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Returning to normalcy

the issues we must carry in order to move on

As we begin to embrace loosened restrictions and enjoy pre-quarantine activities again, let us not also begin to forget the adversities unmasked by COVID-19. While reopening is something to be celebrated and welcomed, we cannot allow it to re-entrench the disparities brought to the surface in an attempt to “get back to normal.” As of May 29, over 100,000 lives, disproportionately Black and Latino, have been lost in the United States. Hospitals across the nation are struggling to accommodate the influx of patients. The unemployment rate reached 14.7 percent in April—the highest since the 1930s. The government, health officials and media constantly send mixed messages over what course of action is best. Wearing a mask can be interpreted as a political statement rather than a health precaution as a result of ideological divides. The pandemic did not “break” America; it just pointed out its pre-existing flaws. The American health









care system was extremely fractured prior to COVID-19 hitting the United States. Even before the crisis began, the United States had fewer doctors and hospital beds per capita than most other developed countries, according to Vox. With many uninsured and subject to high out-of- pocket expenses, many Americans are forced to choose between seeking treatment and going into medical debt; the federal government must pursue structural reform to ensure that access to health care is not determined by one’s socioeconomic status. On the other side, health care workers risk their lives on a daily basis despite lacking the personal protective equipment and the necessary resources to complete their jobs, according to The Lancet. Additionally, essential facilities such as food processing plants and public transportation systems have become breeding grounds for the virus. When calling essential workers “heroes,” we overlook our dependency on them and divert attention from how their plight directly results from avoidable government negligence and exploitation within













private sectors. COVID-19 must serve as a wake-up call for our nation’s leaders and us as citizens to prioritize solving these systemic issues—which should have been addressed long before the pandemic began. America’s safety net is also in need of serious repair. Although Congress has increased fiscal stimulus in an attempt to blunt the effects of the recession with packages barely above the federal minimum wage, the government has largely overlooked underlying issues. When the first case of COVID-19 appeared in Los Alamitos, the San Jose Unified School District hesitated to shut down earlier because several families rely on schools not just for education, but for services that extend beyond the classroom, such as meals, childcare, special needs therapy and medical treatments during the day. Districts across the country faced the same dilemma, as the New York Times reports that almost 30 million children depend on school lunch programs, highlighting the nation’s massive income inequality, which the pandemic severely amplified. Despite experiencing the longest expansion in years, the Washington Post reports that income inequality reached a five-decade high during this period. We cannot rely on metrics of economic growth and low unemployment rates to measure the quality of life of most Americans. The government must find ways to combat this inequality, such as incentivizing wage growth and expanding benefits. In spite of such unpreparedness, we cannot overlook the resilience and compassion individuals have shown in response. Nearly 44 percent of U.S. residents have stayed home to help keep their communities safe; millions of Americans routinely wear masks and practice physical distancing; and some have even donated their stimulus checks to those in greater need, according to the New York Times. These sacrifices are indicative of the fact that we are willing to and can take action to better our nation as a whole—and that this behavior does not have to end when the pandemic ends. We can direct our joint efforts to advocate for the change our country desperately needs.

"The pandemic did not 'break America; it just pointed out its pre-existing flaws.'"

"When calling essential workers “heroes,” we overlook .... avoidable government negligence and exploitation within private sectors."

Vy Nguyen Photo

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