As the Summer of COVID and unrest continues, I’ve selected 5 stories of disparate outcomes among those trying to survive this nightmare. While the poor are forced to make impossible choices, the wealthy and connected continue not only to survive but prosper. It feels like stories such as these are the most important at this very moment as these events will have decades-long ramifications that we can really only speculate on at this time. As always, all stories have been taken from newspaper front pages curated by Newseum.org.
A light-hearted reminder to wear a mask in public in Florida. Photo by Cayobo reproduced under CC BY 2.0 License
Now that the bonus unemployment benefits that many were relying on have run out, many Floridians are facing impossible choices as they decide how to survive on the absolutely meager $275 per week that Florida offers. They’re facing this choice because national Republicans have tried multiple times to reduce the amount paid out or put in poisoned pill amendments, such as a liability protection for businesses that reopen early. Even within Senate Republicans, there is disagreement. More moderate republicans, concerned about the economic toll that hard-line austerity-focused policies would cause, are bitterly fighting with their more conservative colleagues who want to end benefits entirely for ideological reasons.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department keeps most autopsies - including high-profile cases such as the Black Dahlia Murder and the death of The Notorious B.I.G. - sealed and hidden away from the public for years, sometimes decades. Particularly troubling is the fact that deaths caused by police are treated the same way, a policy which victims’ families are trying to change in their search for justice against a notorious police force. There are understandable applications to the security hold - namely to prevent ghoulish capitalizing on celebrity deaths by unscrupulous paparazzo - but holds are notably applied to cases where there is no apparent “security” purpose to their use. Especially in the cases of civilians killed by police, cases can be left open for years despite all evidence being accounted for and holds on information are seen as punitive measures to prevent families from seeking justice or closure.
Officials in Chicago’s disproportionately-white and affluent neighboring areas fought hard to be separate from the city for the purposes of monitoring and reporting COVID-19. They’ve gotten their wish in the worst possible way as the city begins to recover while infection rates in the suburban and rural surroundings continue to skyrocket. Several are approaching an infectivity rate that, under current Illinois emergency planning, would result in mandatory restrictions on businesses. Due to these concerns, county officials are upping contact tracing efforts, but this may not prove to be enough if residents cannot be convinced to voluntarily maintain safe procedures.
Man walking his dog in front of NYSE during COVID pandemic. Photo by Anthony Quintano reproduced under CC BY 2.0 License
The Paycheck Protection Program, intended to prevent US small businesses from closing due to COVID-19 quarantine restrictions, has funneled millions of dollars into firms owned by large, multinational corporations. While some of this is due to partial ownership of businesses by those firms and thus were not strictly owned by PRC-linked companies, the fact remains that millions of dollars of relief went to businesses that had other options for acquiring capital to stay afloat. Officials from the Treasury Department claimed that they would be reviewing applications and refusing forgiveness of the PPP loans, but no word on domestic small businesses which were denied loans to make room for these fraudulent loans.
Concerns over access to education are only heightened by recent trends among parents of school-aged children. Affluent, connected (and largely white) middle and upper middle class families are pooling resources and connections to keep their children out of public school systems until the pandemic blows over. Because they have the money and opportunity to do so, these children will still get a quality education while being safe from the pandemic that is ravaging the country. Because of this, much of the country is now facing a no-win scenario deciding what sacrifices they can afford to make for their children, while their children will still fall behind peers in education, social development, and overall physical health due to the isolation and higher levels of exposure to the virus.
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