Part 1 – Introduction to Issues
This is a pretty loaded topic. Breaking this one up into several parts. In this post I’m addressing limitations to medical accessibility, such as uninsured rates, caregiving, and religious exemption from government advised or required disease control practices, such as social distancing. Let’s talk about human behavior and how that may impact the vulnerability of your location in the United States to coronavirus.
Accessibility, Uninsured Rates, and Alternative Medicine
There are many reasons Americans are uninsured. Being uninsured will ultimately lead to limited access to healthcare. Due to decisions that were made regarding how to implement mandated healthcare, the poor were punished for not being able to afford exorbitantly priced healthcare. I don’t care who you blame for it not working. Point is, it didn’t, and now we’re sunk. You may notice a similarity between the map above and the maps in my previous post on the closure of rural hospitals and poverty. Texas and Oklahoma are currently set up to be the two of the hardest hit states by coronavirus because these are uninsured populations that feel they cannot seek already-limited healthcare (because hospitals closed). This means that they turn to alternative medicine at home and don’t call a doctor due to the cost. Alternative medicine, though potentially complementary (waiting on research), doesn’t involve providing ventilators to people drowning from their own viral lung inflammation. Alternative medicine doesn’t necessarily involve reporting confirmed cases to the state, either.
Luckily, telemedicine is slowly stepping up the game at reducing costs and improving accessibility, but until we have Point of Care testing that allows for mass screening that could be distributed to a population via the health department – good luck. The FDA still strictly prohibits self administered tests. This is one of the major outstanding limitations preventing telemedicine from serving our most underserved and vulnerable populations in the United States during this pandemic.
Religious exemptions for medical care are a real thing. I know there are people reading this that are going to think, “but no one in their right mind is thinking that now!”
Oh honey, I wish I could say that was so. Let me first introduce you to What’s The Harm. Even without coronavirus, people are and will be dying due to lack of access to medical care in part because their families opt out via religious exemptions. When this is combined with alternative methods gone wrong and cultural factors, the vulnerability of this population is amplified by pre-existing public health issues.
Part of the states’ Stay At Home orders have meant the discontinuation of standard church gatherings and not everyone is taking it so well. Across the United States, churches are challenging these orders by stating that they are restricting freedom of religion. The continued in-person gatherings of worship services and other church functions result in COVID-19 outbreaks within communities. The Palmer Grove Baptist Church in Burke County, Georgia is one example from today, 31 March 2020. Another example: a choir practice when there were no positive cases reported in the county lead to an outbreak due to asymptomatic transmission. In Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, churches have risked or spread COVID-19 to members through gatherings or other church related events. As long as church closures are seen as a threat, these communities will be at higher risk for impacts from COVID-19.
I’ll be making a separate post dedicated to addressing the religious exemption issue in a culturally sensitive manner. Stay tuned for part 3.
Home Care For The Sick
One of the most wonderful things about America is that we are a country of caregivers. By acting as a caregivers we enter others’ homes or share homes with them to ensure their wellbeing. Remember that map from this other post on poverty and rural hospital closures?
When we care for the sick at home, a variety of other factors come into play that may delay or prevent access to medical intervention or reporting. Cultural norms around illness, including distrust of the medical system, preference for home care, and family caregiving will play their roles in the spread of COVID-19.
This means that children and older family members that do have symptoms may not have access to medical intervention, documentation, advice, or have sufficient care or separation from family members. While these deep-rooted beliefs come from a nurturing and caring place of love, it is important that cases at least be documented. These practices currently put families and communities at high risk of having the virus spread within them. While we do have recommendations for caregivers and home care instructions for coronavirus patients, they are not practical options, nor sufficient for the average family in America.
In Part 2 – Home Burials and Funeral Industry
Thank you to anyone reading these commentaries and predictions. Without you I would be shouting into a void.