COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the U.S. and worldwide. Close to 3,000 people died across the country in the third week of December, nearly 90% of them over 65 years old. Hospitalizations have increased 30% over the last two weeks.
It’s a far different picture than the one President Joseph Biden painted on a Sunday “60 Minutes” broadcast in September, when he said COVID was still around, but the pandemic was “over.” “No one is wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape,” he said.
The problem, White House COVID response coordinator Ashish Jha told reporters in December, is that “there are still too many older Americans who have not gotten their immunity updated, who have not gotten themselves protected.”
Like in earlier rounds of the pandemic, the lives of older workers, who can no longer produce profits for the bosses, get scant attention. So-called stage of life — a euphemism for age — was used to decide who got a bed or ventilator, and hundreds of thousands died locked down in nursing homes without being able to visit with family.
Fewer than 50% of nursing home residents have received the latest vaccine booster, yet in October the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that regulates nursing homes, relaxed penalties for failing to meet vaccine mandates.
Cissy Sanders of Austin, Texas, told the press she met multiple obstacles trying to get a booster for her 73-year-old mother, who is in a nursing home. After the facility told her they couldn’t find a vaccinator, she made plans to take her mom to Walgreens. “I’m concerned about the lack of urgency at my mother’s nursing home,” she said.
For homebound seniors the situation isn’t any better. In Los Angeles County, where an estimated 500,000 residents are homebound, the public health department says it sends out only eight nurses a day to provide in-home vaccinations.
And things are about to get tougher. Informal talks have been ongoing within the Biden administration for more than a year about ending government funding for COVID care. Executives from Pfizer and Moderna are licking their chops in anticipation of the day they can begin selling their shots on the private market.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told investors that sales of Paxlovid, the drug to treat high-risk patients that the government currently pays $530 a dose for, and the company’s COVID vaccine — for which Pfizer plans to charge $120 a shot — will be “a multibillion-dollars franchise.”
On top of this, the bipartisan “omnibus” 4,000-plus page bill passed by Congress on Dec. 23 allows state governments to cut up to 19 million people off Medicaid and its related children’s program, which had been temporarily expanded during the COVID pandemic.
The capitalist rulers and their for-profit health system contributed to another drop in life expectancy in the U.S. last year, to 76.4 years, a level last seen in 1996.
While more than 400,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID, many others lost their lives from what the media terms “unintentional injuries”: the scourge of opioid drug overdoses, over 106,000 in 2021; suicides; and the sharp drop in access to quality and affordable health care for millions of working people.