The DSA COVID-19 Bulletin from the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is designed to keep working-class people informed about the evolving COVID-19 crisis and its political implications. If you’d like to get the DSA COVID-19 Bulletin by email, sign up here, and share this link with your friends and comrades! Anyone can sign up. New bulletins come out several times a week.
In This Issue
- The Evolving Crisis
- Learning on the Fly
- Workers Strike Back
- DSA Announcements
- Online Political Education Events
The Evolving Crisis
It’s been 19 days since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. In that time, cases in the U.S. have surpassed those in China, making this the epicenter of the pandemic; Italy, Spain, France, Argentina, Saudia Arabia, South Africa, Belgium, New Zealand have gone on full lockdown, shutting down all non-essential activities and restricting movement. More countries join the list every day.
Other countries, South Korea a prime example, implemented aggressive measures as early as late January to avoid having to completely lock down. Those measures include widespread testing — 5,200 tests per million inhabitants — and tracking of suspected carriers of the disease to curb transmission. Sick individuals are quarantined immediately.
In addition to significantly curbing the spread of the virus, those measures have allowed South Korea to have clear and reliable data. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Trump delayed dealing with the outbreak for weeks. Given that the virus spreads quickly, has a doubling rate of two days, and that up to two weeks can pass from the time of infection before symptoms show — if they show at all — early testing at scale was key. In the U.S., thanks to Trump’s mismanagement of the crisis and Congress’s inability to act quickly, we missed that early window for aggressive measures. And now we’re in the dark. We have very little data on who has the virus, where they are, or how far it’s actually spread.
In the absolute best case scenario, we will need close to one million intensive care beds to treat critically ill patients. We currently have capacity for roughly 100,000. That means 9/10 people who need intensive treatment simply won’t be able to get it. If non-essential workplaces remain open, forcing workers into unnecessary contact and further spreading the virus, that number of infected and critically ill patients will be dramatically higher. If we don’t take drastic action to cut down all unnecessary contact, the CDC estimates at least half of all Americans will be infected. This would result in more than 2 million deaths from COVID alone over the coming months. There would be many more who die from non-COVID illnesses unable to receive care as the U.S. healthcare system collapses.
The Trump administration has finally followed Bernie’s plan to invoke the Defense Production Act and begin producing much-needed medical equipment like ventilators. This will help us treat more people, but production takes time. In order to slow transmission enough that our heroic health care workers have a fighting chance, the U.S. will need to close down any worksite that is not involved with treating the sick, distributing food, or maintaining vital infrastructure.
Trump recently conceded to extending social distancing guidelines to April 30. He, along with Wall Street and leading Democrats, would have us believe we’re making a trade-off between our lives and our economic security. The reality is that the only way we’re going to restore any semblance of economic security is to get this virus under control. That won’t happen as long as workers are being forced together. The consequences will be as predictable as they are deadly.
Learning on the Fly
We don’t have to go far to see how swift and comprehensive action can make a difference:
Kentucky and Tennessee share a border, but comparison of their responses is instructive. Kentucky declared a state of emergency the same day they confirmed their first coronavirus case in the state and has ordered a statewide shutdown of non-essential workplaces. Gov. Beshear thankfully did not listen to Senator Rand Paul’s concerns about overreacting. In contrast, Tennessee confirmed their first case a day earlier than Kentucky, but waited another week to declare a state of emergency and has still yet to issue any closing orders on non-essential business. Kentucky currently has 428 confirmed cases; meanwhile Tennessee has 1,818. These numbers may converge later, especially if the state borders remain open, but Kentucky’s slowed rate of infection shows the critical success of swift action.
Across the world, Italy waited too long to implement controlled lockdown measures in hopes that they wouldn’t have to interrupt any economic activity. But without the extensive testing, tracking, and quarantining measures taken in countries like South Korea in place, the country was eventually forced to shut down all non-essential business activities and completely prohibit all movements of people within its entire territory. In addition, experts now say Italy will have to implement mass quarantining of patients with mild symptoms, as opposed to continuing the practice of letting them shelter at home, to further curb its rate of infection. For comparison, 10,779 have died in Italy, 158 in South Korea.
Workers Strike Back
Here at home, in the face of highly inconsistent government action across the country, workers are taking matters into their own hands. Instacart workers all over the country are set to go on strike starting today, March 30. In North Carolina, low-wage workers held a digital strike line to demand improved safety protections, paid sick leave and compensation for lost wages.
Amazon workers are preparing to walk out of a Staten Island warehouse, as management refuses to take measures after a confirmed case, and the company refuses to implement paid sick leave. Workers at Amazon-owned Whole Foods are sicking-out tomorrow, March 31st.
In Oakland, California’s only public hospital, workers are organizing for adequate PPE and safety measures. And, unsurprisingly, Uber’s response has been completely inadequate, driving some workers to choose on their own to stop driving.
As the crisis heightens, we’re bound to see more groups of workers taking action to win protections or to shut their workplaces down. As socialists, supporting these workers is one of our most important tasks. That’s why part of DSA’s COVID-19 response is doing just that — helping workers organize and win. If you want to organize your workplace in response to COVID-19 or know someone who does, fill out this form, and share it far and wide.
- YDSA activists are fighting back, doing things like organizing solidarity housing and demanding tuition reimbursements.
- Is your chapter organizing to fight back in this crisis? Let us know. And, if you want to start a project and need help getting it off the ground, email email@example.com.
- DSA’s Socialist Forum is looking for submissions for its next issue, themed “Social Responses to Crisis.” Editors will blind-review pitches and notify you about the status of your submission by Monday, April 27th. If your pitch is chosen, Socialist Forum will expect a full first draft by Monday, May 11th. Submit here.
Online Political Education Events
- The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation is hosting a four-part online organizing course with Jane McAlevey called Organizing for Power: Coronavirus and Everything After. It will take place between March 30th and April 16th.
How’s it going out there? We want to hear about your mutual aid efforts, organizing wins, and how you’re taking care of one another and avoiding despair. We’ll be featuring stories from chapters across the country — submit your stories!
We will be sending these bulletins several times a week. If you’d like to keep receiving them, sign up here, and share this link with your friends and comrades! Anyone can sign up.
Global health crisis, economic collapse, and a democracy in peril. It’s hard to imagine a better time to join the largest socialist organization in America. Join us @ dsausa.org/join.
During the pandemic, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is practicing social distancing for our members’ safety and to slow the spread of COVID-19.
As the largest socialist organization in the US, we believe it’s essential to share information about what is going on in the world during these unprecedented times — the nature of the pandemic, the looming depression, the responses (or lack thereof) of our government, the deadly negligence and abuses of for-profit corporations, as well as the heroic organizing, resistance, and mutual aid by workers fighting for a working-class solution to the coronavirus pandemic. We also want to share ways that you can get involved in this fight.
There has never been a more important time to be in DSA. Join, renew your dues, or switch to monthly here.