Since the omicron variant surfaced here Dec. 1, infection rates have jumped off the charts with 193,305 new cases on Dec. 17. The CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) forecasts more than 1 million new COVID-19 cases during Christmas week.
Despite last year’s grand promises that vaccine rollouts meant the crisis had passed and the pandemic was over, since December 2020 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have tripled.
The lack of a coordinated national health plan, the chaotic for-profit approach to testing and the corporate-controlled vaccine development and distribution continues to have a devastating impact in the U.S. and throughout much of the world.
In comparison, in a country of 1.4 billion people, China has been able to decisively break the chain of infection each time there has been a virus outbreak or appearance of a new variant.
But rather than investigate how China was able to internally control the virus and provide global assistance, the U.S. escalated virulent anti-China propaganda.
Omicron — not the main danger
On Nov. 24, South Africa announced it had identified an extremely contagious new variant, dubbed “omicron.”
Rather than put in place a rapid genomic testing system, President Joe Biden blocked all travel from South Africa. Yet the omicron variant was quickly identified throughout Europe and in countries bordering the U.S.
Globally scientists are testing millions of samples of the coronavirus to spot new mutations, follow how the virus is evolving and how rapidly it is spreading. Instead of this scientific approach, racist U.S. officials blamed an African country for discovering the new variant, just as they blamed China for first alerting the world to the emergence of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the process of genomic testing for variants within the U.S. is slower, far more sporadic and completely uncoordinated. The CDC sequencing process takes 10 days to complete after receiving a specimen. Some states take a month to complete the tests.
Two weeks after South Africa’s announcement, the New York Times finally reported Dec. 6. that the variant was spreading through the U.S. before South Africa’s announcement. The omicron variant went undetected due to the slow, uncoordinated testing in the U.S. One Manhattan convention of 53,000 people was a superspreader.
Despite warnings of the wildfire spread of the new omicron variant, no new national shutdowns or emergency restrictions in the U.S. were announced. Holiday travel continues unabated. Deaths in the U.S. remain a shocking 1,300 per day and are projected to escalate sharply.
The new mutation omicron is spreading faster than the delta variant, which spread faster than the coronavirus of two years ago. In Britain on Dec. 1, only 32 cases of omicron were identified. By Dec. 13, Britain’s health minister, Sajid Javid, estimated 200,000 daily infections, most of them omicron. Within days, infections will exceed 1 million a day. And 2 million a day by the end of the month is the new prediction for Britain.
For-Profit Healthcare Is a Killer
The only strategy of the corporate media, competing politicians and uncoordinated national, state and city bureaucracies is to convince a very alienated and suspicious population that vaccines will end the deadly scourge. Reliance on public service announcements and mandates won’t solve the lack of a coordinated health care infrastructure in the U.S., which ranks last in the percentage of fully vaccinated people behind other G7 developed economies — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
More damning is that the U.S. ranks 44th in the list of countries in the percentage of people vaccinated. According to the CDC, as of Dec. 2 only about 197.8 million people, or 59.6% of the total U.S. population, have been fully vaccinated. (tinyurl.com/yc4dxyxs)
Deaths Were Preventable
Extreme inequalities in U.S. health insurance coverage are linked to the virus spread and its deadly impact. Racial health disparities, including access to care, led to disproportionate deaths in communities of color. Shortfalls of needed medical supplies and treatment still exist — the U.S. has only half the hospital beds per capita of other developed economies.
A Public Citizen Report, March 16, 2021, detailed how “Medicare for All” could have prevented hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of infections. The report found that one-third of COVID-19 deaths and 40% of infections were tied to a lack of insurance.
Of the 25 wealthiest countries, the U.S. alone failed to provide universal health care. Even before the pandemic, tens of thousands of lives were lost annually due to for-profit health care. Significantly more people — especially people of color — die of chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes or cancer than people in other comparably wealthy countries with universal health care systems.
COVAX Fails in Its Promises
COVAX — an ambitious global collaboration set up early in the pandemic to give people in rich and poor nations equitable access to the shots — has failed to meet its many promises. As new, more contagious forms of the virus spread even faster, this gap is a world danger. The World Health Organization project was set up to keep vaccine profits and vaccine patents in the hands of private corporations by pledging to give vaccines away free or below price to poor countries.
The glowing COVAX promises of 2 billion vaccine doses simply never arrived. U.S. corporations and agencies delivered less than 300,000 doses; 98% of people in low-income countries remain unvaccinated. COVAX has contributed less than 5% of all vaccines administered globally.
China alone directly provided over 2 billion vaccines to the Global South. Of far greater significance is the fact that China is providing the information, raw material and technology so that countries can begin to manufacture their own vaccines. Cuba, which developed its own vaccines, is also distributing hundreds of thousands of doses to low-income countries, particularly those targeted by U.S. sanctions, like Venezuela and Iran.
Two Social Systems, Two Different COVID-19 Outcomes
A different social system than that of the U.S. exists in some of the countries that are successfully managing and controlling the spread of the COVID-19 virus — countries like China, Cuba and Vietnam.
These two social systems, both confront a medical crisis: capitalism, under which everything is dictated by the needs of finance capital; and socialism, which organizes society by prioritizing people’s needs.
China’s approach is only possible in a country that is highly organized to prioritize human needs — to value people over profits.
In the Western media, China’s approach is portrayed as top-down, oppressive rule by the state. In reality China’s systematic plan to control the pandemic was a collaboration between the state and hundreds of thousands of citizen volunteers.
Capitalism as an economic system is driven to put profits first and let people, including the most vulnerable, die — while socialist planning can meet the needs and save the lives of a country’s people, especially in the middle of a global pandemic.
Predictions and Warnings Ignored
A year ago, I, along with Lee Siu Hin, co-edited a Capitalism on a Ventilator — The Impact of COVID-19 in China and the U.S., an anthology exposing how the pandemic health crisis resulted from a for-profit system that will never deliver health to working and oppressed people. This collection graphically described the chaos of schools and offices shutting down overnight. Hospital intensive care units were overflowing, and refrigerated trailers became makeshift morgues, and states were fighting over protective equipment and high-tech ventilators.
These unsolvable U.S. surges were predicted in essays by the 50 progressive commentators — written even before vaccines were rolled out — explaining why vaccines alone could not solve the soaring COVID-19 death rate in the U.S. The information in Capitalism on a Ventilator,” was suppressed in the U.S. within capitalist distribution channels and media networks.
The China-U.S. Solidarity Network along with the International Action Center are responsible for the publication of this anthology. Capitalism on a Ventilator has been translated into Chinese and will soon be available in print in China. The book is available in English online at Kobo and World View Forum..
Sara Flounders is an American political writer who has been active in progressive and anti-war organizing since the 1960s. She is a member of the Secretariat of Workers World Party, as well as a principal leader of the International Action Center. She also frequently writes for Workers World newspaper