25 May Is It Time For a COVID-Era Marshall Plan?
The U.S. won the post-WW2 peace largely by providing aid to countries reeling from the devastation of war, through the Marshall Plan. Today the lethal enemy is a virus. And, once again, we can help.
Now that Americans are inching closer to being post-COVID,
thanks to the miracle vaccines in our arms,
it’s hard not to hear a collective sigh of relief.
But tragically, not all Americans missed COVID’s bullet.
As of May 23rd, 604,087 Americans fell to COVID –
that’s over twice the nearly 300,000 Americans
who died in World War II.
So for us with walk-in vaccine appointments available
in drug stores for every adult and now kids over 12,
as a nation, we’re pretty well set.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe,
India’s population of 1.4 billion is suffering
from a massive COVID surge that’s crippling
not only the largest democracy on the planet,
but America’s “back office.”
With India’s colonial roots,
about 130 million Indians speak English as their first,
second, or third language.
And the country’s IT workforce accounts
for nearly four-and-a-half-million employees
who are working for over 2,000 American
business process outsourcing, IT,
and call-center companies in India.
Six years ago when I visited Sawai Man Singh Hospital
in Jaipur, the largest in the state of Rajasthan,
I was impressed with its 6,251 beds –
UCSF, for example, has 726,
and Cedars has 886.
It also has 1,500 doctors and 4,000 nurses, who not
only treat patients in its beds, but an additional 10,000
patients a day in outpatient departments in “normal” times.
I was also told by my host, Dr. Suneet Singh Ranawat –
basically the hospital COO – that when the hospital
was overwhelmed, an additional 15,000 patients could end up
on mats on the floor.
Based on today’s news reports,
nearly 98% of India is in lockdown, including the
entire state of Rajasthan.
So I can well imagine their hospital looks like this one.
As reported in The New Yorker, doctors are constantly
working the phones to procure what’s needed
for basic COVID-19 care:
oxygen, ventilators, immunosuppressive medications,
anti-viral drugs, and the like.
Clearly the highly contagious variant is
accelerating the damage.
As an example of how this plays out
for thousands of American companies
with employees in India, we’ve heard anecdotally from some
of our members that they’re hiring temps to fill in
for upwards of two-thirds of their employees who are out
sick with COVID, and helping to cover for the 100%
of their staff who are concerned about, if not personally
caring for, sick family members.
We’ve also heard that price gouging is going on now –
given a few months ago anyone could purchase two vaccines
for 200 rupees – less than $3.
While today, if you can find them, they are 4,000 rupees –
nearly $55 per dose.
Further, in many hospitals, sometimes entire families
are being cared for in each bed.
Fortunately, some governments, UNICEF, Americares,
and Oxygen for India are helping.
In fact, you can find a long list
of worthy NGOs to donate to
in The New York Times, that are providing money for meals,
medical expenses, PPE, and other essential supplies.
This would also be an opportune time
for the U.S. government to reinvigorate The Marshall Plan
that General George C. Marshall advocated
for when he was Secretary of State
in President Harry Truman’s administration.
Formally called the European Recovery Program,
the plan was largely to rebuild a Europe
broken by bullets and bombs.
Today such a plan could share vaccines, drugs,
and medical equipment with our neighbors
in countries like India and Brazil,
that without our help
will lose far more than the over 307,000
who’ve already succumbed in India,
and the 450,000-plus lost to COVID in Brazil.
After all, if we have Americans who are refusing vaccines
that the U.S. government has already paid for,
and storage rooms full of unused ventilators,
we certainly shouldn’t let them go to waste –
when our global neighbors are dying to have them.
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