The Medical and Societal Implications of the Coronavirus

Graham Robbins 

Grobbins@ucls.uchicago.edu

Man Wearing Mask

Due to slow responses by governmental health officials and organizations, the Coronavirus has spread from the Wuhan, China region into nearly every country worldwide. Though theories suggest that the virus was first transferred to a person in a live animal market, epidemiologists have not come to an official conclusion. However, they are quite confident that the virus came from an animal, likely a bat, and is now being transferred person to person. This form of virus origination is not uncommon. According to ​Erin Garcia de Jesus​ of ScienceNews, “When it comes to viruses, ones from bats are weirdly deadly — at least to humans.” Viruses have a rather crafty way of thriving, entering healthy, living cells and replicating themselves. As seen with the Influenza Virus, vaccines are not always successful because certain mutations can make it extremely hard for vaccine researchers to predict which strain will appear where and when. While Coronavirus vaccine research continues to progress, scientists are also hopeful that the use of blood plasma from recovered patients can be used to treat infections. The lack of effort to contain the virus may have shocked some, but it is no surprise that it led to such drastic measures being taken to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus.

Leaving over 20 million Americans unemployed, and killing over 40,000 in America alone (as of Sunday, April 19, 2020), the Coronavirus pandemic has been cruel to humanity. The virus has relentlessly attacked all communities, but African Americans have been hit the hardest by its malignant effects. Immunologist Pernessa Seels stated, “​Underlying health issues and limited access to treatment also partly explain why so many Coronavirus victims are black. In Chicago, an estimated 72% of COVID-19 deaths have been among blacks, who make up just 30% of the city's population.” Unfortunately, not only are African Americans disproportionately affected by the aforementioned hardships, but many occupy retail and service employment sector jobs, leaving them without the option of working from home. Essentially, there is an ultimatum placed on service and retail employees; risk unemployment, or risk getting infected. Nobody should have to make that decision.

 

In addition to its deleterious effects on African Americans, the Coronavirus has also caused an increase in domestic violence cases. While many find comfort and safety in their homes, those who live in households with an abusive partner or family member(s) are faced with suffering the contrary; they are trapped in a dangerous environment and are susceptible to repeated acts of abuse. Students often confide in friends, teachers, or counselors for support, and adults in their coworkers, but with the enforcement of quarantines by authorities, safe places like schools and offices are no longer available to offer guidance and protection. With more exposure to hostile environments, essential businesses like pharmacies have wisely responded by implementing safe words and instructing their employees to call the police in cases of suspected safety concerns. For example, victims of domestic violence who enter French pharmacies will receive assistance if they say, “mask 19” to an employee.

The primary focus of government officials during this pandemic is on keeping citizens safe, so when medicine becomes the top priority, racial disparities, and a spike in domestic violence reports become lost in the mess. Luckily, there are innumerable ways to combat racial injustice and domestic violence, even during a pandemic. One way to do so is donating to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp COVID-19 Relief Fund. Kaepernick addressed this crisis when he said, “Hundreds of years of structural racism is making Black and Brown communities more vulnerable to the coronavirus. Black and Brown people are more likely to be infected, less likely to be tested, less likely to be treated, and more likely to die from COVID-19.” To support the fight against domestic violence, which is especially critical during this pandemic, organizations like the National Coalition against Domestic Violence are raising funds to support Congress’s efforts to contain the outbreak of cases. In closing, Coronavirus media coverage, much of which is focused on social distancing and vaccine development/treatments, might be deflecting attention from other important issues including high mortality rates among African Americans and a spike in domestic violence.

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