The Government's Economic Decisions Made Me High Risk for Coronavirus

Press/Media: Public Engagement Activities

PeriodApr 23 2020

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleThe Government's Economic Decisions Made Me High Risk for Coronavirus
    Media name/outletAnthropology News
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    DescriptionClearly, when people think who might be at high risk of complications from COVID-19, they do not think of me. Why would someone in their mid-thirties with no elders at home be worried about Coronavirus? Aside from the mounting evidence that younger people have had serious complications related to COVID-19, I meet not one but three CDC categories for “higher risk of severe illness”: 1) moderate to severe asthma, 2) being immunocompromised, and 3) a BMI over 40. The second of these has given me hard-earned experiences that were advantageous in preparing for this outbreak and requires little shift in my everyday life (other than family members being home all the time). However, I worry about the first the most given what we know about COVID-19 and the continued fatal shortage of ventilators—and, it is a direct result of the United States government prioritizing cost savings over the health and well-being of people.

    What will it take to implement the sweeping changes necessary to care for everyone­, especially those who are already marginalized and vulnerable?
    Many people have respiratory vulnerabilities from environmental conditions that state regulations and mitigation could improve, but in my situation there was a calculated choice. When I was in fourth grade, my school in Florida closed after being labelled a “sick school.” Those of us effected by the closure knew at the time that the school district had built the new elementary school with swamp cooling, which had contributed to toxic mold and mildew growth, instead of the more expensive option of air conditioning. What I learned later is that the state government made many such decisions to cut costs on construction using a building code enacted after the 1970s oil embargo that compromised the health of its workers and citizens. Florida became the center of a “sick building” epidemic in the early 1990s, with over half of its schools impacted.

    The news about my school was broadcast nationwide, and I watched with my dad and sister on a television at the children’s hospital where I had been admitted to ICU when my lungs shut down. What happened to me was never in the news—the stories focused on the closure and the supposedly minor symptoms caused by indoor air pollution. But my classroom had been one of the worst, leaving me with a lifetime of clinic and hospital visits for allergies, “reactive airway disease,” asthma, and bronchitis. While the government paid for school improvements, the financial costs of the public health emergency were largely privatized—my parents, friends, occasionally private clinical drug trials, and I have paid for the health equipment, medicine, and care that I have needed as a result of the state’s irresponsibility.

    Now, the same scenario—the US government putting people’s health in jeopardy to cut costs—is on replay, but at a larger scale.
    PersonsErin L Durban


  • COVID-19
  • Environmental Injury
  • Disability
  • Economics