COVID19: Recognise your Privilege
This is a rant and a personal "commentary" on my part re. COVID19 and social distancing #2:
I've had several conversations now with people from all socioeconomic levels -- everywhere from people earning half a million dollars a year to those who don't know where their next meal is coming from -- since COVID19 became fulminant.
One main theme has emerged: Privilege and a complete unawareness that privilege exists.
I have spoken to a millionaire (there are quite a few in Vancouver) who complained that it was traumatising that her only child was kicked out her university residence in the States when the virus hit and that "she had nowhere to go."
Turns out, her "nowhere to go" was another one of many homes they owned that was 10 minutes away from the university (she chose to live on residence because it was more convenient).
Another couple lamented that it was such a disaster because they would have to move to the island earlier than the summer and THERE WAS NO HOUSEKEEPER at the cabin.
Both those families said they understood how hard it is to pay bills during this tumultuous time. (Really?)
It's a difficult time in the world right now. Everyone is struggling, but the struggles aren't the same when you don't start out with the same deck of cards.
And these different stacks didn't start just before the virus hit. These stacks have been there for a long time, sometimes for generations. We are not all born with the same family wealth, access to education, access to healthcare, and access to any resource.
For COVID19, we all have to shelter-in-place and socially isolate. But that restriction hits people differently.
Some families (and individuals) live in cramped housing, with many people sharing a small living space, a single washroom, and a kitchen. The people living in these situations are not self-isolating the same way as a family with the same number of members who live in a mansion where each child has their own room and only 1-2 people share a bathroom, if they share at all. If one person gets sick in a home with ample space and several bathrooms, it's easier to contain the spread.
Folks who work blue collar jobs make up a large percentage of our essential services. They are going to work (if they have work at all!) without hazard pay making sure towns and cities still run, and without the childcare support rich folks have access to. Many people don't have access to a private "pandemic" trust fund. There is no safety net. Homeschooling -- a huge issue being lamented about daily on Twitter right now -- is not an option when you're actively working several jobs to pay for rent and food.
Some people have second and third homes with a summer cabin or a cottage on an island or near the lake somewhere. Having that option of moving somewhere remote to "wait out" the virus is a huge privilege.
And it is a privilege that has actually hastened this spread according to several articles that have been published in the last couple of weeks.
Think about it. For example, 5 rich people from NYC who are carriers, asymptomatic, or not-yet-symptomatic, each move to 5 rural towns where they have a second home.
A professor at UCL, Dr. Hugh Montgomery, shared in a recent-ish interview that 1 person with the virus can pass the disease to 3-4 people, and after 10 "passes," some 59,000 people can be affected. Do the math of how many people could be infected from those 5 people.
Interview here: https://bit.ly/2xgasOt
"FlattenTheCurve was intended to help ensure that the healthcare system would not be overloaded. Many of these rural towns do not have access to very sophisticated medical facilities and they were built to deal with the "average" day. Now, besides the local people getting sick, you have a whole bunch of rich folks who will take up that resource that is scarce to begin with.
As far as I'm concerned, if you have money, good for you. And, yes, rich people struggle as well with many things (e.g., mental health). Many op-eds and published commentaries have highlighted how selfish and dangerous this behaviour of running from cities is -- I am NOT actively commenting on this at this point.
What I'm raising here is: Suggesting that your social-isolation misery is equal to those who don't have the means is a level of privilege that you really, really, really need to think about.
This disease affects the rich and the poor differently. Some data is available here: https://bit.ly/2x4nWwY
Note that you need to read between the lines re. the data. Much of it shows that very affluent neighbourhoods and very poor neighbourhoods have low cases, which suggests that this disease doesn't badly impact poor communities.
The truth is much more nuanced. For example, it's low in affluent neighbourhoods because they have more space to do physical distancing. For poor neighbourhoods, the low numbers do not reflect effective physical distancing. It reflects lack of access to testing that rich people get (Exhibit A being all the celebrities testing positive despite no symptoms)
This virus is biased against people of colour and other groups traditionally marginalised. It highlights and exponentially worsens the wealth and health inequities we already have in our system.
Here are some articles on how this disease is being spread by the rich: