World in view: Notes on a pandemic

March 17, 2020

From the March-April 2020 issue of News & Letters

by Gerry Emmett

The COVID-19 coronavirus is present, as of this writing, in over 50 countries.

The massive drop in the stock market indicates that capitalists expect serious economic problems, including supply chain disruptions; cutbacks in consumers’ discretionary spending; and probable layoffs. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that employees be able to work at home. Good luck with that. Every aspect of this pandemic can be expected to highlight the class nature of society.

In Japan, schools have been ordered closed for months ahead. In northern Italy, mass gatherings have been stopped.


In recognition of the limited capacity of hospitals, self-isolation and home treatment is being recommended for patients with milder cases—which include most.

The more important thing to remember is human solidarity. Those most at risk are older people and people with compromised immune systems. When you take precautions for yourself, you do them a great service.

Special care should be demanded for prisoners, the homeless, and those with disabilities. In China where COVID-19 originated, prisons became centers of transmission. Human Rights Watch spokesman Yaqiu Wang said of Chinese prisons: “Prisoners are routinely denied adequate medical care even during normal times. With medical resources stretched to the limit, it is hard to imagine prisoners’ needs would be a priority of the government.”

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