covid-19 the world has changed by PEDRO GRATEROL
Of all the scenarios that 2020 could have brought, a pandemic the size of the one we are confronting did not seem to be the most likely. However, at the beginning of the year, the novel coronavirus arrived as a surprise. Not only are we dealing with 257,801 casualties and a number of cases that, at the moment of writing this article, was imminently reaching 3.7 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, we are also dealing with a drastic shift in global politics. Because we have not lived in a crisis of this magnitude. It is pertinent to explore the scope of this crisis at all political levels.
Alaska has not been immune to the COVID-19 situation. At the moment this article was written, there have been 371 reported cases and 9 casualties. These numbers are significantly lower than in New York City, the epicenter of the crisis in the U.S, which has over 321,192 cases and nearly 19,645 deaths. Therefore, and with approval of Governor Dunleavy, restaurants, salons and tattoo parlors started reopening. Although there has been a smaller presence of the virus in comparison with other parts of the country, a report by the Anchorage Daily News written by Zaz Hollander affirms that the number of tests being carried out in the state is well below the number required to reduce the expansion of the virus. Therefore, if there is still not strict following of social distancing guidelines and mask usage, we can expect the possibility of a rise of cases in Alaska.
The current crisis also has had global impacts with domestic implications. The collapse of oil prices to its historical low will hurt our oil-dependent state economy and the anticipated lack of tourism will also severely affect this key industry. It is also important to explore other global political consequences of this crisis. In addition to the revitalization of the concept of governments, who have been essential for the establishment of social distancing guidelines, this crisis has also revealed the fragility of the global economy. According to the International Monetary Fund, the global economy grew 3.5% last year and was expected to grow 3.6% in 2020. However, after the onset of the current situation, it is expected that it will actually contract 3%, which is a much alarming number than the 2008 crisis. Despite the fact that the global economy seems robust and almost indestructible, a market shock of this size can destroy all expectations, which are key of economics and forces us to think of more sustainable ways of approaching economic development.
Furthermore, a crisis of this type, which was, in part, fueled by globalization, will solidify global protectionist tendencies. We are in front of a strengthening of nationalism and democratic backsliding, just like in Orban’s Hungary. This can lead to a more xenophobic world in which identity fueled conflicts are more common. The last global implication we need to explore has to do with the global system of power balance. For the last 70 years, the U.S has been the key player in the global economy, but its botched response and lack of commitment with organizations like World Health Organization casts doubts on the role this country plays in the world. Moreover, China, who posed a strong economic threat now emerges as a serious competitor for the control of the global international order.
At a national level, COVID-19 has shown the weakness and strengths of the political structure of the U.S. The botched federal response in front of both the public health and economic crisis, which has left 33 million unemployed and with the states fending by themselves, and has resulted, in the worst case, states competing among themselves to buy medical equipment from corporations and, in the best of cases, the creation of collective action blocks, like California, Oregon and Washington. Also, the novel coronavirus, has made us question the way we think about how the country works. Federal unemployment support of monthly $600 dollars is equivalent to a minimum wage of $15, even if the current federal minimum wage is half of that. Have we reached the point in which the federal minimum wage will increase? COVID-19 also presents questions about the ethics of healthcare. A large portion of Americans receive health insurance through their employers. In a situation were 33 million are now unemployed, many people find themselves without access to healthcare in the midst of a pandemic.
Finally, it is pertinent to explore the implications of the virus in Latin America. We must take into account that the last year was full of social conflict, which was rooted on economic inequality. This pandemic finds a continent with healthcare systems that are not ready to deal with a crisis of this magnitude. Furthermore, inequality issues make vulnerable those who, because of poor socioeconomic status, cannot practice social distancing. Moreover, the fact that some have resources to stay at home while others do not, can exacerbate the problems of political inequality that brought protests in 2019. There is a probability of an increase in instability when the pandemic ends. The world changed forever and unexpectedly, and the political system is being exposed to a new type of crisis. We do not know the details of the world ahead, but it will require careful attention and collaboration, between all of us, at all levels, to move forward.
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE CO. Sol de Medianoche is a bimonthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska