The Politics of Disease
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In Amy David Sorkin’s timely essay, “The Tragedy of the New Coronavirus Spikes,” she makes the case that the government’s response to this pandemic has been impeded by the politicization of the crises. Indeed, as we have seen during the July spikes, it appears that Democratic and Republican politicians are taking different approaches to how they are handling social distancing and re-opening protocols. But as Sorkin quotes Dr. Ashish Jha, “the coronavirus doesn’t care whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat.” As we have seen the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States shift from New York to Southern and Western states that are controlled by the Republican party, this truth is ever more clear. So why are politicians taking such divergent courses of action?
As Sorkin points out, much of this has to do with President Trump’s 2020 election bid. He has fed into the xenophobic and ultra-conservative impulses of his base by suggesting that the coronavirus in California can be staved by more miles of border wall, by referring to COVID-19 as “the China virus,” and by minimizing the voice of scientists in this critical discussion. (If scientists are presenting evidence that wearing masks in public has been proven to curb the spread of disease, why is there such immediate resistance?)
Even in our own city, which is largely Democratic, we see the conflict of politics. When Judge Lena Hidalgo wanted to enforce masks, the governor of Texas, a staunch Republican, then blocked those measures by issuing an executive order that prevented mayors and city officials from making masks mandatory. This conflict is ultimately costing the public its health and safety.
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