What U.S. under-preparation for COVID-19 reveals about our country’s priorities

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Shelves usually stocked with bread lay nearly empty at a Target in Abington, Pa., Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Coronavirus concerns have led to consumer panic buying of grocery staples.  Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Shelves usually stocked with bread lay nearly empty at a Target in Abington, Pa., Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Coronavirus concerns have led to consumer panic buying of grocery staples. Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Maria Diaz-Islas is a Spring Fellow with Beyond the Bomb, a campaign against nuclear violence.

We are currently living in an apocalyptic state. Though the world might not necessarily be ending, people are watching their lives get rearranged and finding themselves grasping for a sense of control as the faults in our system are revealed. 

Last Wednesday, Thomas Katsouleas, president of the University of Connecticut, announced that classes are to remain online for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. Since then, many other schools have taken similar actions in an attempt to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Lamont has ordered all non-essential functions to shut down, and the state has suggested that people avoid leaving home, if possible. 

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the health of the American people is not a priority to the government.

So you might be surprised to learn that prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Trump Administration’s 2021 budget proposal sought to increase military spending by taking money out of domestic programs. In 2021, the U.S. plans to spend $48 billion on nuclear weapons; that’s $4 billion a month, or $15 a second.

That is billions of dollars that could go to buying face masks and tests.

It is easy to feel hopeless watching politicians argue over the appropriate course of action in the midst of a pandemic. However, it also prompts essential questions regarding our government’s priorities. For example, why is it so important that we increase military spending when we already have over 6,000 nuclear weapons in the United States alone?

This is a system that has consistently ignored the needs of the people it claims to protect. At the CDC Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2021, Robert Redfield, head of the CDC, said: “We’ve underinvested in the public health labs. There’s not enough equipment, there’s not enough people, there’s not enough internal capacity.” What is revealed is that the health of the American people is not a priority to the government.


President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, Monday, March 23, 2020, in Washington.  Photo by Alex Brandon/AP

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, Monday, March 23, 2020, in Washington. Photo by Alex Brandon/AP

Ideas that were previously perceived as “radical” by many are now being considered in a state of emergency. What the system fails to recognize is that so many Americans feel that they are in a state of emergency every day of their lives. There are so many other conditions putting people’s lives at risk that have nothing to do with a new viral outbreak. The only difference now is that nobody is safe. 

With New START, a treaty between the U.S. and Russia regarding nuclear policy that was signed by President Barack Obama back in 2010, expiring soon, we need an administration that prioritizes the people, understands the impacts a nuclear war could have on the environment and is set up to take on what we least expect.

Just as there is action you can take to stop the spread of COVID-19, you can also make a difference in nuclear policy today by taking two minutes to sign a petition supporting No First Use, Sen. Warren and Rep. Smith’s proposed bill that would make it policy that the U.S. would not be the first to launch a nuclear strike. You can also get informed about nuclear policy through sources like Beyond the Bomb Blog Posts or Inkstick, which are meant to make such information accessible to all.

Remember everybody: Spread peace, not germs.

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Maria Diaz-Islas is a Psychological Sciences major and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies minor at the University of Connecticut. She is also a Spring Fellow with Beyond the Bomb, a campaign against nuclear violence. She can be reached by email at maria.diaz-islas@uconn.edu.

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