Memorial Day, ICU beds, billionaires, and coronavirus in Africa: Catching Our Eye

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    Catching Our Eye:

    Memorial Day

    This Memorial Day, as we pay tribute to those who gave their lives for America, we may do well to pay attention to our veterans, who were already lacking adequate benefits and resources and are now in deeper trouble during this pandemic.

    ICU beds.  Courtney Astolfi is reporting for Cleveland.com, “ICU beds in Cuyahoga County occupied at highest rate since coronavirus outbreak began.”

    “Hospitals in Cuyahoga County this week recorded the highest usage of intensive-care beds since the coronavirus outbreak began in Northeast Ohio, the Board of Health reported Friday.

    “Seventy-seven percent of available ICU beds were filled as of Friday, marking an increase of five percentage points over last week. The usage of ICU beds dropped off in mid-April, but has steadily risen since April 24, surpassing previous highs in early April, board data show.

    “Board Medical Director Dr. Heidi Gullett drew attention to the increases on Friday during a media briefing. She noted that area hospitals have plans in place to increase the number of available beds in the event of a surge in patients requiring intensive care.”

    Rich get richer. NBC News’ Robert Frank is reporting, “American billionaires got $434 billion richer during the pandemic.”

    “America’s billionaires saw their fortunes soar by $434 billion during the U.S. lockdown between mid-March and mid-May, according to a new report.

    “Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had the biggest gains, with Bezos adding $34.6 billion to his wealth and Zuckerberg adding $25 billion, according to the report from Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program for Inequality. The report is based on Forbes data for America’s more than 600 billionaires between March 18, when most states were in lockdown, and May 19.

    “The billionaire gains highlight how the coronavirus pandemic has rewarded the largest and most tech-focused companies, even as the economy and labor force grapples with the worst economic crisis in recent history.

    “According to the report, the net worth of America’s billionaires grew 15% during the two-month period, to $3.382 trillion from $2.948 trillion. The biggest gains were at the top of the billionaire pyramid, with the richest five billionaires — Bezos, Bill Gates, Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, and Larry Ellison — seeing combined wealth gains of $76 billion.”

    Corona in Africa. The Guardian’s Afua Hirsch is writing, “Why are Africa’s coronavirus successes being overlooked?

    “Remember, early on in the Covid-19 pandemic, the speculation as to how apocalyptic it would be if this disease hit the African continent? I do. There was deep anxiety about what it would mean for countries with lower income populations, dominant but harder-to-regulate informal economies and far fewer healthcare facilities than the UK or Italy.

    “There have been coronavirus mistakes and misjudgments, and deaths, and each one is a tragedy. And no one knows the course the pandemic may take next – the continent, like the rest of the world, isn’t out of the woods yet. But what has also happened is that many African nations, realising early on that large-scale, expensive testing and hospitalisation was not an option for the populations, had no choice but to take a more creative approach.

    “Take the two African countries I have called home – Senegal and Ghana. Senegal is developing a Covid-19 testing kit that would cost $1 per patient, which it is hoped will, in less than 10 minutes, detect both current or previous infection via antigens in saliva, or antibodies. It’s hard to know exactly how this compares with the price of Britain’s tests, but many of them use polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, to detect the virus, and cost hundreds of dollars. And I can testify that a leaflet that came through my door in London this week offered me a private testing kit for £250.

    “Senegal is in a good position because its Covid-19 response planning began in earnest in January, as soon as the first international alert on the virus went out. The government closed the borders, initiated a comprehensive plan of contact tracing and, because it is a nation of multiple-occupation households, offered a bed for every single coronavirus patient in either a hospital or a community health facility.

    “As a result, this nation of 16 million people has had only 30 deaths. Each death has been acknowledged individually by the government, and condolences paid to the family. You can afford to see each death as a person when the numbers are at this level. At every single one of those stages, the UK did the opposite, and is now facing a death toll of more than 35,000.”

    David C. DeWitt
    David C. DeWitt is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience covering Ohio politics and policy. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS and Plunderbund.com covering topics such as education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, government, business, labor, energy, environment and social issues. His work has also appeared in Government Executive, the Columbus Dispatch, Girlfriends magazine, Bleacher Report and the Ashtabula Star Beacon, among others.