This week, President Trump announced that he was ordering meatpacking facilities — which have been hotbeds of coronavirus infection — to remain open. More egregiously still, he’s issuing waivers to companies to absolve them of any responsibility for workers who become infected or die on the job.

In OtherWords, Jill Richardson calls that a death sentence. Instead of seriously balancing the public health and economic trade-offs any pandemic response will make, she writes, this administration is simply rolling back every environmental and labor regulation it can think to.

Exacerbating the problem, many of these facilities are concentrated in rural areas — which, as Gloria Oladipo reports, could be extremely vulnerable to the next wave of infection. Rural hospitals were closing at an alarming rate even before the crisis, and an older population with high rates of uninsurance in these areas could leave them dangerously exposed.

Speaking of hospitals, Dr. Leo Lopez writes this week that any hospitals accepting federal bailout funds — and there are a good many — should be barred from harassing poor patients to collect debts. In a pandemic, he writes, the first priority should also be public health.

Finally, Jim Hightower writes that our real pre-existing condition was inequality, while Khalil Bendib wonders if there’s any safe “social distance” from our commander in chief.

In Case You Missed It…

Rural America Deserves a Real COVID-19 Response | Gloria Oladipo
Rural residents are more likely to be older and uninsured, while 350 rural hospitals are at risk of closing. They can’t afford neglect now.

Stop Hospitals from Hounding Poor Patients | Leo Lopez
No family should have to worry about a hospital taking them to court when their loved one is connected to a ventilator.

A Death Sentence for Meatpackers | Jill Richardson
Meatpackers are contracting COVID-19 and dying. Trump is requiring them to work — and shielding their employers from liability.

The Real Disease Is Inequality | Jim Hightower
The forces of greed shoved working families to the edge — all it took was a virus to push them over.

No Safe Distance | Khalil Bendib
We’re suffering from a highly contagious virus (plus, the COVID-19 pandemic).

In Case You Missed It…

Postal Carriers Are Essential Workers. They Need a Stimulus, Too. | Sarah Anderson
The president is trying to use the coronavirus crisis to kill the public postal service. We can’t let him.

In a Pandemic, Health Inequities Are Even Deadlier | Tracey L. Rogers
There’s an old saying in the black community: “When white people catch a cold, black people catch pneumonia.”

Undocumented Workers Need a Bailout, Too | Josue De Luna Navarro
Beyond performing essential labor, we are humans — and, in a pandemic, that should be enough to deserve help.

The Next Coronavirus Bill Must Protect the 2020 Election | Robert P. Alvarez
We need no-excuse absentee voting now — and that’s the bare minimum.

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Peter Certo

Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and editor of OtherWords.org.