One Year Later: PPF-PA Members Reflect on the Pandemic and the Failures of the State

On the day the United States official Covid-19 death count reached half a million, PPF-PA member Tammy Rojas posted on Facebook reflecting on the Covid-19 demands PPF-PA put forward to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf with endorsement from many other organizations at the beginning of the pandemic. As we mark the passing of one year since the coronavirus began to spread in the US, we lift up Tammy’s reflections and take stock of our experiences of the pandemic, both personally and collectively. Over the next few weeks, the PPF-PA Media & Communications team will post stories about the impacts of the pandemic from PPF-PA members as we reaffirm our demands, recommit to our organizing work and reflect on the failure of our government to meet the needs of poor and working class people during this crisis.

Click here to read our Coronavirus demands to Gov. Wolf from Spring 2020

As Tammy reflects on our unmet demands:

Seeing as the State never enacted universal testing for Covid-19, we don’t know the truth of how far this virus has spread or if folks have gotten it more than once cause you CAN get it again. 

Because corporatized hospitals have been eliminating beds and staff for decades to cut costs and have closed and sold hospitals for real estate deals to increase their profits, our hollowed-out hospital system was not prepared to meet the needs of a pandemic.

Because the State didn’t reopen closed hospitals or bring private hospitals under public control, the healthcare system didn’t have the staff or the capacity to properly tackle this virus. 

Because the State didn’t direct private companies to mass produce proper PPE for EVERYONE, tens of millions got Covid-19 and over HALF A MILLION people have died from it so far. 

Because the State didn’t expand Medicaid to everyone, the TENS OF MILLIONS who have and will contract Covid-19 are not being properly treated or examined. This is because our healthcare is at the mercy of insurance corporations and healthcare conglomerates like University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), Penn Medicine, Geisinger and others across the nation, who are more concerned about profits and securing a system in which they reap the benefits than actually properly fighting back against this virus to save our lives. 

These healthcare profiteers have no desire to truly learn all they can about the virus to fight it. They just want the information that could help them use the virus to make  profits… and the icing on the cake y’all is healthcare profiteers like UPMC and Penn Medicine are the very entities that our elected officials on ALL levels of government put in charge of fighting this pandemic… with OUR labor and tax dollars. That’s the biggest slap in the face our government could give us. This pandemic has shown how healthcare is run by the same corporate class that evicts us from our houses when we can’t pay rent, keeps folks locked up while telling them to socially distance, denies us safe places for young people to get education  and why we MUST unite the poor and dispossessed and demand our basic human rights — because it is the only way the working class will survive. Join us!

We already knew in March 2020 that this oppressive system did not value the health or economic safety of poor people: we were already fighting for our lives. We already knew that no oppressor has ever oppressed everyone in society equally: People of Color, Black and Indigenous people are disproportionately forced into poverty under an economic system that was designed to exploit all of us, but keeps us in check by pitting us against each other. We already knew the connection between poverty and health disparities all too well through our lived experiences, a link that has been made even more apparent as Covid-19 has taken its deadliest toll in the poorest  communities. In March 2020, we knew the ruling class would use this crisis to reinforce the myth of scarcity, that those in power would try to balance their budgets on our backs by cutting public programs instead of taxing healthcare profiteers like UPMC. While we face the compounded crises of health, housing, job loss, education, and voter suppression, the government has used the economic crisis to continue to deny the human rights and basic protections we outlined in our demands. Meanwhile, healthcare profiteers are allowed to make record profits while more than half a million Pennsylvanians were uninsured before the pandemic, and many more have lost employer-based healthcare coverage this last year.

How many lives could have been saved if the Governor had enacted these measures to protect poor and working class Pennsylvanians? How much unnecessary suffering could have been prevented? Can you imagine just how different this cruel year could have been? Throughout this blog series, we will post stories from PPF-PA members reflecting on our pandemic experiences: our health and economic struggles this year, and the ways we are fighting back, building solidarity, supporting each other, and continuing to organize, organize, organize.

Members of the Pittsburgh Healthcare Rights Committee offer support with Medicaid and food stamps applications at a Project of Survival in collaboration with House of Manna

A little more than a year after the first Covid-19 deaths occured in the United States, we are still fighting for our lives. In 2021, we continue our struggle for healthcare as a human right as we fight for vaccine equity and access and build our campaign for a Public Healthcare Advocate in PA, a public office that would fight for the healthcare rights of all Pennsylvanians at the State level. Across PA, we are organizing Projects of Survival, supporting our communities to meet the basic needs the government has failed to address while building our collective power to uproot this violent system. We are building the Nonviolent Medicaid Army with organizations across the country and developing leaders to demand our basic needs be treated as human rights! Stay tuned as we look back at personal reflections on the pandemic, and look ahead to where we are going from here. Forward together!

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