When is it no longer an emergency?

Bookmarked How to Live With Covid by Jonathan Rauch (Persuasion)

The emergency is over. It’s time to pivot to preparedness.

I am not convinced we are yet out of emergency stage. The number of people getting sick, dying, and becoming disabled from Long Covid is a toll yet to be fully judged.

The number of people unvaccinated worldwide is appalling considering we’ll keep getting more and more strains as so many remain susceptible to infection, and that the death rate is much higher for unvaccinated. Together that makes the perspective that the emergency is past feel pretty America-centric.

Maybe it depends what it means to no longer consider something an emergency – but the word itself conveys and musters urgency that is hard to maintain for “normal,” even a “new normal.” Will we lose urgency… how much urgency do we even have now? Does it matter how urgent the public thinks something is as long as the public health folks are hard at it? I feel like it does since the public judges spending and priorities and what politicians will spend their political capital on. It will be a mistake to forget that pandemic means global, and this is a situation where the worst level affects everyone’s level. (Network effect?)

As soon as we accept that this is how it will be, that we’re ok living like this forever, we lose the chance for a cultural conversation about what we should change to acknowledge the return to endemic disease like we had pre-1950s. Smallpox, measles, polio – we knew then these were unacceptable and worked to eradicate them to protect our people.

To me, the bare minimum our society should have to live forever with a deadly endemic disease includes universal healthcare and paid sick leave requirements. To not offer those knowing the disparity in health coverage and access and outcomes between class and race is frankly horrifying. We sacrifice the poor, Black, Hispanic, and indigenous on the altar of capitalism in the shrine of toxic individualism.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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