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Underlying social and economic inequalities in the United States as well as the current political climate may create unique opportunities for the coronavirus to spread, the Washington Post reported. 

In the report titled, “The coronavirus could hit the U.S. harder than other wealthy countries,” the Post writes that, “Epidemics emerge along the fissures of our society, reflecting not only the biology of the infectious agent, but patterns of marginalization, exclusion, and discrimination. The United States has many open wounds rooted in decades of racist policies and the criminalization of poverty. The coronavirus is likely to reveal deep failures and reinforce existing health inequities.”

The Post uses key statistics in their analysis, including the fact that nearly half of Americans between the ages of 19 and 64 have inadequate health insurance, close to 13 million children live in poverty, and around 2 million Americans live without running water and basic indoor plumbing. Additionally, over 2 million Americans, disproportionately people of color, are incarcerated and left out of emergency preparedness plans. 

Three social phenomena were identified by the Post, all of which could make the coronavirus more deadly: “growing mistrust of institutions and science an an acceptance of ‘alternative facts’; a widely held belief in individual responsibility for disease prevention and a social solidarity gap; and a spike in anti-immigrant sentiment and ‘othering.’”

While the risk of serious illness and death is relatively low for many young, healthy Americans, and health departments throughout the U.S. are implementing prevention measures, the Post advises that “an intentional, human-rights-based response that pays attention to health equity” is vital. 

“This will require honest conversations about the potential human rights challenges posed by quarantine and other measures as well as more discussions about the ethical distribution of limited resources,” the Post reports.

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