APRIL 6, 2020
We know that most of you reading this right now are health professionals and researchers. We hope you and your loved ones are healthy and taking care. THANK YOU for courageously caring for COVID-19 patients and fighting for answers to the myriad of scientific and medical questions. Our thoughts and hearts are with you, as are our efforts to help secure the protections you need to do your job safely. Here is a way we can help health-care providers: Masks for America.
SOCIAL INJUSTICES LAID BARE
The COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly reframed many SF Bay Area PSR issues and shown us that health-based advocacy is more crucial than ever before. To help our members keep pace with the tsunami of news, over the next several months, we will share with you highlights about how the crisis is affecting PSR policy issues and how you can TAKE ACTION.
Despite the grief we are collectively experiencing, we are also engaged in assessing opportunities for policy change presented by the pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis is challenging U.S. individualism and self-determination in ways we have not seen since World War II. The pandemic has revealed our weaknesses in failing to recognize we are a community of shared and finite space, air, water, and resources. As such, the crisis provides an opportunity for Americans to shift toward a deeper understanding of the benefits of social support and public health, medical and scientific research, and a healthy environment. It is clear that economic inequity limits our resilience as a society to face crisis.
At SF Bay PSR we are thinking about strategies to fight for the most vulnerable and improve economic inequality and health. We have provided here links to relevant policies, actions, and readings to help you remain informed and take action quickly. Please see BELOW.
Since 1995 SF Bay PSR has supported a universal health care system in line with the single payer/”Medicare for All” proposals advocated by our friends and colleagues in Physicians for a National Health Program. The need for such a transformation has never been more apparent. To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and future epidemics, we must care for the most vulnerable in our society—homeless people, undocumented immigrants, restaurant and farm workers, low-income families, etc. These populations of workers, who are often invisible and forgotten, are now on the frontlines—their intertwined connections and value to our social and economic systems are made blatantly clear even for those who do not share PSR’s humanitarian mission.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the $2 trillion relief package passed on March 27, 2020, highlights the still urgent, unfulfilled need to divert federal investment from corporate bail outs and nuclear arms and toward health care, education, and other social support services. It is clear that keeping our families and communities safe is just as dependent, if not more dependent on public health and social systems, than on another jet fighter.
Toward this goal SF Bay PSR has supported the Providing Americans Insured Days of Leave Act (PAID Leave Act). The Act guarantees 14 days of paid sick leave and 12 days of family leave. Employees in jobs that require frequent contact with the public, including retail, restaurant, cleaners, and care workers, are least likely to be given paid sick days and least likely to be able to afford to take time off. The Paid Leave Act will help to close holes in the previously enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employee Paid Leave Rights.
However, undocumented immigrants are still at risk because of the Public Charge Rule that went into effect on February 24, 2020—bad timing. The rule makes it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status or become citizens if they seek health or social services. The federal administration declared that COVID-19-related care would be exempt from this rule, but that is not enough for vulnerable immigrants to feel safe seeking care.
As of Friday, April 3, 2020, 10 million Americans have applied for unemployment. That means most of them will also lose their health insurance at a time when we need all residents of the United States to be cared for as part of the effort to control the virus and protect society at large. Public Citizen has started a petition asking that all unemployed Americans be enrolled in Medicare. Please see action links below.
Readings & Resources