First COVID-19, now monkeypox

The first years of the 2020s were plagued by the coronavirus. As the months wore on, COVID-19 has not only devastated people’s lives, over 1 million people have died, and it has brought the country to a complete fracas both financially and in a social manner.

COVID-19 exposed the limitations of the capitalist-driven health care system in the U.S. Doctors and nurses were overworked throughout the two years, as President Donald Trump and now President Joe Biden did little to support health professionals or aid the working masses, as they risk not only their own lives but their families’ lives in order to earn a living. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given very flimsy advice in recent months, including ditching masks, apparently not knowing how rapidly the coronavirus could mutate into new variants. The working masses ultimately paid the price for the U.S. government’s carelessness.

Just when we thought we couldn’t catch a break with COVID-19, we have yet another global health emergency on our hands. Monkeypox, which first gained prominence in Europe, is now threatening the U.S. 

Monkeypox is a viral disease in the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox; and according to WebMD, it is transmissible through close contact with another person, in many ways, including the air. Monkeypox was first documented in humans in 1970 and was previously only endemic to countries in Central and West Africa. It is capable of being spread via contact into a wide range of other mammal species, many of which are apparently susceptible to infection. (tinyurl.com/hf27y2ym

Monkeypox seemed to have burst onto the scene in the spring of 2022, just as another strain of the coronavirus-causing COVID-19 was developing. In the face of what is shaping up to be another pandemic that could put many people’s lives at risk, U.S. employers and businesses are doing nothing to ensure the welfare and safety of workers. 

Many service industries are still open for business, allowing workers to be exposed to the general public. Offices are not allowing their employees to work from home, instead demanding that they commute to work using transit systems that are underfunded and decaying. Few can afford a car or the gas to run one.

Instead of addressing the situation holistically and with integrity, the right-wing media is deciding to attack the LGBTQ+ population with the same callousness that it has over the past two years. Even though the virus can be spread through close contact of any kind, statistics have shown that gay and bisexual men are one of the populations most affected by monkeypox so far. 

Reactionaries and right-wing talking heads have used this opportunity to stigmatize monkeypox as a “gay disease.” This is potentially dangerous for several reasons. Among others, it could cost queer-coded people jobs and gainful employment. Through association with the disease, the stigmatization of having a “gay disease” could force people afflicted with it to hide it and potentially infect others. 

Combine the reputation of monkeypox with rising anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, it is not irrational to predict a lot of queer youth being physically and psychologically harassed and disowned and cut-off by their families, leaving them in an even more precarious position.

Money for tests and vaccines not a priority

Unlike COVID-19, tests to detect monkeypox and vaccines to treat it have been available for years. Yet as predicted, the Biden administration is dragging their feet in response to the monkeypox outbreak. Testing has been slow and inadequate. 

As subpar as the testing has been, access to vaccines has been just as mediocre, with the U.S. government purchasing only 300,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine this month. Yet this is the same government willing to send billions of dollars to Ukraine in service of proxy wars. The low quantity of vaccines is unlikely to match the exposure of people to the monkeypox virus, as numerous epidemiologists are saying that the official CDC estimate of 7,509 cases, as of Aug. 5, is a severe undercount. (tinyurl.com/6rpb4z28)

The monkeypox global health emergency is shaping up to be a repeat of COVID-19; and as the days turn into months, this current outbreak will further lay bare the tragic inadequacies of U.S. capitalism and the cultural superstructure it breeds.

Olujimi Alade

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Olujimi Alade
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