Coronavirus Is Not An Equalizer

Elizabeth McCann/Staff Writer

Coronavirus has been coined an “equalizer;” no matter what socioeconomic status, race or gender you are, no one is immune to disease. However, labeling it so is harmful and inaccurate. 

Though this disease is blind to status, it hurts the vulnerable people of our society more harshly. Therefore, coronavirus has instead highlighted the inequality in the United States. 

We’re advised that the best defense against the disease is isolating ourselves at home, practicing social distancing, constantly washing and sanitizing our hands, using masks and gloves outside of our houses, and avoiding public places and transportation. 

However, there are members of our society who cannot exercise these precautions. 

In this time, the homeless population, victims of sex trafficking, undocumented immigrants, and incarcerated individuals, along with their main struggle, are left defenseless due to their environment and lifestyle. With the world on pause, these people’s conditions still continue, coronavirus or not.

Politicians, reality TV stars, news anchors, music artists, athletes, actors, models and billionaires have gotten the disease. They’ve also received the best care, treatment and testing that’s not procurable to people at lower ranks of society. The rich and famous also have the best preventative measures like privileged access to the scarcity of tests for coronavirus and large estates where it’s easy to self-isolate. With these advantages and ignorance of an average person’s struggle in this crisis, it’s easy for celebrities to urge their lower class followers to stay at home.

In reality, a lot of people cannot afford to “social distance,” so staying home is not an option. Many people in the United States work paycheck to paycheck, scraping by to pay their bills, rent and groceries. Some parents still work while schools are shut down, and therefore they have no care for their children.

There have been widespread layoffs nationwide for companies that are in financial crisis; they’re either shut down or not making sales because people are self-isolating. With companies not able to pay wages for its workers, many people are left vulnerable without a job.

This forced self-isolation period is filled with anxiety and uncertainty rather than a time of renewal and relaxation because there is no safety net of saved money that many of the upper classes have.

Students on scholarship have lost their jobs due to the layoffs which they use to pay for tuition, food and housing. Sudden unemployment for college students can leave uncertainty for those who were previously homeless or lived in impoverished homes with little resources.

Their source of income to pay rent and pay for services and bills are gone. They can no longer stock up their fridges in case there is a statewide shutdown. They can no longer afford the internet fees needed to complete remote online learning for their children or themselves.  They can no longer afford medicines and sanitary products like sanitizer and toilet paper. Their benefits like health care are gone and leave them even more vulnerable if they catch the virus and cannot afford treatment. 

Suddenly, they are left having to choose between groceries or medical care. This should never be an either-or situation. 

On Tuesday, April 7, hundreds of people stood in crowded lines for hours in Hialeah by the John F. Kennedy Library to get a form for unemployment insurance benefits. Many people who live in the greater Miami-Dade County outside of Hialeah risked their lives and came for these benefits amidst losing their jobs during the health crisis.

Many people believe this was an irresponsible health risk by allowing crowds of people to collect unemployment benefits in person because the disease could have been easily transmitted. However, this only points to the feeling of desperation in which a person is left defenseless without health care during a pandemic. Professionals and low-skilled workers have fallen victim to this in Miami.

In times of crisis like this pandemic, the gap between different socioeconomic levels intensifies, even expanding membership in the lower tiers. The effects of the coronavirus have hit people financially hard and will continue to enlarge this disparity.

Featured image by Yuri Samoilov on Flickr.

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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