Coronavirus Rips Through Houston: A Crisis in Public Health Driven by a Criminal System



From a reader:

Texas and Houston have become centers of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. Infection and hospitalization rates have tripled since the end of May, and risen steadily for 13 of the last 14 days as I write on June 27. This week Dr. Peter Hotez, one of the world’s foremost authorities on infectious disease and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, told the Houston Chronicle that the city and the state are “on the brink of disaster.” Hotez said that unless there is a reversal in the existing trajectory, Houston will likely have 4,000 new COVID-19 cases a day by mid-July, and will become the “worst affected city in the U.S., maybe rival what we’re seeing now in Brazil.”

The following day, Lina Hidalgo, the highest elected official in Harris County, which includes Houston, said, “Today we find ourselves careening toward a catastrophic and unsustainable situation. Our current hospitalization rate is on pace to overwhelm our hospitals in the near future.” Her statement echoed a letter issued by 11 hospital and medical school executives.

Yet, Houston is home to the Texas Medical Center (TMC), the largest medical complex in the world. The TMC’s statistics are staggering. Among them: its hospitals have 10 million patient encounters a year; a baby is born there every 20 minutes, and a surgery begun every three minutes; it holds three medical schools, and the world’s largest children’s and cancer hospitals. Its website boasts that it is “home to the brightest minds in medicine,” and nurtures “cross-institutional collaboration, creativity and innovation because together, we can push the limits of what’s possible.” TMC consistently ranks among the top hospitals in the U.S. in surveys done by publications like U.S. News & World Report.

How can this situation exist? Shouldn’t Houston, with some of the most modern medical facilities in the world, with its legions of medical professionals, including many dedicated and conscientious people, be particularly well positioned to limit the spread of this virus and contribute to combating and overcoming its spread across the globe?

An Abysmal Record

For decades, Texas has ranked at or near the bottom of almost every measurable standard of public health. The Christian fascists who have dominated the state for decades have repeatedly enacted cruel and punishing measures to restrict health care. These include cutting reimbursement rates for Medicaid and Medicare patients, and establishing the most stringent Medicaid eligibility requirements in the country. The Texas Tribune reported that before the virus hit, Texas had about five million uninsured residents, about 18 percent of its population, the highest rate of uninsured in the U.S.

Texas Republican leadership rejected expansion of Medicaid coverage. NPR reported that in 2013, then-governor Rick Perry, a Christian fascist, gloated that Medicaid expansion was “foolish” as he rejected “as much as $100 billion of federal money over 10 years—money that could pay for health insurance for more than 1 million of its working poor.” An estimated 1.1 million people who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid but too little to buy private insurance would have been eligible for Medicaid under the proposed expansion.

The measures taken by these fascists have contributed to a situation in which county hospitals of urban areas like Houston are understaffed and the health workers are overworked—struggling with old and inadequate equipment. They are stuffed to the bursting point with people in need of care, including with patients suffering from severe chronic conditions they were unable to treat because they lacked the money. In rural areas, more hospitals have closed in Texas than in any other state, mainly in East Texas, a historic center of the state’s Black population, and the coastal and border areas of South Texas, populated largely by people of Mexican descent.

The Tribune reported that since the coronavirus pandemic began, more than a million people in the state have “suffered the double whammy of losing their jobs and their employer-based health insurance. Some have landed in the state’s patchy health care safety net, where advocates say they could be cut off from physical and mental health services while facing the economic strain of a public health crisis.” Health care professionals estimate that 40 percent of the newly unemployed in Texas will become uninsured.

Christian fascists and the Trump/Pence regime fully intend to escalate attacks on publicly supported health care for the tens of millions of poor people in this country. This week—in the midst of a global health care crisis that continues to expand—lawyers for the Trump administration filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting a lawsuit spearheaded by the state of Texas and joined by 19 other states that seeks to end the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Whatever the outcome of this lawsuit, it indicates the serious intention of the Trump/Pence regime and Christian fascists generally to impose and in fact intensify brutally severe cuts in public health like those in Texas across the country.

A Thoroughly Outmoded System

But the problem goes deeper than Republican policies to slash and dismantle public health care.

The vast, socially created but privately owned resources of the Texas Medical Center are not being institutionally mobilized and utilized to meet the needs of the people in the ghettos and barrios within eyeshot of its gleaming towers, or the homeless crowded on sidewalks leading into it, or the people of the entire world lashed by this pandemic. This includes the training and efforts of its people—the doctors and other medical professionals, the scientific researchers, the tens of thousands of staff–despite their best intent. And despite the intentions and best efforts of people like Peter Hotez and many others, they cannot be—under this system and its mode of production of capitalism-imperialism.

I have recently been reading “The Deadly Illusion of ‘Normalcy’ and the Revolutionary Way Forward,” where Bob Avakian (BA) writes, “This crisis with the coronavirus has brought into sharp relief the reality that the capitalist system is not simply out of step with but is in fundamental conflict with, and a direct obstacle to, meeting the needs of the masses of humanity.”

Right now, it is crucially important for everyone to do what they can to limit the spread of this deadly virus, and to support and defend the efforts of people working to develop a vaccine and to uncover ways of treating the disease. But the most fundamental and urgent need of humanity—under the conditions of a raging virus and a rapidly consolidating fascist regime—is building a movement for an actual revolution... a revolution that has a real chance at overthrowing the foul and utterly outmoded capitalist imperialist system.

BA concluded the article quoted above:

Overcoming all this can be—and can only be—accomplished through the communist revolution and the increasing establishment of socialist countries in the world, proceeding on an internationalist basis and carrying out the economic, social and political transformations, as well as transformations in the ways of thinking and culture of the people, that will enable humanity to leap beyond the constraints and the terrible consequences which are imposed by the “normal” functioning of the capitalist-imperialist system and are greatly intensified in situations of crisis. This unprecedented revolution will make it possible for people to engage reality, and to confront crises, in a truly cooperative way as members of a world community of freely associating human beings, not separated and pitted against each other by divisions of country, class, nationality (or “race”), gender and other oppressive relations.

CONSTITUTION For The New Socialist Republic In North America

CONSTITUTION For The New Socialist Republic In North America
(Draft Proposal)

Authored by Bob Avakian, and adopted by the Central Committee of the RCP

Read and Download (PDF)

How the Revolution Would Deal with Health Care, Including Epidemics

Excerpt from the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America

Read more

The RNL Show—Revolution, Nothing Less
Episode 4 of The Revolution, Nothing Less Show: Bob Avakian on Science and How Real Socialism Would Handle Pandemics

Airs every Thursday evening, 8pm ET, 5pm PT. Watch the whole series.



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