How the Pandemic Is Worsening America’s Racial Gaps

“In the middle of a pandemic that has killed roughly 1 in every 1,020 Black Americans — a disproportionate death toll likely to worsen as coronavirus cases spike in much of the country — it’s not just lives that are being imperiled. Racial wealth gaps are worsening, and progress towards economic equity is being undone.”

““When the pandemic translates into a disproportionate burden on low-wealth households, that is correlated with race,” says Jones. “The median wealth of white households is between 9 and 10 times as much as the median black household. And during this pandemic, the people with the lowest level of the wealth don’t have the emergency savings to hold themselves over.”
At the same time, Black and Latino workers are more likely to have “frontline” jobs that put them at heightened risk of Covid infection. For many, it’s a bind: You have less of a financial cushion to fall back on and need the work. But the job itself puts you at heightened risk of Covid infection, your health insurance is generally tied to your job, and if you lose it and catch Covid, you face potential financial ruin. Even when the pandemic ends, Jones expects that Black and Latino households will be “worse off, relative to white households, than when it began.””

“For years, workers have had a continually eroding level of leverage in the workplace. The ways companies have redefined labor as “external contractors” basically causes more and more people to not be covered by workplace protections. During this pandemic, those people couldn’t get unemployment insurance at all. It’s indicative of a larger problem: The labor market is being reoriented in a way where workers have less and less power. One reason that’s important is that if you don’t have a lot of say, you’re going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place: forced to either not work, or to go to work under far less-than-ideal circumstances in terms of protections from Covid infection and other health problems. Do they have the right protective equipment? Do they have sick leave? Probably not.

Related to health care, we have health insurance driven by where you’re employed. During a time like this — a pandemic with acute and chronic health implications and high rates of unemployment — going in and out of access to health care is particularly devastating. In the long run, we need some form of universal health care access to offset this problem of people losing their access to health care if they lose their jobs.”

” We found that people are sensitive to changes in their paychecks from month to month, and that’s particularly true for Black and Latinx households and households with a low level of liquid assets. What I mean by liquid assets are savings and other assets that are either cash or which can be quickly converted into cash — so your bank account, your savings account, and some investments you can quickly cash out. The households with the lowest level of liquid assets had the most vulnerability. When there were changes in their income, they had to make bigger adjustments, or adjustments that were going to be more painful. Relative to white households, Black and Latino households were more sensitive to those fluctuations, and that seems to be a result of the fact those households generally have less in terms of liquid assets, which is related to broader racial wealth gaps driven by a number of factors”

How superspreading is fueling the pandemic — and how we can stop it

“On average, people with the coronavirus infect about two other people; most pass the virus to just one other person, or to no one else at all.

But some people go on to infect many more — often before they even get symptoms. Many of these transmission chains begin with superspreading events, where one person (usually in a crowded indoor space) passes the virus to dozens of others. Early contact tracing studies suggest these events have been a large driver of transmission around the world. By some estimates, 10 percent of people have been causing 80 percent of new infections.”

“To understand what might kick off a superspreading event, let’s review some basics about how this virus, SARS-CoV-2, spreads. Researchers have found that it often spreads through microscopic droplets created when an infected person coughs or sneezes — or even speaks — and another person breathes them in. These disease-containing droplets are a large part of the reasoning behind staying at least 6 feet away from people and wearing a mask in public.
But scientists are finding that the virus likely also spreads through even tinier, longer-lasting particles from breathing or speaking (or flushing a toilet) called aerosols. These are so small they can linger in the air after an infectious person has left — and may contain infectious virus particles for up to three hours. And they may be a key element to superspreading events: An infected person could seed a poorly ventilated indoor space with virus without even getting physically close to all the people they end up infecting.

Superspreading also appears to be more likely with SARS-CoV-2 because people typically have the highest level of the virus in their system (making them infectious) right before they develop symptoms. (This is very different from other severe coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, where people were most infectious seven to 10 days after they started feeling sick, when they were more likely to be in isolation or in medical care.) So thousands of people with active Covid-19 infections continue to go about their lives not knowing that they could be spreading the disease.”

“Some individuals seem to develop higher amounts of the virus in their system, upping their odds of transmitting it to others.

And given that the amount of virus in the body tends to shift over the duration of infection — rising until around the onset of symptoms, then declining — the chance that someone is a likely superspreader changes over time.”

COVID-19 Could Force City Planners To Rethink Their Priorities

“For years, urban planners have been singing the praises of population density.”

“”Density is a factor in this pandemic, as it has been in previous ones,” wrote Richard Florida in the CityLab website. “The very same clustering of people that makes our great cities more innovative and productive also makes them, and us, vulnerable to infectious disease.” Some big cities have handled the crisis better than others. Some rural areas have high infection rates, too. But, as an urban studies professor, he’s distressed at big-city vulnerability.”

Tired: There Are No Libertarians in a Pandemic. Wired: There Are Only Libertarians in a Pandemic.

“If the policies and decisions above are worth tossing out in an emergency, maybe they ought to be sidelined during normal times too.

Situations like the 9/11 attacks and the coronavirus outbreak often open the door to naked power grabs whose terrible consequences stick around long after the events that inspired them (looking at you, TSA!). Governments rarely return power once they’ve amassed it. But if you listen carefully, you can hear them telling us what stuff they realize can be safely tossed. When the infection rates come down and the theaters and schools and everything else get back to normal, it may be tempting just to go back to the way we were. Resist the temptation: A lot of the rules we put up with every day are worth reevaluating, and not only during an emergency.”

Before Trump’s inauguration, a warning: ‘The worst influenza pandemic since 1918’

“The briefing was intended to hammer home a new, terrifying reality facing the Trump administration, and the incoming president’s responsibility to protect Americans amid a crisis. But unlike the coronavirus pandemic currently ravaging the globe, this 2017 crisis didn’t really happen — it was among a handful of scenarios presented to Trump’s top aides as part of a legally required transition exercise with members of the outgoing administration of Barack Obama.”

“The Trump team was told it could face specific challenges, such as shortages of ventilators, anti-viral drugs and other medical essentials, and that having a coordinated, unified national response was “paramount” — warnings that seem eerily prescient given the ongoing coronavirus crisis.”

“But roughly two-thirds of the Trump representatives in that room are no longer serving in the administration. That extraordinary turnover in the months and years that followed is likely one reason his administration has struggled to handle the very real pandemic it faces now, former Obama administration officials said.”

“Obama aides, in op-eds and essays ripping the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus, officially called COVID-19, have pointed to the Jan. 13, 2017, session as a key example of their effort to press the importance of pandemic preparedness to their successors.
In a Friday op-ed, Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, blasted Trump for comments such as “you can never really think” that a pandemic like the coronavirus “is going to happen.” She mentioned the 2017 session as one of many instances of the Obama administration’s efforts to help its successor be ready for such a challenge. She also slammed the Trump team for dismantling the National Security Council section that would play a lead role in organizing the U.S. response to a global pandemic.”

“Lisa Monaco, Obama’s homeland security adviser, explained the thinking behind the January 2017 session in a recent essay for Foreign Affairs. “Although the exercise was required, the specific scenarios we chose were not,” she wrote. “We included a pandemic scenario because I believed then, and I have warned since, that emerging infectious disease was likely to pose one of the gravest risks for the new administration.””

“The Trump campaign, like the rest of America, was shocked to win the November 2016 election. Soon afterward, Trump cast aside his team’s transition prep work that had happened already and started over; some of his aides described tossing carefully collected binders full of possible personnel picks into trash bins. It was days, sometimes weeks, before his nominees and their aides showed up to meet the people they were replacing — if they did so at all — or to engage in transition meetings. Obama aides said they left detailed memos for their successors, but that quite often it appeared those memos were never read. Many on the Obama side were genuinely surprised that so many actually showed up for the Jan. 13, 2017, exercise, and there were expectations that some would skip it. On the Obama side, several agencies were represented by their second-in-command at the meeting for reasons including a belief that Trump’s principals wouldn’t show.
The gathering was held to satisfy a requirement in a 2016 law that updated the procedures around presidential transitions to require, among other things, that the outgoing administration “prepare and host interagency emergency preparedness and response exercises.” Obama also mentioned it in a 2016 executive order laying out his transition goals.”

“some Obama aides who attended said they were left with the impression that many of the Trump aides showed up to simply check off a box more than to learn. The impression was boosted in part because the transition overall was going so poorly. Several Trump nominees had barely even spoken to their Obama counterparts.”

““The problem is that they came in very arrogant and convinced that they knew more than the outgoing administration — full swagger,” one former Obama administration official who attended said.”

“Asked whether information about the pandemic exercise reached the president-elect, a former senior Trump administration official who attended the meeting couldn’t say for sure but noted that it wasn’t “the kind of thing that really interested the president very much.”
“He was never interested in things that might happen. He’s totally focused on the stock market, the economy and always bashing his predecessor and giving him no credit,” the person said. “The possibility things were things he didn’t spend much time on or show much interest in.
“Even though we would put time on the schedule for things like that, if they happened at all, they would be very, very brief,” the former official continued. “To get the president to be focused on something like this would be quite hard.”
Anything associated with Obama or his administration was also a no-go zone for Trump aides. If you brought them up, “that would be an immediate rejection, like, ‘Why are they even here? Why the fuck did you ask them?’””

Trump’s mismanagement helped fuel coronavirus crisis

“For six weeks behind the scenes, and now increasingly in public, Trump has undermined his administration’s own efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak — resisting attempts to plan for worst-case scenarios, overturning a public-health plan upon request from political allies and repeating only the warnings that he chose to hear. Members of Congress have grilled top officials like Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield over the government’s biggest mistake: failing to secure enough testing to head off a coronavirus outbreak in the United States. But many current and former Trump administration officials say the true management failure was Trump’s.”

““Interviews with 13 current and former officials, as well as individuals close to the White House, painted a picture of a president who rewards those underlings who tell him what he wants to hear while shunning those who deliver bad news.”