Vax 2 the Max

The casinofication of public health

Collage like painted images of nurses administering vaccines, a police officer, protesters, etc. in a blocky, colorful style that renders figures out of proportion to one another
Myra Eastman, Covid Diaries # 8 First Jabs. 2021, acrylic on linen. 36 × 48". Courtesy of the artist.

Alongside the inescapable anxiety and dread and horror, the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic brought a promise of collectivity. Here was a crisis that, for all the inequalities it surfaced and recapitulated, didn’t leave anyone out. Americans realized that everyone mattered to everyone else. Social programs long deemed unthinkable in the United States were not only thinkable, but being implemented frantically. Debt payments were halted, eviction moratoriums were issued, unemployment benefits were expanded, and money was deposited in people’s bank accounts. Streets were closed to cars to make space for cyclists and pedestrians, and schools and workplaces created options for “remote learning” and “remote work”a rapid shift in accessibility measures for which disability activists had fought for years. Therapists and insurance companies reduced or waived costs. Grocery stores and pharmacies set aside times for only the elderly to shop. Safety was notcould no longer bean individual concern, proffered by a gun or by taking one’s family and tax revenue to the suburbs. It was a social production whose creation was in our hands.

In this vulnerable moment of possibility, mutual aid blossomed. In cities across the country, people contributed to bail funds and deposited food in take-what-you-need refrigerators. Groups delivered meals to the elderly and to anyone who needed a bite. People gathered in record numbers to protest police violence, worried they might get sick from marching so closely but trusting there was safety in collective action, or in collective youth. People passed out hand sanitizer, masks, and water. They worked together to distribute the risk of police violence and to reduce the risk of the virus at the same time.

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