COVID-19 came from nature. The pandemic came from capitalism.
For centuries, people have known how to eradicate infectious disease: stop person-to-person transmission.
In just five weeks, we could completely eradicate COVID-19 using the green zone exit strategy. This strategy involves suppressing the outbreak in defined areas or zones. Each zone must test everyone, provide safe spaces for the sick to isolate, provision healthy people to isolate at home, make essential work safe, and restrict travel in and out of the zone.
Once cases have dropped to zero, the zone can be declared “green.” Normal activity can resume inside this zone, with vigilance to test and track possible recurrences.
Green zones must prevent infected persons from entering the zone and making it no longer green. As more areas revert to green status, travel between these zones can resume. Once all zones turn green, the virus can be declared eradicated and all restrictions removed.
Nations that applied the green zone strategy got the best outcomes, with COVID cases dropping dramatically. However, we live in a global society. A virus that gains a foothold anywhere will eventually spread. Regions that had eradicated the virus are now battling new outbreaks introduced by travelers. That is why we must aim for zero cases everywhere.
COVID-19 does not come in “waves.” It is more like a forest fire. When the fire gets too hot, authorities turn on the water hoses. As the fire recedes, they turn off the hoses, and the fire flares up again. No one fights real fires this way. Firefighters know that stopping a fire requires every spark to be extinguished. The only acceptable number of cases must be zero.
Eradicating COVID-19 was never the aim of the United States, Canada, the UK, Brazil, Germany, and other nations whose declared goal is reducing cases to a level that the system can manage. They call this “flattening the curve.”
A flatten-the-curve strategy allows the virus to continue spreading. As each new “wave” proves the failure of this strategy, authorities pray for “herd immunity.” This “survival-of-the-fittest” stance amounts to a eugenic culling of “the unfit.”
Vaccines alone cannot end this pandemic
The private (profitable) control of vaccines results in hoarding by wealthier nations and wealthier people inside nations, while poor nations and poor people go without. To date, Haiti has not received a single dose of vaccine.
As a virus spreads, natural selection favors variants that are more infectious, even re-infecting those previously exposed and recovered. Currently, five such variants have been identified in the US, the UK, South Africa, and Brazil. At some point, variants will emerge that are resistant to current vaccines, just as strains of vaccine-resistant influenza virus appear every season.
There is only one way to prevent vaccine-resistant variants: implement the green zone strategy globally and invest $25 billion to make vaccines available to everyone on the planet.
This is easier said than done. One year ago, I explained why We cannot expect capitalists to manage a pandemic. The international cooperation that enabled scientists to produce a vaccine in record time is a rare exception.
A capitalist system based on competition cannot coordinate a global response to any crisis. Even within nations, we see conflicting policies among states, provinces, regions, and cities.
The most powerful sections of the capitalist class have resigned themselves to global warming and given up on containing COVID-19. They are abandoning us to needless mass death and disease for the foreseeable future.
We could eradicate COVID-19 in just five weeks, but we cannot do this under capitalist rule.
Susan Rosenthal says it like it is, in this succinct and cogent commentary that everyone should read, share and organise around.
Susan, if possible, you might see that your work gets larger dissemination. Maybe via twitter and other social media. Your excellent work and invaluable perspectives needs to be read by large numbers.
Michael – Please feel free to forward or re-post any of my articles.
My dad and I discussed what you write of here. Totally believe that was the only way to handle this. Unfortunately big business meant more than people’s health. Your article is totally on point!!
Good to know (re: sharing).
“COVID-19 came from nature. The pandemic came from capitalism.” – poignant opener!
Great fire fighter analogy… undeniable and straight-forward concept that people can easily grasp.
This is all so frustrating to watch while feeling powerless. People are numbing. growing weary and tuning out… guards are dropping in addition to misinformation, super-strains and mismanagement are all lethal combinations as we’ve seen. It’s hard to have hold hope for humanity’s future on this planet.
My postal code area has been declared a “hot zone” because they deliberately built it to be one of the most densely populated residential neighbourhoods per square/km in the world! Now desperate people are camping out overnight in the rain for appointment cards to be vaccinated.
Well said, Susan. Our infections keep going up (in Ontario) with news of it getting worse. I am all for the green zone. Thank you for the post!
If only the people in power could actually put these steps (out there) into practice…If only!
It’s a wonderful article Susan. I will be posting it up on my Facebook and Twitter.
Your basic argument is right. To reach zero cases you need: Spitting based testing; Systematic wastewater testing for retirement nursing homes, campuses etc.; Evaluation of HVAC systems; Banning temporarily flights as plane rides contaminate; and beware of AC in quarantine hotels.
Last but not least: there are widely different types of capitalism in the world. In Asia developmental capitalism dominates. And so China obtained Zero COVID. In UK, EU, U.S. there is dominance of financial capitalism… Not the same thing.
We could imagine a social-leaning responsible capitalism or a new form…
Garance – As long as capitalism exists anywhere, in any form, we cannot solve problems that require international cooperation. Any nation can achieve zero COVID cases, but maintaining zero cases would require sealing national borders, and that’s simply not sustainable. The only way we can solve global problems is to end class rule and eliminate the national borders that divide us.
There is always tension between government and liberty, or letting people do what they want. Wiping Covid out with green zones etc. would require an immense suppression of liberty, and even then might not work (we don’t know how much is in various animal populations, and would then spread back into humans.) Global vaccination seems a better approach, but that’s going slowly not just due to limited supply but also due to things like conspiracy theories and political posturing around the vaccines…..
Ron – Tremendous confusion results when governments claim they want to end the pandemic yet refuse to do what is required because it would disrupt the flow of profit. That’s why individuals are prohibited from gathering with family and friends, while companies like Amazon and Tyson Foods are allowed to impose crowded, unsafe working conditions. That’s why big corporations are get financial support, while workers and small businesses are thrown under the bus. The hard truth is that we cannot eradicate COVID-19 in any system that puts profit before human need.
Before war was used to keep the working class under control (see ww1 that made workers slaughter each other).
Now a full scale war is not possible, so why not “mismanage” a pandemic instead?
Pat – War is endemic to capitalism. There can be no lasting peace in a global system of competing nations; there will always be a battle for who’s on top. The economic rise of China and the economic decline of the US have disrupted the power arrangement established after WWII. The current drive to war will establish a new power arrangement, if humanity survives the devastation. To avoid such madness, we need to build an international anti-war movement to end capitalist barbarism.
How I wish people in power would listen to such advice, which of course they never will. I have forwarded this to friends, including the few on social media.
Although I am not a defender of capitalism, the culprit here is not really capitalism. The real culprit is people’s lack of love and empathy for their neighbor. In the United States for example, the problem hasn’t been a lack of creating safe policies, rules and zones but rather, it was a lack of willingness to cooperate among people. I’m not sure this has much of anything to do with capitalism but rather, the problem is selfishness of people. About one quarter or more Americans are still refusing to take the vaccine and, they are the most dangerous people, the ones who go to spring break, crowded parties, large sporting, music and other events and, who refuse to wear masks. To me, the obvious problem is selfishness, lack of love and lack of cooperation, not capitalism. The same has been true in nations that are democratic socialist nations. Whether socialistic or capitalistic or authoritarian, the real problem is human selfishness and lack of love and empathy for our neighbor.
Richard – You say you are not a defender of capitalism, yet you support the capitalist position that the people in power are not responsible for stopping the pandemic. Why are those with the most social power not held responsible, while those with the least social power are?
Countless people have sacrificed their jobs, their freedoms, their loved ones, and even their lives for over a year now. Yet the pandemic continues to rage because authorities refuse to make work safe, provide sick pay, or protect people in prisons, refugee camps, schools, and other congregate settings. No wonder individuals are flouting the rules; the rules aren’t working.
Feudal lords insisted that society reflected God’s will. Capitalists insist that society reflects selfish ‘human nature.’ Fortunately, millions of people around the world don’t agree and are willing to sacrifice everything to achieve a sharing society.
We must choose which side we are on.
This is and always has been the only rational response to a pandemic. Which of course means it is automatically disqualified from the suite of options that the capitalists have manufactured consent for.
3 million dead and counting. Neither Canada nor the US can deliver clean water to their people. How can they possibly end a pandemic?
You start this conversation from the authoritarian perspective that everyone should be injected with what YOU want them to be injected with for their own good, and then work from there. That is not the case. A huge percentage of people do not want this. They have seen “the science” and it makes it painfully clear that Big Pharma is not to be trusted. You seem to trust them implicitly, and it doesn’t even occur to you that other people have the human right to not want to be crushed by medical tyranny. There are a variety of medical reasons to not want this particular set of vaccines, but on top of that, there is also a very strong incentive to not want to lay the groundwork for ongoing medical tyranny in the hands of uncaring political/corporate lunatics and propagandized segments of the medical/scientific community who are only worried about their own best interests.
dave – Vaccines must be available before individuals can choose not to receive them. Arguing against the global distribution of vaccines is authoritarian because it removes that choice.
It’s true that the medico-pharmaceutical industry is more focused on their bottom line than on the public good. It’s true for every industry under capitalism, and it will be so as long as profit is king. I don’t know if vaccines would be needed in a society where work and life were engineered to protect human health. However, we don’t live in that society. The only choice we’re being given is vaccine or disease. I choose vaccine.
Dear Susan and above commentators;
Right on. I find it interesting that when we in Canada are faced with a disaster of whatever sort, we call in the military that are not trained to work in nursing homes, handle floods, deep snow, or forest fires. We need a similar structure of the military but a peaceful force trained to deal with Global Problems like the above, as well as search and rescue. If we put as much money as we do into the military into solving the above, we would be much further ahead.
The military as a segment of society, was excluded from Kyoto and Paris. The US military emits more Green House Gases than all of Sweden.
Susan, your article is such a breath of fresh air. It is infused with hope and we need a lot of that at the moment, when we are told that “we’ll never be able to eliminate Covid and we’ll have to live with it” and like you said, it has become about how many deaths are tolerable. When 3000+ people died in the 9/11 attacks, the US started two wars immediately (Iraq and Afghanistan) and internally expanded racial profiling against Muslims and all sort of oppressive measures which were all somehow ‘justified’ in the name of the ‘war on terror’. But when it comes to Covid, it’s getting close to one million American deaths, and yet because the ‘enemy’ does not have a brown face and a beard, there is no need for any restrictions because apparently they would constitute a breach of civil liberties. With the hundreds of billions that are invested in the military complex, vaccines can be prepared in advance for all of the highly contagious transmissible virus families as a PREVENTIVE measure. But of course, from a capitalist point of view, such an investment makes no sense.