Growing Old Under British Austerity

Old

Directed by Kate Blewitt and Brian Woods (2017)

Film Review

This documentary, released three years ago, profiles the sad desperation experienced by 2.5 million British seniors living below the poverty. It would appear that this vulnerable population is also at special risk to die of COVID-19, owing to clinical protocols likely to deem them unsuitable for hospitalization, difficulty spatially isolating healthy residents from those with coronavirus infection, and failure to provide care home staff with adequate PPE (personal protective equipment).

The British government is predicting that as many as 30% of their care home residents could die of coronavirus.

After watching this film, I’m inclined to agree with this prediction. In my mind, however, the true culprit is austerity-induced poverty – not the loss of immunity allegedly experienced in everyone over 70.

In the film, viewers meet a victim of physical and financial abuse by family members; a woman battling (in court and in street protests) local council efforts to close her nursing home; an elderly man housed in a homeless shelter, a council staffer responsible for organizing funerals for poor seniors who die in total isolation from family members or friends; an elderly male repeatedly robbed and terrorize by teenage residents of his council estate, and an elderly woman who sleeps on the street in her wheelchair.

In the UK:

  • Over 180,000 seniors are abused every year in their homes.
  • One British senior is victimized by crime every 24 seconds.
  • Ten nursing homes close every week – in 2016 these closures affected over 12,000 care home residents.
  • 21,000 elderly live in homeless hostels.

How a Country (Mis)manages COVID-19 Without Sick Pay or Family Leave

Impossible Choice: America’s Paid Leave Crisis

Al Jazeera (2020)

Film Review

The US and Papua New Guinea are the only two countries in the world that fail to guarantee both sick and family leave (aka maternity or parental leave) for all their workers. Although this documentary was made just prior to the global coronavirus outbreak, it lays out clearly 1) the stark brutality of employment policies that force people to work when they or a family member is sick and 2) the significant role these policies play in spreading contagious infections – as millions of Americans show up at work with early symptoms of COVID-20.

The only good news in the film is the Family Leave and Medical Insurance Act Congresswoman Rosa DeLaura (Dem Ct) introduced in 2019. The bill would guarantee US workers 12 weeks of combined sick and family leave. Under DeLaua’s proposal, the government, rather than the employer, would manage the leave benefits, funded via joint employer/employee payroll deductions.

The film also features the heart breaking stories of a physical therapist whose 2 1/2 month old baby died at a dodgy daycare center she failed to qualify for unpaid maternity leave; a teacher who was unlawfully fired when she used unpaid FMLA* leave to care for a three-year-old son undergoing cancer chemotherapy; and a lactation coach forced to go on welfare when her husband died, leaving her the sole provider and care of a newborn baby.


*The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers of over 15 employees to allow all workers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.

 

The 1918 Influenza Pandemic (Official US Government Version)

We Heard the Bells: The Influenza of 1918

US Department of Health and Human Services (2010)

Film Review

I began watching this film believing it was a historical account of the 1918 influenza epidemic. It’s not. It’s actually a 10-year old US government propaganda film promoting flu vaccination. It’s currently being recycled in honor of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly ratcheted up the media hype over annual flu vaccination, which had never made much sense to me. Even the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) acknowledge the 2020 flu vaccine is only 45% effective (only 45% of people who receive it will be protected against influenza).

Ironically they call 2020 a good year – most years flu vaccine is even less effective

In people over 65 (the under most pressure to be vaccinated), the 2018-19 vaccine was only 16% effective.

In my view the vaccine’s low effectiveness needs to be weighed against potential side effects, which a growing body of research suggests can be considerable.

Recent studies suggest that flu vaccination can increase the risk of other viral (including coronavirus infections) in some patients.

Also that repeated flu vaccination can reduce the body’s ability to fight off influenza. See  NIH study, Canadian study, and Vaccine Failures (summary).

On a positive note, the first half of the film contains some great archival footage of survivors of the 1918 pandemic. I found it interesting that most 1918 victims died of pneumonia caused by secondary bacterial infections (rather than viral pneumonia caused by influenza virus). Doctors reported a typical pattern in which patients appeared to totally recover after 5-7 days, when weakened defenses caused them to succumb to new bacterial or fungal infections.

A number of clinicians are reporting a similar pattern with COVID-19, with patients appearing to recover, and then suddenly worsening and dying. Prior to the development of antibiotics during World War II, there was no way to treat these secondary infections. However at present most are treatable with antibiotics and anti-fungal agents. A recent Lancet paper summarizing 99 cases of COVID-19 treated in Wuhan China in December 2019 indicates all patients were tested and treated for bacterial and fungal secondary infections.

Given the 24/7 coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, I find it a little disappointing the mainstream media offers so little information regarding treatment.

The 1918 influenza pandemic reportedly killed 50 million people globally and 675,000 in the US. In contrast to COVID-19, in 1918 the vast majority of deaths were in young adults.