To the Editor:
COVID-19 rages among us and we want safety from the virus. We also want an economy that employs, feeds and shelters us.
Our battle cry is, “we are all in this together.” This phrase repeats a basic American principle: “All people are created equal. ... ”
But is it OK that some people confront significantly more danger than others? Who are our most vulnerable people? Do they need more protections, and what are they? What dangers do many “essential workers” face? What protections do those who risk for others need? Do we ignore these questions? If we don’t address them, what are we silently saying? Could it be that we believe that “some are more equal than others”?
More than 20,000 nursing home residents have died because of COVID-19. Nursing home problems have festered for many years, yet inadequate care continued.
Now, staff shortages, inadequate pay, poor infection control and other problems have combined with inadequate testing and protective gear to create a human crisis.
Too many nursing home caregivers also have died or gotten sick because of the virus.
What are their work demands and hours, are they under more stress, what is their relief and do they have sufficient protections?
About 70% of nursing homes are for-profit, and private equity firms have purchased many.
The American Health Care Association, which represents most nursing homes, is pushing states to provide enhanced liability protections.
We want our factories to produce enough food. But does the factory worker have safe working conditions? What is the safety standard? Do the workers agree? Who enforces the standard? Is it easily enforceable?
Illinois amended its worker compensation rules and said that if essential workers like nursing home caregivers or meat production workers got COVID-19, it would be assumed they got it on the job.
The Illinois Manufacturers Association, among other business groups, said they didn’t want to include all essential workers, sued the state and got this change suspended.
What do you think? We say that “we are all in this together,” but do we act it? Will we accept that nursing home residents and their caregivers die at greater numbers? Will we ignore increased deaths among meat factory workers and their families?
Will we demand that nursing home residents, their caregivers and meat factory workers receive the same protections and care we demand for ourselves?
Will we say we are “all in this together” and demand that these words be true?