April 5, 2020
by Steve Stofka
We’re all in this together. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York State, tells us that in his daily conference. N.Y. State reported its first case of Coronavirus on March 1. In a month, the emergency rooms of some hospitals in New York City look like a war zone. President Trump says those photos are fake news. Deaths in red states are real. Deaths in blue states are not?
We’re all in this together proclaims Phil Murphy, the governor of the neighboring state of New Jersey. The zombies are already in his state but, as he looks across the Hudson River at NYC, he knows that vast hordes of zombies are coming. They are microscopic and invisible. They are not the Kaiju of Pacific Rim or the burrowing monsters of Tremors. They are the invisible demons of Poltergeist. Patients come into New York hospitals frantically gasping for air (NBC New York, 2020).
During this pandemic, we are discovering who is in this together. The maintenance man at the local school has just discovered that he is not essential now that the school has closed for the semester. This is the week when lawn maintenance companies begin mowing grass in much of the U.S. That maintenance man could be weeding and mowing grass, but the school district gave that job away to an outside lawn maintenance contractor to save money on employee pension and health benefits. Public private partnerships reduce the burden of local government on taxpayers.
He could be doing a hundred different fixups around the school now that it is empty. Patching and touch up painting, plumbing, the loose stalls in the bathroom, reglue those cove base tile that he hasn’t had time to get to during the school year. Upgrade those light bulbs. Something he’s been meaning to get to. Empty hallways is a good time for that. The school district says that he is not essential. Preventive maintenance is not essential. Someone at headquarters decided to wait until it’s broke. Then it’s essential.
The people who are essential are the policymakers and their minions who spend hours crafting memos that explain to employees why they are not essential. Explaining the loss of health and pension benefits to employees is a delicate topic and requires a lot of training. We’re in this together but we’re not in this together. You do understand, don’t you?
Many teachers have discovered that they are not essential. Knowing their students well would be an asset in redesigning classes for an online format. But that job is done by instructional designers who have little experience in a classroom. They are experts in the design of education content. They are essential. Teachers are not.
Nurses are essential. Well, now they are. There is a shortage of nurses across the country because nursing schools have not been expanded to meet the needs of the population (Moore, 2019). Nurses have demonstrated for better patient care, for more investment in nursing, and in a safer patient nurse ratio (Lardieri, 2019). Sorry, nurses. Put down your signs. You’re not essential. Well, that was last year and the year before that and the year before that. This year is different.
Here, we have protective clothing for you, our essential workers. Here’s a 39-gallon lawn and leaf garbage bag. Yep, they’re the big ones with lots of room. One size fits all! Take these scissors and cut out a hole for your head in the bottom of the bag, then cut out armholes in each side. See, isn’t that good? It comes almost to your knees. Yes, it is a little bit hot because garbage bags don’t breathe very well. But it will keep you protected from nasty Covid-19 air thingees.
What about face masks? Oh sure, they are coming. President Trump told us so a few weeks ago. Here, just spray some bleach on the face mask you are wearing, then take a hair dryer and dry it out. See, good as new! I told you. We are all in this together.
Lardieri, A. (2019, September 20). Thousands of Nurses Strike for More Staffing, Better Patient Ratios. U.S. News & World Report. [Web page]. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2019-09-20/thousands-of-nurses-strike-for-more-staffing-better-patient-ratios
Moore, D. (2019, March 29). A rush for nurses strains colleges and hospitals as health care booms in Pittsburgh. [Web page]. Retrieved from https://www.post-gazette.com/business/career-workplace/2019/04/22/Nurses-hospitals-Allegheny-Health-Network-UPMC-Pittsburgh-jobs/stories/201903110158
NBC New York. (2020, March 30). ‘Yes It’s Real’: Doctors Describe ‘Eerie’ Way COVID-19 Sickens Random People. [Web page]. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/yes-its-real-doctors-describe-eerie-way-covid-19-sickens-random-people/2350645/