I read this today and thought how true:
It's morally repulsive how corporations are exploiting this crisis. Workers will suffer
Robert Reich The Guardian March 22 2020
Using power and privilege to exploit the weak and vulnerable in the face of a common threat is morally repugnant. Call it ‘Burring’ after Richard Burr’s stock sell-off
Republican senator Richard Burr apparently used information he gleaned from his role as chairman of the Senate intelligence committee about the coming pandemic to unload 33 stocks held by him and his spouse.
Societies gripped by a cataclysmic wars, depressions, or pandemics can become acutely sensitive to power and privilege.
Weeks before the coronavirus virus crushed the US stock market, Republican senator Richard Burr apparently used information he gleaned from his role as chairman of the Senate intelligence committee about the ferocity of the coming pandemic to unload 33 stocks held by him and his spouse. They were estimated at being worth between $628,033 and $1.72m , in some industries likely to be hardest hit by the global outbreak.
While publicly parroting Trump’s happy talk at the time, Burr confided to several of his political funders that the disease would be comparable to the deadly 1918 flu pandemic.
Then the market tanked, along with the retirement savings of millions of Americans.
Even some pundits on Fox News are now calling for Burr’s resignation.
When society faces a common threat, exploiting a special advantage is morally repugnant. Call it “Burring.” However tolerable Burring may be in normal times, it isn’t now.
In normal times, corporations get special favors from Washington in exchange for generous campaign contributions, and no one bats an eye. Recall the Trump tax cut, which delivered $1.9tn to big corporations and the wealthy.
The coronavirus should have altered business as usual. But last week’s Senate Republican relief package, giving airlines $58bn and billions more to other industries, is pure Burring.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell tried lamely to distinguish it from the notorious bank bailouts of 2008. “We are not talking about a taxpayer-funded cushion for companies that made mistakes. We are talking about loans, which must be repaid, for American employers whom the government itself is temporarily crushing for the sake of public health.”
But the airlines are big enough to get their own loans from banks at rock-bottom interest rates. Their planes and landing slots are more than adequate collateral.
Why do airlines deserve to be bailed out? Over the last decade they spent 96%of their free cash flow, including billions in tax savings from the Trump tax cut, to buy back shares of their own stock. This boosted executive bonuses and pleased wealthy investors but did nothing to strengthen the airlines for the long term. Meanwhile, the four biggest carriers gained so much market power they jacked up prices on popular routes and slashed services (remember legroom and free bag checks?).
United CEO Oscar Munoz did his own Burring on Friday, warning that if Congress doesn’t bailout the airline by the end of March, United will start firing its employees. But even if bailed out, what are the odds United would keep paying all its workers if the pandemic forced it to stop flying? The bailout would be for shareholders and executives, not workers.
While generous toward airlines and other industries, the Republican bill is absurdly stingy toward people, stipulating a one-time payment of up to $1,200 for every adult and $500 per child. Some 64 million households with incomes below $50,000 would get as little as $600. This will do almost nothing to help job-losers pay their mortgages, rents, and other bills for the duration of the crisis, expected to be at least the next three months.
The Republican coronavirus bill is about as Burring as legislation can be – exposing the underlying structure of power in America as clearly as Burr’s stock trades. In this national crisis, it’s just as morally repulsive.
Take a look at how big corporations are treating their hourly workers in this pandemic and you see more Burring.
Walmart, the largest employer in America, doesn’t give its employees paid sick leave, and limits its 500,000 part-time workers to 48 hours paid time off per year. This Burring policy is now threatening countless lives. (On one survey, 88% of Walmart employees report sometimes coming to work when sick.)
None of the giants of the fast-food industry – McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Duncan Donuts, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Subway – gives their workers paid sick leave, either.
Amazon, one of the richest corporations in the world, which paid almost no taxes last year, is offering unpaid time off for workers who are sick and just two weeks paid leave for workers who test positive for the virus. Meanwhile, it demands its employees put in mandatory overtime.
Here’s the most Burring thing of all: These corporations have made sure they and other companies with more than 500 employees are exempt from the requirement in the House coronavirus bill that employers provide paid sick leave.
At a time when almost everyone feels burdened and fearful, the use of power and privilege to exploit the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of others is morally intolerable.
We are all in this together, or should be. Whatever form it takes, Burring must be stopped.
Target along with Best Buy, Walmart and Whole Foods and varying Banks have been very busy sending out informative emails to somehow try to retain character and integrity but again don't believe it until you see it. Starbucks have closed most stores unless they have a drive thru/walk up capability and again I question that they can continue that for what I believe is 90 days or longer in this "shut down." And that goes for many small businesses who are doing the same. Two weeks severance is common and that will be that said the local hair salon. And as most chairs are 'rented' there they won't even do that. That goes the same for Yoga studios, Physical Therapy, Massage and Spa treatments as few are actual employees. Same for most other gig related economies and contract positions that are white collar in nature they will not qualify for unemployment either. Right Google with over 1/3 or their workforce contract in nature.
And the poor are hoarding just doing so with a lifeline that will not last. They are frightened to work at said essential services but then again what is the choice, to not?
I don't think Americans are all that noble, good, kind or whatever. That myth is up there with bootstraps, the Savior bullshit and unicorns. We will get through this but who we will be following this is unknowable.
As coronavirus spreads, so do doubts about America’s ability to meet the moment
Toluse Olorunnipa, Griff Witte and Seung Min Kim
The Washington Post March 22, 2020
As the coronavirus spreads through communities across the country, it poses a critical question: Can America’s people, institutions and government collectively rise to the occasion to defeat a once-in-a-generation crisis?
With a global pandemic testing the country’s political, financial, social and moral fabric, there are growing signs that answering in the affirmative has become increasingly difficult.
Bureaucratic missteps have led to a shortfall in tests needed to determine the true scope of the virus. Hospitals are pleading for more medical equipment as doctors resort to using homemade masks. Financial markets have lost a third of their value in less than a month. Reveling spring breakers have hit the beaches in defiance of a nationwide social distancing campaign.
Companies, some of whom celebrated tax cuts by rewarding shareholders with record stock buybacks, are preparing to lay off millions of workers while pleading for a government bailout.
At the helm of it all is a president who rose to power with a divisive brand of politics, a reliance on his gut instinct and a claim that the United States was no longer winning on the global stage. He now faces the greatest test of his presidency — a viral outbreak that requires bipartisan cooperation, verbal precision and a reliance on bureaucratic expertise.
The president continued to lash out at his perceived political enemies Saturday during a briefing that was ostensibly organized to give Americans information about the government’s efforts to combat the pandemic, seeming to continue to view the public health emergency through the prism of his media coverage.
“They write inaccurately about me every single day, every single hour,” he said. “. . . It’s so insulting when they write phony stories.”
Throughout U.S. history, there have been moments that have tested the nation’s ability to overcome monumental challenges ranging from war to depression to natural disasters. Many of those were accompanied by controversies, a sense that more could have been done, and unequal treatment across racial and economic lines.
Still, etched into the public consciousness is a sense that the country that had rallied to the moment in previous crises would inevitably do so in the face of a new one.
Little was automatic about those historic victories, and a sharpening partisan divide combined with flagging confidence in the government and other institutions could hamper any effort to quickly solve what is fast becoming a debilitating national emergency.
“We hit dark moments before in U.S. history, and this is clearly one of them,” said Douglas Brinkley, a historian at Rice University. “It doesn’t help that the federal government is perceived as utterly dysfunctional.”
But, Brinkley added, Americans throughout the country have shown impressive mettle in dealing with a virus that has upended the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people, and they could rise to the moment even more as the threat posed by the virus becomes more real to communities across the country.
Hospital workers are treating thousands of patients during day-long shifts. Healthy people are volunteering to help their vulnerable neighbors with everyday tasks. Most Americans are abiding by instructions to stay home, a reality perversely highlighted by the abrupt slowdown in the economy.
The Trump administration has flexed the power of the federal government to take some unprecedented steps, including some with bipartisan support, such as suspending student loan payments and foreclosures and providing tax relief to strained consumers. Legislation to combat the crisis and its economic fallout has moved with breakneck speed in a political climate that had been plagued by gridlock, impeachment and petty fights.
While Trump initially downplayed the threat of the outbreak, in recent weeks he has interspersed his trademark bombast and braggadocio with occasional flashes of sobriety and inclusiveness.
“In times of struggle, we see the true greatness of the American character,” Trump said Friday during a news conference in which he referenced the cooperative relationship he has forged with several Democrats in recent days.
But his divisive side was on display that day as well, as he attacked critics and complained he wasn’t receiving the credit for handling the outbreak that he believes he deserves. He also touted the effectiveness of a potential treatment for coronavirus, a “game changer,” that his health officials quickly cautioned would not be immediately available and still needed to be tested.
The times of struggle show no sign of abating, as the country braces for what could be a prolonged period of social and economic disruption caused by a mysterious virus. There were more than 23,000 confirmed cases across the nation as of Saturday evening, and more than 300 people have died.
Those numbers have been rising rapidly even as some countries, including South Korea, have appeared to gain control over the outbreak’s spread in a way that shines a harsh light on some of the shortcomings in the U.S. response thus far. The Trump administration is now scrambling to replicate some of the tools and systems successfully put in place weeks ago by South Korea.
Whether it is able to do so could shape how Trump’s presidency, and the country’s welfare during it, are remembered, said Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist at the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“We’re at a fork in the road, and the choices we make now are going to put us down at least one of two pathways,” said Schoch-Spana, who has studied the response to the 1918 flu outbreak, which killed at least 50 million people globally. “We need to pull it together, like, right now.
Health-care system on the brink
The health-care system is currently the area of most urgent need, according to hospital workers, state governors and public health experts who have increasingly been sounding the alarm about shortages in equipment and test kits. As the federal government struggles to provide basic medical equipment such as masks and ventilators, some governors have warned that a shortage in capacity could become acute in a matter of days.
Frustration with the federal response began early, as a bureaucratic morass delayed the distribution of testing kits for people who needed them.
As Trump assured the country that “beautiful” tests were available to anyone who needed them earlier this month, members of his administration — and the facts on the ground — offered a very different picture. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, described the inability to conduct widespread screening for coronavirus as “a failing.”
“The bold and decisive actions this President has taken throughout this pandemic are purely about protecting the public health, including the unprecedented collaboration to curb the spread of the virus, expand testing capacities, and expedite vaccine development,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.
Doctors are still struggling to get access to enough tests, and state health officials have only begun to set up the kind of easy drive-through testing that South Korea implemented more than a month ago before it halted the spread of the outbreak.
Now, a lack of medical protective gear — the masks, gowns and gloves that health providers rely on to keep themselves healthy — has threatened to further worsen the crisis. The CDC has encouraged some health officials to use bandannas as “a last resort” if they don’t have masks.
Hospitals are also struggling to obtain enough ventilators for an expected surge in serious medical cases. Trump invoked the Defense Production Act on Wednesday, drawing on wartime powers meant to ramp up production of key materials. But he wavered on whether he would use the authority granted by the 1950 act, and it’s not clear whether his actions will be adequate to address the shortfall.
Trump has distanced himself from the responsibility to ensure medical equipment is available within the health system, saying that state governors should take the lead.
“We’re not a shipping clerk,” the president said Thursday.
The shortages, which bring to mind previous wartime efforts to rapidly ramp up production of critical supplies, highlight how much has changed since World War II, said Brinkley.
They also underscore long-standing problems with the health-care system and the lack of preparedness that has resulted from years of governmental neglect, said Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist with Honor Health, a Phoenix hospital system.
“This outbreak has revealed systemic weaknesses, but also the challenges of national preparedness built on private industry, and how that often means some hospitals are more prepared than others, and the desperate need to really strengthen national health-care biopreparedness,” she said.
Deeply divided Congress tries to meet the moment
In Congress, lawmakers were rushing to come to an agreement as early as this weekend on an economic stimulus plan that could inject $2 trillion into the economy under circumstances unprecedented in modern history at a Capitol that has been riven by increasingly toxic partisanship.
Many of the crises confronted by lawmakers dating to the Obama administration have been of Congress’s own making, such as government shutdowns fueled by partisan impasses over spending priorities. The Trump presidency and Democrats’ subsequent takeover of the House had further embittered the relationship between the two branches, as the House made Trump only the third president to be impeached. He was later acquitted by the Senate.
Yet under the pressure of the pandemic, lawmakers in recent weeks sped to pass two initial funding packages in overwhelmingly bipartisan numbers aimed at addressing the coronavirus crisis.
The question remained on whether they could reach agreement on a third — a complicated economic stimulus package with a massive price tag that was already drawing fire from all sides. Senior aides expressed cautious optimism that lawmakers could, as the scale of the historic crisis continues to grow and senators become more eager to leave the Capitol, particularly after two House lawmakers tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days.
Senators also said they acknowledged acutely the gravity of the moment.
“I think there’s a sense that we’re all going to be remembered for this moment,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “If we’re there for any purpose, now is it.”
The Senate’s current longest-serving Republican agreed.
“I think this is a test of America’s character, just like it was a test of our character in World War II to pull together,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said last week on the Senate floor.
But partisan tensions remain.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) soured Democrats early on in the negotiations when he released legislation drafted solely by Senate Republicans filled with several provisions that were nonstarters for Democrats — whose votes are needed to pass any legislative package in the Senate — and even some GOP senators.
“The only way we will get this done, in a divided government, is to negotiate in good faith,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), questioning if his Republican colleagues were capable of bipartisanship after years of acrimony.
Congress’s ability to meet the moment was undermined by reports Thursday that several senators offloaded large portions of their stock holdings in February, when lawmakers had received briefings about the threat of the virus and before those shares ultimately tanked.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who had expressed confidence in the country’s preparedness for the coronavirus outbreak, sold a significant share of his stocks last month, according to public disclosures.
Burr and other senators have denied any wrongdoing.
The each-man-for-himself attitude that the stock-selling senators are accused of has been replicated in parts of the country where enforcing social distancing has become a kind of moral dilemma.
‘How you behave affects my health’
Along Florida’s sun-kissed shores, authorities had to physically close off beaches to rowdy spring breakers after they failed to take the hint from earlier orders to avoid crowded spaces. Many simply moved the party to nearby bars and restaurants before they, too, were ordered shut.
Older Floridians have looked on from their seaside condos in dismay, wondering why younger generations aren’t taking the threat more seriously.
But the nation’s baby boomers have hardly been immune to rule flouting.
California’s Bay Area has imposed some of the most restrictive conditions in the country, with authorities ordering residents to shelter in place on Monday. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) made the edict statewide on Thursday.
Not everyone has been willing to adhere, however, to demands that residents go out only for essentials, such as trips to the grocery store or the doctor. Images of Californians, of all ages, casually mixing and holding hands on the San Francisco waterfront were enough to send the normally unflappable Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s resident doctor, into a simmering rage.
“How I behave affects your health,” he intoned on air, offering a mantra for our times. “How you behave affects my health.”
It’s a way of seeing the world that has quickly been internalized by many millions. The oblivious spring breakers received a lot of attention. But the broader U.S. response has included much generosity and sacrifice as workplaces empty, crowds scatter, neighbors help neighbors and people give up, one by one, the things that they love for the sake of the greater good.
Many Americans have acted preemptively to protect those around them. Days before California ordered bars and restaurants to shut down, Miguel Jara, owner of the iconic La Taqueria in San Francisco’s Mission District, announced he was closing up.
He didn’t want his 19 employees, some of whom have been cooking up tacos for decades, to be exposed to the virus. He said he would keep paying them while the restaurant remained closed.
“I’d rather take a hit in the bank account than have one of them get sick,” said the 77-year-old, who has been in business nearly half a century.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the fact that everyone is confronting the same problem is a hindrance: No one has been spared the impact, making money tight and resources scarce. But it also helps for everyone to be in it together.
“There’s a commonality: Every person, every business, every nonprofit is dealing with it,” said Fischer, who has been in quarantine after his wife tested positive for coronavirus. “The whole country is focused on covid-19.”
While the virus has captured the nation’s attention, Americans getting their news from widely varying sources are being exposed to different versions of reality. Some conservative figures downplayed the virus for weeks, joining Trump to describe concern over its spread as a plot to tarnish the president. Other kinds of misinformation have also spread widely on social media.
But more than ever, Silicon Valley’s most prominent social media sites are finding and removing misinformation and other dangerous posts, photos and videos about the coronavirus before they draw large audiences online.
Beginning in February, Facebook, Google-owned YouTube and Twitter each put a series of policies in place that prohibit content peddling fake cures, for example, and barring ads that peddle potentially suspicious masks and other preventive measures. They also have dedicated portions of their social feeds to banners and links that direct viewers to more authoritative sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The prevalence of misinformation makes presidential leadership and clarity all the more important in the middle of a national emergency, said Leon Panetta, who served as defense secretary and CIA director during the Obama administration.
“This president has been both ambivalent about how to approach this crisis, unsure about the strategy to deal with it and has not been able to, in an honest and direct way, unify the country behind this effort,” he said. “The leadership that is absolutely required by a president of the United States at a moment of this kind of serious crisis is lacking.”
And lastly this is not the first time I have experienced this and may not be the last as who knows I could have one hell of an immune system. But I can't wait to see the commercials with Covid B pills next to AIDS drugs .. Christ I remember when AYDS was an actual weight loss candy! And Herpes was a social stigma. "Hi I'm Candy, no literally that is my name and I take Truvada Prep and Covid B daily to not die and spread death to others. Personal responsibility is not my problem as I never have to practice safe sex or cover my cough either!" I can see that happening and it's not funny but it is true as for many who died to make it these drugs possible and they can never fuck, cough or laugh again either. It is one thing in early days to disregard the fear tactics it is another to ignore them in the present. Now let's hit the beach!
HIV and Covid-19 crises have played out in similar ways with inept government responses and stigmatization of certain groups
Peter Lawrence Kane The Guardian 22 Mar 2020
Because of the coronavirus, the 7 million people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area have been one step shy of a full lockdown since Tuesday. Amid all the canceled plans, cratering small businesses and disruptions to everyday life, another poignant postponement stands out: The Names Project Aids Memorial Quilt’s return to Golden Gate park has been delayed. A viral pandemic, one whose scale we haven’t fully grasped, has interacted with another.
Many Americans have drawn parallels between HIV and Covid-19, noting the inept government response, the stigmatization of certain groups and the heroism of frontline health workers. Like a ghoulish reboot of a television show, some of the same people have returned. Deborah Birx, a longtime HIV doctor in the US military who later became the United States Global Aids coordinator, now serves as the response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus task force. Anthony Fauci, an immunologist, has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.
“We had another silent epidemic: HIV,” Birx said at a White House press conference on Monday. “And I just want to recognize the HIV epidemic was solved by the community: the HIV advocates, and activists who stood up when no one was listening and got everyone’s attention.”
Her words are unmistakably direct, but for many, the comparison is a cautionary one. HIV has killed nearly 40 million people worldwide since the early 1980s, roughly 700,000 of the victims were Americans – almost 20,000 of them in San Francisco. The coronavirus has not proven nearly as lethal. Contracting it is certainly not the death sentence that HIV was for so many years, and some advocates are reluctant to push the analogy.
HIV has killed nearly 40 million people worldwide since the early 1980s, almost 20,000 of them in San Francisco.
“They’re both viruses, obviously, and there are some overlapping parts of this that obviously can be compared,” says John Cunningham, the executive director of the National Aids Memorial in San Francisco, which had been set to debut the quilt in early April, for Golden Gate park’s 150th anniversary. “But in totality, I would never want to draw that direct comparison. That being said, the National Aids Memorial and the Aids Quilt take very seriously our responsibility to share the stories of the epidemic and the stories of a tragic virus that befell a community.”
That the Bay Area is a focal point in both epidemics is not lost on longtime Aids activist Cleve Jones. When the city of San Francisco got involved in the fight against HIV, it was spending more than the federal government was, he says.
“The most glaringly obvious similarity is that both pandemics began with Republican administrations and a Republican president who did not acknowledge the gravity of the situation,” Jones says. “And the failure of a strong early response led to tragic consequences.”
The similarities extend to nomenclature. In the early days, before the term “acquired immunodeficiency disease”, Aids was known as Grid, for “gay-related immune deficiency” – when it wasn’t simply called the “gay cancer” or the “gay plague”, that is. When Donald Trump insists on tweeting about the “Chinese virus”, he claims to be playing tit-for-tat with Communist party propaganda that the virus is of US origin. But it ignores the dangers of scapegoating in a time of panic.
Racist tropes, like homophobic stigma 35 years ago, can also inspire false confidence in groups who presume they won’t be affected.
“In the early days of the Aids epidemic we were told it only affected gay people,” Jones says, “the result of which was the death of tens of millions of heterosexual men, women and their children”.
But before the millions of residents in the six-county Bay Area were told to shelter in place, a meme had spread far and wide among LGBTQ+ Americans. It has two panels, upper and lower. The upper one reads, “Straights: I can’t believe the government would just ignore an epidemic that threatens thousands of lives.” The lower panel reads, “Gays: You don’t say...” superimposed over a picture of the Aids Memorial Quilt spread out over the National Mall in Washington DC.
It’s a bit harsh and oversimplified, maybe. But the question it presupposes is a valid one in a region on near-lockdown – because for some people, HIV and coronavirus aren’t separate at all. The fear among long-term survivors of HIV/Aids is potent, according to Dr Lary Abramson, a retired San Francisco physician who treated patients during that epidemic’s early phases.
“I can tell you that the people I know who are currently on meds for HIV, who have survived our plague, are taking extreme precautions,” he says. “They don’t want to get anywhere near this coronavirus and are doing all they can to follow the guidelines the NIH is promulgating.”
For younger generations, the instinct is essentially the opposite: to come together in tough times. Even though social acceptance of LGBTQ+ people has arguably never been higher, queer people reflexively seek refuge in queer spaces. Juanita MORE!, a well-known San Francisco drag performer whose parties have raised tens of thousands of dollars for various LGBTQ+ causes, has to balance her advocacy for nightlife against a consistent message of “Stay the fuck home!”
“As a mother to so many people in San Francisco, I have noticed that a lot of people are having a hard time – and did all the way up until the quarantine was instated – staying in,” she says. “When we were in that first year of the Aids crisis, that was also hard for a lot of people, and the reason was that everyone had just come to San Francisco. They had just gotten free and come out, and were told again they couldn’t. Those comparisons, to me, are the same.”
As of Thursday, some 70 San Franciscans have tested positive for coronavirus, while approximately 15,000 are living with HIV. For Cunningham of the National Aids Memorial, the trauma lingers.
“I lived in the Castro during the darkest days of the epidemic,” Cunningham says, referring to San Francisco’s famous gay neighborhood. “And since Covid-19 came upon the scene, there has been a building wave of emotion inside of me and others. I’ve had many conversations and it’s bringing up a lot of unresolved grief and anger.”
But, he says, the noble impulse to help one another – within the strictures of a shelter-in-place order – are a welcome parallel between HIV and the coronavirus.
“What gave hope and galvanized individuals to step forward out of what was a tragedy, with the discrimination and prejudice and the lack of a response from the government, we saw some of the best in humanity. We saw neighbors helping neighbors. … Some of the best examples of what it means to be a community were born there.”
If people can’t feed one another, we can always check in with a phone call or by Zoom. Regarding public-health leadership under a conservative Republican presidential administration, Cunningham observes that it’s “ironic that two of our heroes, Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, were there in the days of the Aids crisis and are here today”.
Jones notes the surreality of their presence as well.
“One of the things that almost every longtime survivor I know has commented on is how eerie it is to see them up there smiling and nodding while this fool blathers on,” he says. “One can only imagine what is going on inside their head. I think both of them are, every day, probably laying out the degrees of harm: If they were to overly criticize Trump, they would be fired.”
Indeed, Fauci has been conspicuously effusive in his praise for the president. But for nurses at Zuckerberg San Francisco general hospital like Sasha Cuttler, the reassuring presence of capable figures at the top doesn’t necessarily translate into an adequate response on the ground. There, too, a resemblance to the Aids crisis years is unsettling.
“What strikes me is the casual disregard of the voice of nurses and others on the frontlines. That [comparison] is not off at all,” Cuttler says, adding that they’ve been removed from field nursing in retaliation for speaking with the media about a lack of urgency and coordination in testing for Covid-19.
As it was with Aids patients during the 1980s at the hospital’s experimental and nurse-led Ward 86, the frontline caregivers are “predominantly women and queer people”, Cuttler adds. “And we’re doing it with love and caring, making it clear to the patients that we do this job because it’s our job – and we’re not afraid of them or judging them. Both epidemics are used to blame people for their own illness and doing something bad to spread it.”
In the meantime, misinformation has continued unabated, much of it from prominent voices. Displaying considerable ignorance of why residents of the Bay Area were urged to remain at home – and of how contemporary HIV medications work – the conservative commentator Mark Steyn remarked on Rush Limbaugh’s show that “It’s a big gay town, San Francisco, and they’re the ones with all the compromised immune systems from all the protease inhibitors and all the other stuff. And they don’t want all the gays dropping dead on the San Francisco mayor’s watch.”
Those words could have been uttered on Tuesday, or on any given Tuesday in 1986.