SDS Demands a COVID-19 Response NOW: Free Testing, Paid Leave, Medicare For All, Release All Immigrants and Non-Violent Prisoner

SDS Demands a COVID-19 Response NOW: Free Testing, Paid Leave, Medicare For All, Release All Immigrants and Non-Violent Prisoner

We are living in the middle of a global pandemic, with an economic depression at our front door. Today, there are over 42,000 confirmed coronavirus infections in the United States, growing exponentially each day in spite of the lack of widespread testing. Over 500 people have died. Deaths and hospitalizations are increasing, while health care workers and even now governors and local officials ring alarm bells for impending hospital equipment shortages. Now, more than ever, we need the federal government to act and provide widespread free testing, paid leave for workers, Medicare for All, and the release of all immigrants and non-violent prisoners, so that as many of us can survive this crisis as possible.

Two months ago, the People’s Republic of China battled the coronavirus epidemic and eventually stopped its spread, buying other countries around the world time to prepare. Some governments, such as South Korea, seized the opportunity to universalize coronavirus testing and thereby blunted the effects of the pandemic. However, here in the United States, Trump denied the urgency of the situation, likening it to the “flu,” and has neglected to provide widespread testing that would have allowed infected folks to quarantine sooner.

Now, the virus has reached “community spread” across the United States. Even people who did not travel to earlier sites of the epidemic are contracting the virus. This means that we are past the point where even widespread social distancing can halt mass hospitalizations, which in turn means that this administration needs to fund and support public health care, workers, and students much more seriously than they ever have before.

The federal government has refused these things at every turn. This refusal to act is a crime against the people. When governors such as New York’s Di Blasio and New Jersey’s Phil Murphy requested ventilators, Trump denied them, saying they should “buy it themselves,” knowing full well a shortage means doctors will have to leave some patients to die, as is the case in Italy. His hope is to enrich the pockets of the CEOs of Quest Diagnostics, Roche Diagnostics, and LabCorps, who had representatives at his press conference earlier this month, and many others, as states compete to purchase hospital equipment. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is pumping a trillion dollars a day into Fortune 500 companies so that the profit hoarded by billionaires does not take a hit. Even in a dire situation like today’s, Trump refuses to call for a national lockdown, prioritizing profit on Wall Street over the lives of countless people.

This crisis is affecting every aspect of society in the US today and will hurt people from all walks of life. Most obviously, it is severely life-threatening to people above the age of 60, people with preexisting health conditions, or people who do not have access to health care. It interrupts and downgrades education everywhere, with university students being kicked out of dorms and left penniless or left with hastily-improvised online curricula, and kids K through 12 without any guidance from teachers. It is accelerating an economic crisis that began to affect the stock market even last year. It is leading to massive amounts of layoffs, with so many workers applying for unemployment insurance that their states’ websites have frequently crashed, and eventual starvation, evictions, and homelessness if this goes unchecked.

Trump, this government, and its for-profit approach have failed the working people of this country in epic proportions.

We need to take matters into our hands.

We need free and universal testing so that we can slow the spread and so that people who test positive can begin the quarantine and treatment necessary for us to “flatten the curve.” We need paid leave so workers in non-essential fields can stay home to slow the spread and so infected people can recover or seek treatment.

We need the release of all immigrants from detention centers and all non-violent prisoners from prisons so that these facilities do not quickly become death camps, especially given the inadequate health care and inhumane conditions detained immigrants and prisoners receive.

We need Medicare For All and a robustly expanded, single-payer health care system. This expansion would mean that as many people as possible can receive treatment. A federal health care system means that we would have the infrastructure necessary to do crucial things such as provide safety gear to our health care workers and more vital hospital equipment such as ventilators and ICU beds so that our healthcare system can actually support the present and oncoming number of hospitalizations.

National Students for a Democratic Society will not sit idly by while students and working people everywhere lose everything. We will fight for what we need and what has been refused to us, starting with universal coronavirus testing, paid leave for workers in non-essential fields, the release of the detained and imprisoned, and Medicare for All. Our national campaign starts now and we call on all students to join us - on call-ins, on socially distant and socially responsible rallies, on teach-ins, on car protests, on whatever tactics we can use - in this fight for our survival and an end to this for-profit system that endangers us all.