Grassroots network of researchers and frontline medical workers publicizes hard data on the ongoing coronavirus crisis; encourages political activism for science-based public health policy
Largely because the Democrats have decamped to a “what, us worry?” position on COVID since at least the spring in a transparent attempt to swing enough votes their way in November to keep control of Congress. Meaning the Republicans aren’t the only party that have “politicized” what is only the largest of many public health crises we face as a society.
So even in the “deep blue” Boston area—a supposedly left-leaning, well-educated, and forward-thinking region that has more giant research hospitals and biotech labs than almost any other locale on the planet—I often find myself among the very few people who still wear masks in public settings. And thus I haven’t known what to say as the vast majority of Americans have been dropping their guard against an unthinking virus that remains extremely virulent and dangerous. Why would anyone listen to me, when everyone they know personally has stopped taking any precautions at all for months?
Because without politicians and the array of thought leaders around them saying “gee, we really need to get a handle on this pandemic thing,” it’s just too easy for people to pretend everything’s ok. Despite then repeatedly getting COVID, spreading it to others (allowing more, and potentially more virulent, mutations of the virus to develop), and quite possibly joining the growing ranks of sufferers of “long COVID”—a serious, long-term, health challenge (which may be an autoimmune disease itself) affecting as many as one in five people that contract the coronavirus. A condition that’s only just starting to be researched (with insufficient government support).
As for vaccinations, many people are blowing off COVID boosters and the federal government is cutting funding for their development, production, and distribution (along with most everything pandemic related as the Democrats ask for too little to deal with the ongoing public health disaster and the Republicans block even that). Limiting their effectiveness in moving us toward some kind of herd immunity that will finally end the pandemic.
All responsibility for dealing with the COVID crisis has now been unceremoniously dumped on individuals, meaning that those with enough money can ensure they can afford to properly protect themselves from the coronavirus and get the best treatment possible if they do come down with it. But most everyone else just has to hope they don’t get sick … or if they do, that they don’t get very sick for very long.
Which is why I’m so glad that People’s CDC, a new organization started by medical researchers, frontline heathcare providers, and public health advocates, has arrived on the scene.
Every week, the group puts out an excellent “weather report” that looks at the latest data that government agencies and public and private sector research groups produce on the pandemic (agencies and groups that have taken to downplaying or basically hiding the most important results of their own work for unstated political and economic reasons) and gives average folks the information they need to not only stay safer, but also to take political action to improve the situation for everyone.
Speaking as an individual, People’s CDC reports automatically make me feel less alone and less weird for continuing to take basic steps to protect myself and everyone I encounter from COVID. Like social distancing, wearing masks in public spaces, and keeping up to date with vaccinations.
Speaking as a journalist, the organization gives me solid information that I can spread to my readers—who in turn can spread it to their networks. Activity that could one day result in a political groundswell that would impel the federal government (and state and local governments as well) to return to taking the pandemic seriously enough to do what is necessary to end it.
And what does the People’s CDC say that the feds should be doing?
An August letter from the organization (which you can sign and send to your elected representatives here) urges the White House and Congress “to act to stop the unchecked spread of Covid-19, immediately,” by providing:
- Free access to N95-grade masks for all;
- Free access to PCR and rapid testing;
- Robust, universal, paid sick leave;
- Mask mandates in public places, including schools, public transport, and medical facilities;
- Federal funding and guidance for ventilation and filtration updates, coupled with meaningful regulation;
- Universal access to healthcare including continued Covid treatment and testing for uninsured people; and
- Updated vaccines and universal access to them globally.
Good clear public policy prescriptions for what ails us. Exactly what we’re no longer hearing day to day in the mass media or in electoral contests.
Whether you choose to get active or not, I strongly encourage you to go to the People’s CDC website (peoplescdc.org) and sign up for their regular reports and alerts. Then spread the group’s communications to everyone you know.
Given that yet another COVID spike is already well underway this fall, if enough of us push federal, state, and local officials, we might see a return to more science-based public health policies that put our country (and hopefully others that follow our example) back on track to dial the current pandemic down to at least the annual hospitalization and death rates of a bad flu season, effectively ending it for real … and prevent future pandemics from ever ravaging our species so badly again. Without, I hasten to add, violating people’s basic democratic rights in the process.
Apparent Horizon—an award-winning political column—is syndicated by the MassWire news service of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Jason Pramas is BINJ’s executive director, editor of the Somerville Wire, and executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston.