If you are like most, you can follow the protocols — primitive as they may be — for dealing with coronavirus: Wash your hands frequently, avoid crowds and telecommute.
You take these instructions at face value, roll the dice, and hope and pray that you and your loved ones can escape the hold of this plague that President Donald Trump continues to lie to you about on a daily basis during his Aesopian press briefings
But for many Americans living at or near the poverty level, warm running water is not a given. If you are crowded into a homeless shelter or crammed into high-rise public housing, social distancing is not an option. And you can’t telecommute without a job, so there’s no need to even bring this up.
It’s isn’t being talked about much because media outlets — liberal, conservative or independent — don’t spend much time discussing those living below or at the federal poverty line (family of three bringing home $21,700 a year, which is criminal).
No, instead you are flooded with news about members of an NBA teams — some of them taking home more than $30 million annually — having a test rushed to them, despite the fact that they are young, extraordinarily healthy, and have demonstrated no signs of the illness.
Actors Tom Hanks and Idris Elba pop up on social media — oftentimes with props they have put in place themselves — to give you an update on how they are doing in their “fight” against the virus.
Please. The wealthy aren’t fighting the virus; they are using it as an opportunity to build their brands.
What could be the greatest lesson to be learned from this insidious virus is the line of demarcation separating the poor from the almost poor, which is perilously thin.
Look no further than the massive layoffs that just took place at Philadelphia International Airport. The six-figure pilots are still getting paid. And of course, airline CEOs — all of whom have golden parachutes they will release if need be — are living just as high on the hog today as they were before the president was declaring that coronavirus will just go away.
If you are reading this, chances are you have infinitely more in common with the hundreds of wheelchair attendants, baggage handlers and cabin cleaners, who, come Monday will look at their spouses and children and be forced to tell them — on top of not being able to protect them from an infectious potential killer — that they have also been stripped of the menial job that at least allowed them to provide food, water and shelter to their loved ones.
Our city is the cradle of liberty. It is the birthplace of the nation, but is also the epicenter of the American dichotomy in that it highlights the permanence of poverty and an unwillingness to do anything substantive to address it at the municipal, state and federal levels.
Roughly 25% of Philadelphians live in poverty. How many more are a few weeks away of losing their paychecks from joining them?
If this coronavirus continues to pulverize the American economy the way it has in the last two weeks, we’ll find out.
You’ll see more out-of-work wheelchair attendants, baggage handlers and cabin cleaners than quarantined movie stars.
You’ll see more retail shop workers, waiters, waitresses and baristas crying out for help than celebrities recording trite Instagram messages.
You might be on the edge yourself.
The opinions in this column are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions of The Philadelphia Tribune.