New York Times blind spot on the pandemic failure

August 10, 2020

The editorial board of the New York Times published a pretty good piece the other day on what the U.S. would need to do (finally) to get a handle on the Covid-19 crisis – and in no more than a mere eight weeks, at that.

No surprises on the required steps – clear and consistent messaging, better use of data, smarter shutdowns, and (the biggie) vastly expanded testing-tracing-isolation-quarantine capacity at every level.  No surprise either that the Times doesn’t expect any of these steps to be taken under the current White House “leadership.”

Most remarkable about the piece, I think, is the first line of the editorial’s concluding paragraph: “The causes of America’s great pandemic failure run deep, exacerbated by innumerable longstanding problems, from a weak public health infrastructure to institutional racism to systemic inequality in health care, housing and employment.”

True as far as it goes; systemic infrastructural decay, racism, and inequality are real and powerful corrosive factors.   But the statement leaves out the “longstanding problem” that by rights should lead the list of “exacerbating” factors – i.e. a grossly dysfunctional health care system as a whole (not just the public health side of the house), geared not to maximizing the nation’s health, but the profits of the corporate medical industry and the handful of oligarchs who run it.

It’s no coincidence that the nations that have done the best job of pandemic response are those with universal health care access grounded in the idea of human rights for all, and not profit-making for the few.

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