As the coronavirus pandemic rages across the United States, Penn Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Ezekiel Emanuel is blaming the government for a short-sighted response to the outbreak.
Emanuel, who chairs Penn's Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, criticized the Trump administration's response to the virus outbreak in a virtual event — titled "Are We Winning The War Against Coronavirus?" — hosted by Perry World House on Tuesday.
Emanuel said the government's focus has been flawed because it is only considering the course of the virus over the next eight weeks. He predicts the pandemic will last for 18 more months, and in order for society to persist, Emanuel said the government will need to implement policies benefiting workers.
“We need structural changes, not band-aids of a few weeks," Emanuel said.
He called on the government to enact universal family leave policies and higher wages for essential workers, such as grocery store employees. He said these employees should receive proper health benefits and both sick and family leave.
Emanuel said it is exploitative for people to benefit from the labor of essential employees who do not receive the same protections that those working from home do.
“How are you going to get people to work in grocery stores if the trade-off is 15 bucks an hour and I might die?" Emanuel said.
Emanuel praised Philadelphia's management of the coronavirus crisis, but noted that the close proximity of New Jersey, which has more than 51,000 cases as of April 9, is a concern. He added that the outbreak has been a financial burden on Penn's health system, due to a large number of patients being in intensive care units.
Emanuel is a former healthcare advisor to the Obama administration and architect of the Affordable Care Act. The event, which is part of Perry World House's "The World Today" event series, also featured speakers Perry World House Director Michael Horowitz, and Karen Donfried, the president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
The German Marshall Fund is a nonpartisan nonprofit that focuses on strengthening transatlantic cooperation on global issues, such as securing democracy from authoritarian interference and digital innovation.
On March 25, Emanuel delivered a lecture to the Wharton School's six-week online coronavirus course, titled “Epidemics, Natural Disasters, and Geopolitics: Managing Global Business and Financial Uncertainty." He told students that policymakers must seek to prioritize health workers and offered guidance for how the United States should allocate scarce medical resources, such as ventilators and surgical masks.
Emanuel regularly contributes to The New York Times and has recently written columns emphasizing the importance of a swift national response and projecting how soon the economy may be able to recover in light of the virus.