The COVID-19 Response: Decreasing Restrictions and Increasing Deaths

Crowded school in Georgia. Credit: Hannah Watters

Last week the U.S. hit another COVID-19 milestone as the number of official deaths from the virus hit 200,000 (even though the actual number is probably much higher). This is the most deaths of any country in the world so far. To put things in perspective: 200,000 deaths is like having a 9/11 World Trade Center attack every single day since July 4. And most health experts are warning that the number of deaths could still double by the end of the year.

But dying from this virus is not the only risk. Many people who survive show signs of poor health even months later, including heart problems, breathing problems, lingering mental confusion, and severe fatigue.

Yet now, after eight months of a known outbreak in the U.S., millions of infections, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and deaths, with no end in sight, there is still no nationwide response to limit the spread of the virus. In workplaces and stores across the country, protective masks are still not always enforced or even available. Most states and counties only impose minimal restrictions on businesses and schools reopening. As soon as the numbers of positive cases go down slightly, workplaces reopen, social gatherings resume, restrictions are lifted, and in only a few weeks, case numbers climb back up again.

In Florida, once schools reopened, one month later the number of positive cases of children under 18 increased 26 percent! Now that the NFL season has restarted with practically no restrictions, teams are already having to suspend activity due to outbreaks.

Similar to most other states, Governor Newsom in California laid out detailed guidelines for what businesses and services could reopen based on the number of daily cases in a particular county. There are four ratings: Widespread, Substantial, Moderate, Minimal. They are determined by the number of daily new positive cases per 100,000 people. As the rating goes down (to less severe), so do all the restrictions. But, of course, as the restrictions decrease, soon the cases just go back up again. All this does is guarantee that the virus will continue to spread throughout the state and the country. Health experts are warning that as California counties reduce restrictions, we can expect cases and hospitalizations to almost double in about a month.

In reality, the politicians and so-called leaders of this country, Democrats and Republicans, have given up on containing the spread of this virus. They are fully prepared to accept 400,000 or more deaths. In other words, they have no problem committing mass murder.

The logic behind these incredibly weak restrictions is guided not by what is safe for workers and our families, but what is so-called “good for the economy” – for corporations and their profits. In fact, our lives have never mattered under their system, and this pandemic is making that even clearer each day.