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A people’s program to fight the virus

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 special issue of Liberation Newspaper on the Coronavirus crisis

From the La Riva/Peltier presidential campaign and the Party for Socialism and Liberation

The Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Gloria La Riva/Leonard Peltier presidential campaign call for an immediate emergency program to combat the Coronavirus crisis involving the following measures:

Full sick pay and 100% unemployment insurance for every worker, no evictions or foreclosures

Bail out the people, not the banks! Expand unemployment insurance to cover 100 percent of wages lost due to closings, layoffs, illness or if a worker is caring for a sick person. This unemployment insurance should be provided indefinitely for the duration of the pandemic and associated economic recession. There should be an immediate moratorium on utility shutoffs, evictions and foreclosures. No debt should be accumulated over this period to landlords, utility corporations or banks. 

All these measures should apply to undocumented workers and independent contractors as well. Financial assistance should be provided by the federal government to compensate small businesses for their losses. 

War time emergency production and distribution measures

Organize the compulsory mass production of critical goods: COVID-19 test kits, ventilators, protective equipment and medical equipment at cost to meet the urgent need. The government has the power to compel companies to produce critical goods, requisition certain types of property and expand production, impose price controls and allocate raw materials for the “national defense.” The government must use these powers now and end shortages of all critical goods needed to defeat the Coronavirus pandemic, including those to protect frontline medical and social services personnel.

No profiteering in this crisis! A centralized system of free distribution should be created to guarantee that  everyone has safe access to high-quality, nutritious food and other essentials. Building on existing programs like meals-on-wheels and emerging grassroots community networks, a system must be established to provide all the necessary supplies for free to everyone who has been medically quarantined, is especially at risk or has been instructed to remain in their homes.

Free healthcare

Free testing only works with free treatment. Healthcare must be provided for free for all. If you couldn’t afford a test, how can you afford treatment? The profits of the insurance companies, pharmaceutical industry and all other predatory businesses that grow rich off of the current healthcare system should be discarded in the interests of preserving life and defeating the virus. Co-pays, deductibles, and any other barrier standing in between people and medical treatment should be suspended.   

Special attention should be paid to populations that have been discriminated against and neglected by the U.S. healthcare system. Native reservations, Black, Latino and other oppressed communities must be guaranteed equal access to treatment. There should be a massive increase in the number of medical staff in prisons, who must be provided with modern, high-quality equipment.

Secure housing for all

Empty dwellings should be immediately seized to provide shelter for all people without housing. How can you quarantine if you don’t have a home? There are roughly 16 million vacant dwellings in the United States. Most of these units are owned by speculators and real estate firms that are essentially gambling on the housing market and fueling the gentrification boom in the process. Their financial interests must not be allowed to imperil public health. 

Likewise, as many housing units as needed should be provided for victims of domestic violence. No one should be forced to stay in an abusive situation due to the pandemic. Immediate emergency shelter and financial support should be provided to all people in need of shelter for any reason.

Strengthen the public health system 

Requisition vacant commercial property for medical use. Re-open closed clinics and hospitals, and build new medical facilities. Expand sanitation efforts. Any and all vacant commercial, industrial and residential space should be utilized to meet these needs. Follow China’s example and rapidly construct makeshift hospitals and medical centers using eminent domain against big businesses and landlords as necessary.

The government can coordinate and provide resources for the mobilization of the medical community. Retired medical professionals, medical residents and medical students should be organized to help strengthen our healthcare infrastructure. 

Strengthen and expand large-scale sanitation in mass transit and public places. Provide better protective gear for workers in these sectors. Initiate a large-scale public education campaign alongside community organizations to inform the people about what precautions they should be taking to slow the spread of Coronavirus.

Relief not repression

No one should have to deal with the pandemic while fearing the repressive actions of the police, prisons or ICE. Sanitary conditions should be guaranteed in all prisons and jails. Massive numbers of prisoners should be released outright to alleviate the overcrowding that would make it impossible to contain the disease. The movement against mass incarceration has raised demands for the release in particular of elderly inmates, those with chronic health conditions, and those convicted for non-violent offenses or those who have not been convicted at all. 

Stop all ICE raids and deportations. Shut down ICE detention centers, which are notorious for unsanitary conditions and providing inadequate medical attention, and immediately release all detainees. All emergency assistance of any type offered by the government during the crisis should be available to all regardless of immigration status. 

Anti-Asian racism has been stoked by politicians and the media, who have referred to the pandemic as the “Chinese virus” or a “foreign virus”. Rather than promoting racism, public education campaigns should combat these reactionary and anti-science myths. Assure that people historically neglected by the government such as Native nations, African American and other oppressed communities have their needs addressed without delay or discrimination.  

International cooperation and solidarity

End the devastating economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. government on countries around the world such as Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea. Sanctions are blocking the governments’ ability to acquire the supplies needed to combat the pandemic. The cruel effects of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran have been on full display as the country is among those with the highest rates of Coronavirus infection and fatalities in the world. Cuba has done groundbreaking medical research and is world-renowned for its acts of international solidarity in the field of health. End the blockade of Cuba so the world can benefit from the country’s scientific expertise.

The United States should adopt best practices implemented by countries that have effectively dealt with the pandemic, such as China, rather than demonizing these governments in the pursuit of imperialist foreign policy goals. If travel restrictions are determined to be necessary from a public health perspective, they must be implemented in consultation with all affected countries and in a manner that protects the rights of all visitors and immigrants. 

Extend support to countries in need of assistance and coordinate supply chains around the world to ensure the most efficient production and distribution of medical goods possible. Zero tolerance for efforts by pharmaceutical corporations to secure intellectual property rights or in any way profit from the production of a Coronavirus vaccine.

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