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The current COVID 19 spike and Corona Capitalism

November 9, 2020

I work in an adult foster care facility. I have been tested for COVID 4 times already, since we have had both staff and residents who have tested positive. I am considered an essential worker, but that means more often than not, that I am a low-wage worker.

COVID is real and it impacts the most vulnerable in our society, those with disabilities, those experiencing poverty and those who are marginalized because of their race, sexual orientation, even religious status.

In the past few weeks, most of us have been focused on the election, which is understandable, considering how the Trump administration has miserably failed us during the pandemic. However, the electoral focus has also meant that we have not been paying as much attention to the astronomical spike in COVID -19 cases. 

From November 1st through November 8th, the State of Michigan has experienced the largest number of COVID 19 cases during a one week period since the pandemic began. The same has been the case with Kent County, which has also had the highest one-week average since March. 

Kent County Health Director Adam London was recently quoted as saying, “I think we are very much teetering on the edge of having this out of control.” In the same MLive article, Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan, said, “I think unfortunately this was very predictable and very real and, while I think we all hoped we wouldn’t see this, we’re clearly seeing it across our region and our state. And at this point, there’s nothing to tell us it’s not going to keep rising rapidly.”

While it is clear that we are in the midst of a health crisis, due to the pandemic, we are also faced with what some call Corona Capitalism. Corona Capitalism is both a recognition of a failed market-based health care system, along with larger structural realities that are because of a massive wealth gap in our society, White Supremacy, unemployment and underemployment, exploitation, predatory lending and government policies which rewards the super rich and punishes everyone else.

But why are we experiencing a spike in COVID 19 cases right now? There are numerous factors contributing to the current spike. Part of it is related to the push to get students back to school, part of it is a significant portion of the population that continues to refuse to wear masks and social distance, and a large part of it is because of what we already stated, which is Corona Capitalism.

Within the structure of Corona Capitalism, there are two major culprits, policy makers and the business community and their associates. In Michigan, it has been clear since March, which politicians have been most zealous in their push to oppose broad public health policies and to “re-open the economy.” In early April, Rep. Lee Chatfield and Senator Mike Shirkey expressed their frustration over Gov. Whitmer’s stay in place order. The frustration from the GOP politicians led to their eventual lawsuits against the Governor in early May.

As we have noted, Senator Mike Shirkey has also been in constant communication with those organizing the anti-lockdown protests earlier this year. In early October, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Whitmer had gone too far with the stay in place orders, thus limiting what public health officials could do to protect people from becoming infected. Senator Shirkey then began to promote his herd immunity theory, which is a sick and disastrous way of thinking about the expendability of people.

On the business side of things, we have the Michigan and Grand Rapids Chambers of Commerce, who have been pushing to allow companies to resume business as usual, with some protocols in place to deal with COVID. This sentiment has been echoed from policy based groups like the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Acton Institute and the West Michigan Policy Forum. In fact, the West Michigan Policy Forum posted on Friday this comment:

As we see a surge in coronavirus cases statewide, we encourage all work to keep Michigan Open Safely together to protect our lives and our livelihoods it is even more critical to do all we can to enforce good  safety protocols in our working environments to ensure our hospitals do not become overrun.

Now, it should be noted that the West Michigan Policy Forum and many of its more prominent members are major funders to Senator Shirkey and the Michigan GOP. They have been pushing against broad public health protections that Gov. Whitmer put in place and they have pushed policies over the past decade that has made Corona Capitalism all the more inevitable. 

The reality is that the Michigan Legislature will still be under GOP control, which provides them with the ongoing ability to push more Corona Capitalist policies, which will be beneficial to the business community, but will be devastating to the rest of us. We can’t afford to wait for the 2022 election to make changes, so we must resist and organize to oppose the impact of Corona Capitalism in our communities. We must be defiant and resolute in our actions, and we must figure out new ways to take care of each other, especially since we cannot rely on the government or Corona Capitalism. 

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