In 2019, a petulant Donald Trump declared a national emergency when Congress wouldn’t give him his ridiculous border wall. After weeks of claiming “everything will be fine,” the toddler-in-chief finally declared a national emergency after COVID-19, aka coronavirus, has spread throughout the country.
China has taken draconian measures in some areas which have drastically reduced infection rates after the initial rapid spread of the disease. Italy has failed to take adequate measures, and both the infection rates and death rates are soaring upward.
The Italian healthcare system is overwhelmed in many areas and doctors are making hard decisions about who to treat due to lack of sufficient resources to treat all. They are only providing palliative care to the very old on the grounds that they only have a short time left to live anyway as well as those in poor health to start with as those resources are better used to treat younger, healthier patients who have both a better chance of survival and more to lose.
Unfortunately, so far the United States is handling the situation about as poorly as Italy, and we may suffer similarly for it.
On Friday, the Democratic-led House passed H.R. 6201-Families First Coronavirus Response Act which would provide free access to tests for the virus, including for those without health insurance. It would also give workers affected by the virus paid family and sick leave, boost unemployment benefits, strengthen government food programs for children, older people and those with low incomes and help states meet expenses for Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor. More than a quarter of Texas Republicans in the House voted against the bill, including Brian Babin, Michael Cloud, Louie Gohmert, Lance Gooden, Chip Roy and Randy Weber.
In the Senate, even knowing that passage of the bill was imminent, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell failed to recognize the seriousness of the emergency last Friday and chose to shut down for the scheduled recess and won’t return until Thursday. The excuse is that they’ll be back in a week and will vote on the bill then when the situation has clarified. The Senate’s failure to act will delay relief and exacerbate suffering needlessly.
While the pandemic has spread to 46 states and Washington D.C., the Trump White House asked for funding cuts to the Centers for Disease Control budget. Texas is particularly vulnerable to the consequences of the pandemic due to all the rural hospital closures suffered over the last decade as Republicans have slashed budgets for health care. Closures over the last decade have primarily been driven by $50 million a year in Medicare cuts to Texas rural hospitals starting in 2013 as well as an $80 million-plus a year underpayment by Texas Medicaid, which is controlled by our Republican controlled state legislature and governor.
Fortunately, local officials like the superintendents of Seguin ISD and Schertz/Cibolo/Universal City ISD have taken action and closed all schools in their districts for at least this week. We need the Trump administration to take strong, swift measures like our local officials are doing.