).
On the debate stage Sunday night, Joe Biden praised the Coronavirus bill while Bernie Sanders dinged it for its holes (although he acknowledged that compromise with Republicans caused this). So I guess in times of crisis, our government is actually working: instead of Democrats making a bill and Republicans rejecting it, Democrats made a bill and Republicans make it a little worse. Compromise! Today, I read the bill and will discuss the effects on the American people. We will look at how our government is handling key two issues, the effect of Coronavirus on people and the effect of Coronavirus on the economy.
Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times outlines the steps we must take to combat Coronavirus in a new column for the New York Times. The main goal of these proposals is not to solve everything and allow us all to go back to normal, but to spread the number of seriously infected people (only 20% of people will have serious ramifications and of those about 5% will die (Vox)) over a long period of time, so that we have enough ventilators (machines that move air in and out of lungs to help a patient breathe) available. We will be comparing the most important proposals in the article with the actions in the Coronavirus bill.
- Make free testing accessible for everyone. Right now it’s estimated that for every one case of Coronavirus there are approximately five to ten more living undetected (NYT). This is hugely problematic, because sick people will continue to go about their own business and infect more people. The bill is a jumble of political gobbledygook pinballing the reader between different subsections, but 101.a states that “A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage (including a grandfathered health plan (as defined in section 1251(e) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act)) shall provide coverage” without any copays, deductibles, or coinsurance. So it will be free. But will it be accessible? One of the main problems so far has been the lack of testing (especially compared to other nations), which has been slowed by bureaucracy and American stubbornness and hubris. On Monday, Mike Pence announced that they would allow 2,000 high speed commercial labs to begin testing and enable 1.9 million tests by the end of the week (NYT). Given the administration's misstatements and lies on this topic (and many others), this is probably overambitious, although I am encouraged that the government is taking more significant steps.
- Stop gatherings of people. In the Bay Area all non-essential businesses (grocery stores, banks, etc.) are being closed and residents are advised to shelter in-place. These are some of the most stringent restrictions and New York City may be the next to follow them. The CDC has also released a “recommendation” that no gatherings of 50 people or more be held for the next eight weeks. However, it is mainly leaving the final say with local officials for now.
- Paid sick leave for all workers. Americans should not have to choose between a paycheck and infecting their coworkers (Said in Bernie Sanders’ voice). However, the Coronavirus bill only guarantees about 20% of workers paid sick leave and exempts the biggest employers (NYT Editorial Board). As the New York Times remarks, this is hugely problematic and an indictment of our current political system, where Republicans are more focused on huge tax cuts and bailing out failing industries than the safety and livelihood of millions of American workers. Democrats could have passed a comprehensive law in the House that would have been dead on arrival, but instead they decided to compromise. I believe that this was the correct decision, because the speed of lawmaking needs to match the speed of the pandemic (especially since we started from behind because of President Trump.
Overall, I think that America is beginning to ramp up its response as Coronavirus gets more dire. This is a momentous and unprecedented situation. Right now, I feel invincible and that young people are going to be okay. Knowing that celebrities (Tom Hanks, Kevin Durant) have gotten it is scary, but no one has died yet. Still, it is a strange time. I haven’t let my house in four days except to take my dog, Rocky, for walks and people cross the street when we near them. Normal life has been completely disrupted (my senior year is likely over) and we might all be six feet apart for a long while. I haven’t gone crazy from lack of social interaction but I don’t know how I’ll feel after forty days instead of four. I fear that it's going to get a lot worse, because even if the mortality rate is low, millions of Americans will likely die. I am worried about my grandparents, but the whole thing feels distant to me because I don’t know anyone who has been infected. I am okay for now, but there is the chilling, eerie feeling of calm before the storm blanketing everything. The news is moving rapidly, so make sure to check back in for updates. Good luck everyone, stay safe.