States Reopening — Not A Celebration

Image Credit: Brett Coomer

June 15th marked the day when most states in the U.S. fully reopened their economies, lifting most COVID restrictions, and easing mask mandates. Nearly the entire country will be open with few restrictions by the Fourth of July. Many states marked their reopenings with celebrations, fireworks shows, special events at baseball stadiums, and more.

But who is really celebrating?

Corporations and the rich have a lot to celebrate. Fewer COVID restrictions means there are fewer obstacles in the way of their profit making — which is their only concern.

For most working people, there is very little to celebrate. Over nine million people are still officially unemployed — the real number is much higher.  Last week there were an additional 402,000 new unemployment claims filed, an increase of 37,000 from the previous week. At the same time, over half of the states have announced plans to cut the $300 federal unemployment supplement. Over 17.3 million adults are behind on their rent or mortgage payments, with millions possibly facing eviction in the coming months. None of this is cause for celebration.

Still only about 45% of the population has been fully vaccinated. The few restrictions that are left are practically useless. Now most states are using the so-called honor system for mask guidelines, asking people who have not been vaccinated to wear masks when in indoor public spaces — as if the public’s health should be left up to individual decisions.

And this is all happening while the super-contagious Delta variant is spreading throughout the world, and in the United States too. States and counties in the U.S. with lower vaccination rates are now seeing their COVID infection rates increasing again. The World Health Organization issued a statement that with this new variant they “expect things to only get worse.”

As the economy reopens, it is understandable why many would want to breathe a sigh of relief  and choose to think that this virus is behind us. But if this past year has taught us anything, it is that this system won’t protect us, and never takes the interests of working people into consideration.