Dhe warning is written in capital letters: “Do not test your children for Corona.” This is how a WhatsApp message begins that is currently circulating among parents in Brooklyn, New York.
Students who cough and sniff are of course better to stay at home, as they say. But the reason for the absence should be called “stomach problems” – “or other symptoms that have nothing to do with Covid.”
Why do the parents want to prevent the corona tests? Their text message reveals that they fear that the New York authorities will close the school in question if the result is positive. Because the rules of the city say: If the virus is found in two children, everyone else must also stay at home.
Unemployment benefits don’t really help
The fathers and mothers from Brooklyn are by no means the only ones defending themselves against corona tests. You hear about refusers all over the US. Sometimes politics matters – tests, like masks, are considered by some Americans to be a symbol of submission. The state, they say, is thereby interfering with their private life. Especially supporters of the incumbent President Donald Trump see it that way.
But most US citizens have another concern: that a positive outcome will lead to financial ruin. In fact, there are reports across the country of employees being quarantined – and fired – for two weeks. And state aid for the unemployed is low in many states. Mississippi, for example, pays a maximum of $ 235 a week without health insurance.
And even those who keep their job during the quarantine often have to forego their wages. The corona laws of the US Congress only oblige small and medium-sized companies to continue to pay their isolated employees. Some large companies have volunteered to do so.
But unions complain: Many others, especially the country’s fast food and hotel chains, do not transfer a cent to employees who test positive.
“The fear of quarantine,” says Marcus Plescia from the US health association ASTHO, “Makes a lot of employees refuse to test.” Plescia believes that a large number of them find the risk of a positive result too high. “You can’t afford to stay at home,” says the doctor. In the USA, there was no incentive to get tested for corona.
It seems paradoxical. In the first months of the pandemic, tests were barely available, with doctors’ offices and hospitals turning away many people with symptoms. America’s laboratories now have the necessary capacity – but the customers are missing.
Dozens of investigation centers, it is said, for example, by the New York health authorities, are underutilized. The organization Covid Tracking Project According to the recent increase in the number of infections in six states, while the number of tests fell. The gap is particularly great in Kentucky. There, the corona cases increased by 35 percent in October, while there were 38 percent fewer tests.
Skepticism is also growing in America’s universities. The University of Tennessee, for example, announced that in the first week of November only half of the students underwent the – actually mandatory – corona tests. In the past it was around two thirds. Those responsible also cite the fear of quarantine as the reason.
Afraid of the Big Brother state
This is a dramatic development, after all, tests together with contact tracing are considered crucial to bring Corona under control. Only when infected people are found and isolated can the spread of the virus be slowed down. The American uprising against masks and tests should therefore contribute to the high numbers. The pathogen has so far been detected in more than ten million US citizens and around 240,000 have died.
This doesn’t seem to deter those who refuse to test. Many apparently feel confirmed by politics. Trump played down the virus and mocked mask wearers, even after his own infection. The virus, he kept saying, would “someday” miraculously disappear.
Other Republicans are spreading the tale of the control-mad state. He fears a positive test will put him “on the radar,” said recently Utah MP Mark Strong. “The Ministry of Health doesn’t need to know if I’m sick.”
Such statements should not exactly encourage citizens to test. In addition, the economic situation remains tense – who wants to put their jobs at risk by quarantine? America, until recently, was in its worst economic crisis in nearly 100 years. When the country went into lockdown in the spring, 40 million citizens lost their jobs. The unemployment rate rose to 20 percent, a level last reached in the Great Depression.
The economy is now recovering, with quarter-on-quarter growth of 7.4 percent from July to September. The unemployment rate fell to eight percent. In many states restaurants and shops are open again, this is noticeable.
But the development announced by Trump in the form of a V – rapidly downwards and just as rapidly upwards – cannot be recognized. America’s economic output is 3.5 percent lower than it was before the pandemic. That shouldn’t be an incentive to get tested for Corona and risk isolation.