back-to-work mass murder omnibus

Back-to-work drive places countless thousands at risk
Patrick Martin, WSWS, May 18 2020

Autoworkers getting off a shift at the Fiat Chrysler stamping plant in Warren, Michigan.

This week marks a significant turning point in the global coronavirus pandemic. In Pindostan, the country with more infections and more deaths than any other, the Trump administration and the governments of nearly every state have authorized the reopening of major factories and other workplaces and a broader reopening of the economy. This policy will have disastrous consequences. The coronavirus is extremely infectious, spread through aerosols or on surfaces. Encouraged by the Trump administration and the media, scenes of mass gatherings at public locations are beginning to emerge. People are engaging in behavior without understanding the consequences, and which they will come to regret. Just days after the top government scientists Anthony Fauci and Rick Bright told Congress that a premature return to work risks a major resurgence of COVID-19, tens of thousands of Pindo auto workers return to crowded factories today. With barely 4% of the world’s population, Pindostan has 32% of the world’s cases and 29% of the world’s deaths. The coming week will see the Pindo death toll, already topping 91k, approach 100k. The total number of cases has already passed 1.5 million. Due to the extended incubation of the virus, the true impact of the policy being adopted will emerge by the end of the month. The criminal policy of the ruling class is being implemented even as much remains unknown about the nature of the coronavirus. In one of the most alarming reports, it has been revealed that 13 sailors on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for COVID-19 a second time, after recovering from the disease and returning to the ship. This calls into question whether surviving the coronavirus confers any long-lasting immunity. Workers are being forced back to work without universal testing to screen, isolate and treat those already infected with the coronavirus. Each workplace, therefore, has the potential to become a new focal point of a new outbreak of the pandemic. The NYT reports:

Without government orders to stay at home, 10 million more people in Pindostan would have been infected with the virus by the end of April, suggested a paper published this past week in the journal Health Affairs.

Such a toll, increasing exponentially month by month, is the predictable outcome of the ending of these protective measures. Despite claims by Trump, the reopening is not taking place because the coronavirus epidemic has been defeated, or even contained. Factories and workplaces are reopening because the corporate owners demand it: workers must return to work and resume the process of generating surplus value and profit, regardless of the cost in terms of suffering and human life. Anyone wishing to know the brutal psychology that prevails on Wall Street can consult this week’s report by William Cohan of Vanity Fair, based on interviews with investment bankers. One Wall Street banker used financial market jargon to dismiss the impact of the pandemic. He said:

People will die. People do die. We can’t shut down the country for some minuscule number of people. This is not a 100% death rate. It’s a number of basis points.

“Basis points,” a term used in financial circles to discuss the movement of interest rates, is how the deaths of tens of thousands of people are regarded. Even cruder thinking, if it can be called that, pervades the Trump clan. Trump’s son Eric dismissed social distancing as a Demagog Party plot, telling Fox News’ Judge Jeanine on Saturday it was meant to sabotage his father’s reelection campaign. He said:

They think they’re taking away Donald Trump’s greatest tool, which is to go into an arena and fill it with 50,000 people every time. You watch. They will milk it every single day between now and Nov 3. And guess what, after Nov 3 coronavirus will magically, all of a sudden, go away and disappear, and everybody will be able to reopen.

The Pindo government is at war with its population. The Trump administration is leading this campaign, but he has been sustained by the media and the supposed opposition in the Demagog Party. It is a Demagog governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who authorized the reopening of the Michigan auto plants today. It is a Demagog governor, Andrew Cuomo, who included in recent state legislation a provision exempting New York nursing homes from liability for the horrendous death toll from COVID-19, in which negligence, understaffing and profit-gouging by the owners played so large a role. Then there is Trump’s Demagog predecessor. Obama gave well-publicized remarks to two groups of students Saturday: seniors graduating from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and seniors graduating from an array of American high schools. Obama’s comments were unserious, perfunctory and banal, delivered in Obama’s fake-populist persona. He referred to the Trump administration only indirectly, when he declared:

More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing. A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.

In fact, the Trump administration, both political parties and Wall Street know exactly what they are doing. They are compelling millions of workers to go back to their jobs knowing full well that many of them will contract coronavirus and die. They are doing this to restart the extraction of profit from workers in order to pay for the trillions handed out to Wall Street, approved unanimously by both parties. The SEP condemns the back-to-work campaign. We reject the false choice between impoverishment and death. The economic crisis facing tens of millions of people is not the consequence of the pandemic, but of the policies of the ruling class and the capitalist system. Every measure taken by the Trump administration, along with governments throughout the world, has been based on the interests of the corporate financial oligarchy. In opposition to this criminal policy, the SEP insists that the interests and needs of working people and society as a whole must take unconditional priority over all considerations of profit and private wealth. The implementation of measures to stop the spread of the pandemic and secure the interests of the working class, including the continued shutdown of non-essential production, a massive program of universal testing and contact tracing, the reallocation of society’s resources to ensure high quality health care for all, and the provision of full income to all workers whose jobs are affected by the pandemic, is incompatible with the continued domination of society by the corporate and financial oligarchy. Everything happening demonstrates one inescapable fact: The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is at the same time a fight to organize the working class independently and in opposition to capitalism. Only in this way can a way out of the crisis in the interests of the working class be forged.

Market and profits impede COVID-19 vaccine effort
Frank Gaglioti, WSWS, May 18 2020

Scientists around the world are in a desperate scramble to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine. According to the science journal Nature, more than 115 vaccines are in various stages of development. On Dec 31, the WHO was informed of a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown origin from Wuhan in China. By Jan 7, Chinese scientists identified the source of the infection as the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A few days later, on Jan 11, the Chinese National Health Commission published the genetic structure of the virus on the internet for the international scientific community. The discovery of the genetic structure of the virus was the first step in the development of a vaccine to deal with the virus outbreak that has ravaged the world. It was also the starting gun for a wild free-for-all by private companies bidding to win the bonanza that will fall to the successful candidate vaccine. Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the Pindo National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said:

With the genomic sequence, we were off to the races.

Scientists were able to identify that the virus is a type of coronavirus like those causing the common cold, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which caused epidemics in 2003 and 2012, respectively. The human coronavirus was first identified in the 1960s and is distinguished by club-like structures that cover its entire surface, giving the appearance of the sun’s corona in electron micrographs. Its genetic structure is made up of a single strand of ribonucleic acid (RNA) surrounded by a shell made of a protein membrane from which the spike proteins, club-like structures, protrude. The COVID-19 virus invades cells in the human upper-respiratory tracts by first using its spike proteins to attach to and then fuse with the membrane of a host cell, in this case the respiratory tract of the infected individual. At this point, the virus can release its RNA, its genetic codes, into the cell, thereby commandeering the host’s genetic apparatus to reproduce the virus in massive numbers. These new virions are released back into the extracellular spaces, spreading further into the host. They are also expectorated into the environment, where they can infect other people and spread the disease. The life cycle of the virion in the host cell ultimately destroys the host cell, but it also leads to an intense host immune response.

The lethal nature of the COVID-19 virus is due to the host’s immune system responding by going into overdrive, in a little understood process that overproduces chemicals known as cytokines in what is known as a cytokine storm. The production of cytokines is part of the body’s natural immune response, aimed at destroying the invading virus. For an unknown reason, in response to the COVID-19 virus, the cytokines are produced is such vast amounts that they can cause dangerous levels of inflammation in the lungs and the respiratory system that lead to respiratory failure. Influenza and other viral infections have been known to elicit such heightened immune responses. Additional clinical manifestations include severe cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and neurological damage as a by-product of multi-organ failure, or a disseminated viral infection that can kill the host. It has also recently come to light that the virus can cause severe inflammation in blood vessels, leading to an increased propensity to develop blood clots. That, in turn, can lead to strokes, pulmonary embolisms, kidney failure and other manifestations such as Kawasaki-like disease in young children. There is still much about SARS-CoV-2 that remains unknown.

In producing a vaccine, scientists try to stimulate the body’s immune system to generate antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and prevent or limit the scope of the infection. The scope of this work is quite multiplex, requiring careful study of the virus for vaccine targets, the design of the vaccine and protocols to determine the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. These are usually initiated in animal trials, also called pre-clinical trials, where suitable models such as mice are initially given the vaccine and exposed to the virus. Success in these initial investigations is followed by the designing of phase 1 human trials, in which healthy volunteers are given the vaccine in escalating doses to determine if the drug is safe to check for efficacy. Phase 2 and phase 3 trials are larger trials that check efficacy and safety. If a candidate vaccine proves successful, it is licensed for production and distribution, entering a long-term phase 4 post-marketing surveillance to evaluate the drug’s long-term effects. The process is extraordinarily complex and very few vaccines are ever approved. Although politicians and several scientists have optimistically speculated that a vaccine can be produced within 12 to 18 months, this has never been done and remains in the realm of the theoretical. Such statements, however, facilitate specious arguments like that made by President Donald Trump on Fox News:

We think we are going to have a vaccine by the end of this year.

These statements completely ignore the objective difficulties in producing a respiratory vaccine, even in the era of modern science with its powerful investigative tools. Many candidate vaccines never reach the licensing and production stage. The mumps vaccine was the quickest ever produced so far. It was developed in the 1960s in a process that took four years. Considerable time is necessary for the proper testing of candidate vaccines, as the human body is an incredibly complex system and problems may take some time to emerge. During the SARS outbreak in 2003, a vaccine candidate resulted in the dangerous enhancement of the disease in human subjects, necessitating the abandonment of its development. Dean Peter Hotez of Baylor University’s National School of Tropical Medicine in Houston, Texas, said:

A year to 18 months would be unprecedented. Maybe with the new technology, maybe with throwing enough money on it, that will happen. But we have to be really careful about those time estimates.

The chair of the Translational Research Institute, Professor Ian Frazer from the University of Queensland, told the Australian Broadcasting Commission that there has never been an effective vaccine produced for any coronavirus, making it a “tricky” endeavour. The institute co-invented the Human Papilloma Vaccine that prevents cervical cancer. The coronavirus attacks the upper-respiratory tract, where the immune system is relatively weak. It is a particularly difficult place to target a vaccine. Frazer said:

It’s a separate immune system, if you like, which isn’t easily accessible by vaccine technology. It’s a bit like trying to get a vaccine to kill a virus on the surface of your skin.

To achieve this difficult goal, several strategies are being adopted by the various research laboratories. Overall, 115 research teams are in the hunt for a vaccine, using several different techniques. 72% of the laboratories are working with private pharmacological companies, with only a minority controlled by university or hospital laboratories. Major pharmaceutical companies such as Janssen, Sanofi, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline are funding research. This is a completely inefficient and wasteful process, with the various laboratories competing against one another when they should be working collaboratively. It is the result of a market approach to science, which prevents investigators from working in unison to share their findings with one another. The essential issue is that in the effort to save lives, the profit motive is leading to loss of life, as delays in finding a successful vaccine lead to continued devastation from the pandemic. The resulting competitive pressures on scientists are so great that they will be compelled to take shortcuts that may lead to failures or compromise safety. The pressure is so intense that Moderna Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company, started phase 1 human trials on Mar 16, before animal testing had been completed. Tal Zaks, chief medical officer at Moderna, said:

I don’t think proving this in an animal model is on the critical path to getting this to a clinical trial.

Several other laboratories have commenced phase 1 trials, including three in China and another based in Pindostan. Various strategies are being pursued internationally. Many of these techniques are very speculative and scientists have never successfully produced a vaccine using these techniques. All vaccines in one way or another are based on getting the body’s immune system to mount an attack on the invader. In one of the oldest techniques, the virus is injected into the body after it has been made inactive. The immune system reacts to proteins made by the infecting microbe, stimulating the production of antibodies. The Chinese firm Sinopharm based in Shanghai has used this technique and has been licensed to advance to phase 2 trials.

Scientists more recently realised that instead of using the whole virus, they could use a single protein to get an immune response. Vaccines using this technique are the easiest to produce and the method has been used to produce many existing vaccines. The Chinese firm CanSino, based in Tianjin in northern China, has started a phase 1 trial and uses a spike protein, Ad5-nCoV, which the virus uses to penetrate the host cell. The company has used this technique to produce an effective vaccine for Ebola. A research group based at Oxford University in the UK is using a spike protein and is in phase 1 testing. Companies such as Moderna inject DNA or RNA to stimulate the body’s immune response. The candidate vaccine gives positive responses in animals, but has proven ineffective in humans. Scientists continue to pursue this technique, as such vaccines would be relatively easy to produce. Maria Elena Bottazzi, the associate dean of medicine at Baylor University’s National School of Tropical Medicine, said:

If you look at all the attempts people have done for HIV vaccines using the DNA platform, they haven’t found the exact formula of how these DNA molecules should go into the right cell… It’s a little bit of dark science. That is why they are still experimental.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania is working on a vaccine based on a similar method and is in phase 1 trials. Queensland University, in conjunction with the Dutch group Viroclinics Xplore, has used a technique known as a “molecular clamp.” This was developed in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The molecular clamp technique uses a synthetic version of the virus to stimulate an immune response. The molecular clamp technique has been patented, highlighting the commercialisation of scientific discoveries. In contrast, the great scientist Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine in the 1960s, was asked:

Who owns the patent?

Salk replied:

The people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?

Even though Queensland University is a governmental institution, it has been so starved of funds that it must resort to patenting scientific discoveries that should be for the benefit of humanity, not profit. Commercial arrangements such as patents have the effect of blocking scientific research. If, and nobody really knows when, a successful vaccine is produced, it must be manufactured for release internationally. This may not be a straightforward process. There is no guarantee the vaccine will be made available to the impoverished masses across the planet who are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. It is estimated that billions of doses will have to be produced to inoculate the world’s population. Arguably, political quid pro quos resulting in the vaccine being denied will be a factor in such geopolitical considerations. Moreover, with nations armed with vaccines, biological weapons will no longer be restricted to the domain of science fiction writers. For the newer vaccine technologies, mass production methods may have to be developed, making treatment expensive and out of reach of poorer people. Geopolitical rivalry will come into play over who gets the vaccine. Most of the facilities researching a vaccine are in Pindostan. In March, reports emerged that Pindo authorities attempted to buy the German pharmaceutical company CureVac in order to gain exclusive access to any vaccine it might develop. Dr Craig Rayner, a former executive at pharmacological companies Roche and CSL, and now president of integrated drug development at Certara in Australia, said:

It is a little naive to think because Pindostan is doing a lot of the vaccine development, they are going to put us right at the front of the queue … They are going to look after their own first.

The existence of 115 research laboratories in competition with each other does not guarantee the development of an effective vaccine. In fact, it is extremely wasteful, as scientists are using various methods for arriving at the same end. There must be a rational plan and division of labour in regard to how the research is approached. Workers must demand that the research institutions be taken out of the control of the pharmacological giants and the market and brought under public ownership, so that the results of scientific research and any resulting vaccines will be freely available to the world’s population.

Spike in Kawasaki-like disease linked to coronavirus in France and Italy, one child dies
Will Morrow, WSWS, May 18 2020

Kawasaki Disease

French media reported on Friday that a nine-year-old boy in the city of Marseille died a week ago of a multi-system inflammatory disease that medical researchers have recently linked to the coronavirus pandemic. The emerging condition produces symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and affects children. It has seen a jump in incidence since the onset of the pandemic, and most or all of the children who have presented symptoms of the disorder are believed to have tested positive for the coronavirus. The child was admitted to the North Marseille urgent pediatric ward on May 2 with a rash but was sent home after doctors diagnosed him with scarlet fever. Later that evening, his health deteriorated rapidly and he was transported back to the emergency care, where doctors identified his symptoms with the rare Kawasaki-like syndrome. On May 8, he died in the hospital after a heart attack. According to the French national health service, the boy suffered a preexisting comorbidity in some form of neurodevelopmental condition, though it is unclear how this affected his response to the disease. He tested positive for the coronavirus though he had not displayed any symptoms of it. The child has become the fourth death from the condition. A five-year-old and seven-year-old have died in Pindostan and a fourteen-year-old in the UK. This is a damning indictment of capitalist governments internationally who are reopening schools and asserting that the virus does not harm children. The precise nature of the connection between the condition and the coronavirus is yet to be determined. On Friday, the WHO published an international call for researchers to study the connection between the coronavirus and the newly-named multisystem inflammatory disorder in children and adolescents. Symptoms include a rash, hypotension or shock, vomiting or diarrhea and abnormalities in the heart. The report notes:

Reports from Europe and North America have described clusters of children and adolescents requiring admission to intensive care units with a multisystem inflammatory condition with some features similar to those of Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome. Case reports and small series have described a presentation of acute illness accompanied by a hyper-inflammatory syndrome, leading to multi-organ failure and shock. It is essential to characterize this syndrome and its risk factors, to understand causality, and describe treatment interventions. It is not yet clear the full spectrum of disease, and whether the geographical distribution in Europe and North America reflects a true pattern, or if the condition has simply not been recognized elsewhere.

Most of the children who have presented symptoms of the disorder have also tested positive for coronavirus, either from directly from nasal swabs or via antibody tests. There is believed to be a delay of four to six weeks from the point of infection with coronavirus and the onset of symptoms of the recently-discovered condition, including in cases of asymptomatic coronavirus patients. For a more detailed explanation of the disorder, see here. On Tuesday, the French national health agency reported for the first time on the number of cases of the syndrome in the country, placing the number at 125. On Friday, the minister of health reported that the number had increased to 135. In Britain, according to the Guardian, there are between 75 and 100 children receiving treatment for the condition across the country. A study was published on Friday in the Lancet by researchers in Italy who examined the incidence of the condition in Bergamo, an initial epicenter of the pandemic. They found a thirty-fold increase in the incidence of Kawasaki-like syndrome in the region compared to before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The researchers concluded:

The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic was associated with high incidence of a severe form of Kawasaki disease. A similar outbreak of Kawasaki-like disease is expected in countries involved in the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic.

The ongoing studies on the danger of coronavirus for children make clear that scientists are still seeking to come to grips with the full impact of the coronavirus and particularly its danger for children. Even as these studies take place, governments across Europe and internationally are reopening schools, declaring without evidence that the virus cannot harm children and that even when carrying the virus, children will not pass it on to others. More than 1.5m students have returned to school across France over the past week, according to government figures. Schools have also reopened in Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, and in parts of Germany, while re-openings are underway elsewhere. The driving force behind the school reopening policy is not a fight against the pandemic, but the placing of children in classrooms so that their parents may be forced back to work, and the flow of corporate profits for the corporate and financial elite may be resumed and continued. In France, the school re-openings are being carried out in defiance of the official recommendation of the national scientific council, which had recommended a delay until September. Today, the re-openings are being expanded to include students in sixth and seventh grade. French Education Minister Michel Blanquer told Europe1 on Monday last week that school re-openings were necessary because children were “safer” in classrooms than in their own homes. he said:

In a general sense, we are now in a society where the virus is circulating. That’s a fact. There are more risks in staying at home than going to school. If we take the contrary approach, we could all hide under our couch and wait for a vaccine. And the society would collapse from other reasons than COVID-19.

Blanquer feigned concern over the plight of children unable to eat at home or suffering domestic violence, leaving out that the Macron government’s own austerity policies have exacerbated these conditions that it has refused to provide any significant support to the working class. The end to lock-down measures is being accelerated even as signs emerge an uptick in new cases across France. On Saturday, while the number of total people hospitalized had fallen from 22,614 to 19,432 compared to the week before, the number of new admissions was almost 50 percent higher, with 350 new cases compared to 265 on May 9. Similarly, the number of newly-admitted intensive care patients was 46 on Saturday, compared to 38 the week before. Since the lifting of the confinement on May 11, 25 new clusters have been detected across France. The Regional Health Agency of Centre-Val de Loire reported on Saturday that 34 workers at a slaughterhouse in Fleury-les-Aubrais had tested positive for the virus. On Sunday, the ARS in Bretagne reported that 69 cases had been detected among employees and their contacts at a slaughterhouse in Côtes-d’Amour.

Maryland and Virginia begin “phase one” reopenings despite record increase in COVID-19 cases
Nick Barrickman, WSWS, May 18 2020

States in the Mid-Atlantic region of Pindostan began lifting restrictions on businesses and public gatherings Friday amid record increases of the COVID-19 illness in the state of Virginia. Both Maryland and Virginia have recorded more than 30k cases each as of Sunday. Virginia has reported 1k deaths and Maryland is likely to surpass 2k by Monday. Both states are abandoning the already-inadequate preconditions for reopening set out by the White House last month, which included a decline of daily infection rates throughout the course of two weeks. Neither state has met even this criterion, let alone provided an adequate number of tests, contact tracing and other necessities. In contrast, the government of Faschingstein’s Demagog Mayor Muriel Bowser announced last week plans to continue sheltering in place until Jun 8. The city has counted over 7k positive cases as of Sunday. However, Bowser has also hinted at the possible easing of restrictions for “non-essential” businesses prior to that date. On Thursday, Virginia reported a record number of COVID-19 infections in the 24 hours prior to its reopening. The state counted 1,067 cases of the disease the day before. A seven-day average of the state’s infection rate reported by the WaPo on Friday shows that Virginia saw 790 cases daily, with 485 of those infections concentrated in the heavily-populated suburbs of Faschingstein. The state has seen an average of 25 deaths a day. The Virginia government has failed to meet its stated daily goal of administering 10k tests to residents. The overall daily average has been around 6k throughout the past week. Further undermining the state’s testing data was the Virginia Dept of Health’s announcement that nearly 10% of its findings came from serology tests, which are meant to determine the presence of antibodies in individuals previously infected. Virginia’s Demagog Governor Ralph Northam has increasingly shed his earlier posture of being driven by a concern for the health of the population. His initial statements, in which he advocated a “science-based” approach to dealing with the sickness and reluctantly implemented mild social distancing measures, had been seized on by the Trump administration to attack the state government as hampering efforts to reopen the economy. Northam declared at a press conference on Friday:

Today is a big step for us, moving into phase one. The last thing that we need as a health issue. The last thing we need as an economic issue is to have to go back to where we’ve been. So let’s work together and not let that happen.

While areas especially hard hit by the pandemic will be allowed to remain closed, Northam is allowing retail businesses and restaurants to open at 50% capacity in regions less affected. Places of worship will also be allowed to open at half capacity. Indicating that his administration had come under tremendous pressure from the tourist industry, Northam told the press:

I’m prepared to make an announcement, probably on Monday, regarding our beaches.

With Memorial Day a week away, retailers and hotels in the Virginia Beach and Eastern Shore have demanded they be included in the state’s reopening plans. Hotel developer Bruce Thompson, a major political donor in the state and a member of Northam’s task force for reopening its economy, told the WaPo last week:

We’re in a really bad situation. I don’t question the need for social distancing or sanitizing. It’s going to be 80 degrees this weekend. People are gonna go to the beach. So why not let us regulate it and control it?

The state of Maryland also began lifting restrictions Friday evening. According to the region’s CBS affiliate:

Daily cases of COVID-19 reported in Maryland have been flat for more than a week. They aren’t getting worse, but they aren’t getting better.

The state has averaged 990 new cases on a daily basis for the past week. Dr Gabe Kelen, the director of Johns Hopkins’ Dept of Emergency Medicine, told the WaPo:

Maryland was a little bit lucky that we weren’t Washington State or New York State, that we had several weeks to plan. Despite certain positive data, the disease has not peaked. We’re predicting a new spike. At first, it might be a little baby spike, three to six weeks after everything opens up. There could be a huge spike in early to late summer, depending on how much responsibility individuals choose to take and how rationally this region opens up.

As in Virginia, Maryland’s Thug Governor Larry Hogan has set similar conditions for businesses reopening at 50% capacity. However, Maryland has not allowed restaurants to begin offering in-house dining. The state allowed popular beach destinations such as Ocean City to reopen to tourists earlier this month. On Friday, several Demagog Maryland State Congress critturs in the state’s more populated areas sent a letter to the governor’s office protesting the plans to reopen. The letter said:

Without a robust testing, tracing and isolation system in place, there is little doubt that any easing of restrictions will lead to additional COVID-19 cases. As in Virginia, the majority of those cases have been concentrated in the Faschingstein suburbs north and east of the nation’s capital.

There is a farcical element in the states’ decision to “stagger” the reopenings in the region. As with other states that have begun reopening, the resumption of business will immediately attract out-of-area customers, leading to a further spread of the virus. The effort to reopen prematurely has the intended political consequence of encouraging other regions to begin a hasty resumption of business. According to the WaPo, state governments have reported a “staggering” loss of tax revenue compared to the same period last year. Virginia has reported a 26% drop in its tax receipts from Apr 2019, while Maryland has forecast the loss of roughly $925m in revenue by June. The precipitous drop off of taxes, combined with the explosion of unemployment, is set to lead to a massive budget crisis in the coming years.

Growing resistance in Germany to returning to schools
Andy Niklaus, Carola Kleinert, WSWS, May 18 2020

As part of their back to work policy, the federal and state governments in Germany are also aggressively pushing for the reopening of schools, endangering the health and lives of thousands of teachers, students and their families. The approach is particularly ruthless in Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). In Saxony, the social distancing rules in school buildings are now being overridden, and in NRW teachers who were previously protected because they belonged to risk groups are being ordered back to schools. according to an instruction issued by the NRW Education Ministry on May 11:

All teachers from the risk group, ie teachers with previous illnesses and teachers who have reached the age of 60, are now obliged to participate in procedures for taking oral examinations. The same applies to pregnant and nursing teachers. The use of these groups of people in the context of oral examinations is permissible.

In the federal state of Saxony, with its CD-SD-Green coalition government, the official requirement of maintaining at least 1.5m separation in classrooms will be eliminated. A letter from the Saxony State Ministry of Culture to “all headmasters” says:

From Monday May 18 2020, compulsory school attendance for grades 1 to 4 will apply again. In primary and special schools, lessons could be implemented “continuously in the respective classroom and class group. The generally valid distance rule is thus not valid within the fixed class groups.

Resistance is growing among teachers and pupils against this irresponsible policy, which threatens to turn schools into new hotspots of the coronavirus pandemic. A protest letter from Leipzig’s Kurt Masur Elementary School, with more than 500 pupils, to the Saxony Education Minister Christian Piwarz (CDU), accuses the state government of deliberately accepting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophic consequences that would follow. It says:

The announcement of the start of school operations has triggered a shock-induced paralysis. It is in no way understandable that the prescribed infection protection measures in private and public areas are overridden. Completely opening one of the largest elementary schools in Saxony means accommodating 20 classes with up to 28 children per class in rooms of up to 58 sq m. What is the basis of the changed risk assessment of the Saxony state government. Why will testing opportunities not be offered until June? Up to now, there are no medical face masks, glasses or the like available at our school. Why is this not provided for the self-protection of the staff if social distancing is not observed? If you so consciously calculate an increased risk of infection, why then all primary schools in Saxony at the same time? But how do you then ‘correct’ consequential health damages caused by COVID-19?

The protest by the Leipzig teachers is part of growing opposition to the policy of opening schools all over Germany. Student, teacher, and parent associations have spoken out against the policies of the respective state governments. There are many voices expressing their anger, desperation and protest on social media.
As early as the beginning of May, student representatives of the Lise-Meitner Gymnasium in Leverkusen condemned the opening of the school as a “premature relaxation” and declared:

This year’s Abitur examinations are not sustainable. People’s lives are at stake. Countless petitions, open letters, comments from student councils, school principals and the Philologists’ Association oppose the policies of the CDU-FD state government.

His mood is also expressed on Twitter. For example, the group “Gerechte Abschlüsse” (“Fair graduations”) posts:

We as students consider it irresponsible that teachers in the risk group should now attend the oral examinations. This is not the way it works! Mrs Gebauer had claimed she wanted to protect this group, but now they are to be compulsorily deployed so that we students have trusted teachers in the examinations. Health comes first for us; such an about-face is irresponsible.

Yvonne Gebauer (FDP) is the minister of education in NRW and is particularly hated by pupils and teachers. In mid-April, at a special session of the Committee for Schools and Education in the NRW state parliament on the subject of “Resuming school operations” and the “resulting consequences,” she cynically stated:

There will, sad as it is, be school communities that have to mourn the deaths of teachers, school administrators or family members, which can sometimes have a lasting effect on school life and everyday school life.

Suuyuki tweets angrily:

Since several children between the ages of 2 and 17 in the district of Bautzen have fallen ill with coronavirus, does it then make sense to send all primary and special needs pupils back to school without distancing rules?

She would support strikes by teachers, as “politics obviously takes no consideration” of their health. Many see the irresponsible opening of schools as an experimental laboratory for the never officially declared, but de facto, pursued “herd immunity policy” of the federal government. For example, Hilde81 comments on the letter of the Leipzig teachers:

Finally, a letter that speaks from my heart.

And she makes clear:

Schools and daycare centres, with their families and employees, are not a testing laboratory!!!

FamilyM condemns the Saxony school policy:

Contact restrictions remain. Another household can meet outdoors following distancing rules. But school openings are being pushed through hard. An experiment in herd immunity? Children and their families as test subjects?

Luke agrees:

Contact restrictions until Jun 5, but schools to be used for herd immunity? How can school openings be justified?

Michaela W. draws a comparison to the slaughterhouses, where hundreds of Eastern European workers were infected because of the scandalous working and accommodation conditions, and asks:

Will schools soon resemble today’s slaughterhouses?

MR, a teacher in a Berlin secondary school for five years and now working abroad, expressed his anger in an interview with the WSWS. He said:

In the current situation, the government is putting the lives of teachers at risk and is experimenting with our children here. I strongly advise all parents to absolutely leave their children at home.

Stephanie, a secondary school pupil from Bavaria, told the WSWS:

The pupils have risk groups at home and some of them belong to this group themselves. Students are afraid of being the ones who bring the virus home and end up having to live with the guilty thought of having indirectly caused the death of a family member. All these lives are being put in danger because Germany wants to present itself as something? As what? As inhuman and undemocratic? It cannot be that the government ignores us like this.

But there is a brutal logic behind these premature school openings. It is part of the comprehensive “back to work” policy being pushed by all parties in the Bundestag and by the trade unions to squeeze the gigantic sums that have gone to the financial elite in the coronavirus emergency packages out of the working class again. The ruling class is willing to walk over dead bodies for this. There is only one way out. To ensure that health and life are protected from the drive for profit, the working class and youth worldwide must organise themselves politically independently and turn to a socialist perspective.

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