Crippling shortages, travel restrictions and overwhelmed medical services will give Americans a taste of what it is like for the millions of people living under US sanctions worldwide.
by Alan Macleod edited by O Society March 18, 2020
Across fifty states, Americans collectively brace for the incoming COVID-19 pandemic to hit. In the face of the virus, people resort to panic buying, stocking up on vital foods and goods, leading to pressing shortages of key products such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
Perhaps more concerning, however, is health experts all agree our country is ill-equipped for the coming medical emergency.
“We are not prepared, nor is any place prepared for a Wuhan-like outbreak,” said Dr. Eric Toner of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “And we will see the same sort of bad outcomes they see in Wuhan – with a very high case fatality rate, due largely to people not being able to access the needed intensive care.”
Chief among the problems is a lack of ventilators, a crucial machine to help critically ill patients breathe properly. New York City, for example, possesses barely one sixth of the ventilators it would need for a critical outbreak. If things get truly bad, the city drafted laws to compel prisoners at Rikers Island jail to dig mass graves.
One of the principal reasons the U.S. is so unprepared is it spends so little on public health in comparison with what it spends on war. The U.S. military’s projected budget is $934 billion per year, the Pentagon’s is $712 billion. In contrast, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) costs the taxpayer only $6.6 billion.
At a time of crisis, many Americans may reassess which organization they feel is truly protecting us from danger. While increasing the military budget, Donald Trump consistently argues for cuts to the CDC.
Amazingly, the Trump administration confirms last week it intends to slash funding from the body, even as the country begins reeling from the impact of COVID-19.
The crippling shortages, inability to move and the likely overwhelming of medical services will give Americans a taste of what it is like to live under sanctions that it imposes on a number of countries worldwide. U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, declared illegal and a “crime against humanity” by the United Nations, are conservatively estimated to have killed more than 40,000 people between 2017 and 2018 alone. Diabetics, for example, are unable to get insulin because of the embargo, leading to mass deaths. The Cuban government estimates that the American embargo has cost it over $750 billion.
Meanwhile, in Iran, the people are wracked by the virus, which causes more than 850 confirmed deaths, and is decimated by Trump’s increasing sanctions.
The Iranian rial lost 80 percent of its value, food prices doubled, and rents and unemployment soared. Because of the sanctions, patients with conditions like leukemia and epilepsy are unable to get treatment. After the coronavirus hit it, no country would sell the Islamic Republic basic medical supplies like masks, fearful of reprisals from the world’s only superpower. The shortages are so bad, doctors are forced to share facemasks with other hospital staff. Eventually the World Health Organization stepped in and began supplying Iran directly.
The Iranian government also invented an app to deal with COVID-19, hoping to share information with its citizens to help fight its spread. Google removed this from its app store citing sanctions prevent it from promoting or carrying anything Iranian-made. The effect of the sanctions in helping spread COVID-19 across Iran and beyond is immeasurable.
Despite the circumstances, countries under American pressure are trying their best to stem the outbreak. In Venezuela, doctors have begun going door-to-door with sanitation workers and medical students, checking temperatures and providing information and consultation to the population for free.
Cuba, meanwhile, is actually exporting medical professionals, sending them both to less advantaged neighbors like Jamaica and to advanced countries like Italy. The Cuban pharmaceutical industry is world-renowned, and a local antiviral drug, Interferon Alpha 2b, proves crucial in limiting deaths in China. The Cubans are forced to develop their industry due to U.S. sanctions limiting what the Cuban people can import. China, Cuba, and Venezuela work together with Italy to try to halt the virus’ spread.
As an ER doc trying to treat patients who may have COVID-19, I can’t underscore enough how much harder the lack of testing is making our job. Yes we’re used to making life-or-death decisions with limited information, daily. But this scenario is very different. Here’s why: (1/12)
Iran appears willing to do everything to slow the epidemic within its borders. Last week it announced it was even releasing 70,000 prisoners from its jails. In contrast, incarcerating more people seems to be a priority for American authorities. ICE recently launched a huge new crackdown, attempting to “flood the streets” with agents. Last night, it used the chaos caused by the pandemic to fly six detained children from Dallas to New York.
The Trump regime also pressures a German pharmaceutical company to provide it with an exclusive coronavirus vaccine “only for the United States,” a solicitation met with utter disgust in Europe. “Germany is not for sale,” roared its economy minister, Peter Altmaier.
Meanwhile, American pharmaceutical giant Gilead is tries to block China’s use of a potential coronavirus treatment, arguing China would give it away free to the rest of the world, hurting this company’s profits. This stance comes despite the fact Gilead uses people in Wuhan as guinea pigs for research.
US pharma company Gilead, which owns the most promising COVID-19 vaccine, is booming in “pandemic stock sales,” preparing to sell it for $50-100/person. Gilead is in a legal battle to deny the Chinese government access, because China would make the vaccine free and ship it to the global south
Once an effective vaccine for coronavirus is developed, it should be free.
Despite praise from the World Health Organization for its response, Washington appears to be very angry at China. At the Democratic presidential debate last night Senator Bernie Sanders was asked, “What consequences should China face for its role in this global crisis?” – the question suggests sanctions are in order for Beijing.
Perhaps given Americans now have a taste of what the reality of sanctions entails, the public may not be as supportive of economic sieges as we were in the past.
A patron at a local grocery store walks past shelves usually stocked with toilet paper now empty due to the coronavirus pandemic, March 15, 2020, in Phoenix
Then again, millions of Americans will choose to continue to walk down path of willful ignorance instead.