COVID-19 has exposed what we already knew: that the rich (and famous) will always have priority access to crucial, life-saving resources.
Watching this virus collapse whole economic systems, flip historic beefs on their head, and—slowly, but systematically—bring every “developed” country it touches to its knees has been interesting to watch. But perhaps the most interesting thing to watch, besides watching the myth of “civility” dissipating before me as motherfuckers fight each other over four rolls of Angel Soft tissue paper, is how the stark class divides and social perks are determining factors in who gets tested and who does not.
Or, in the worst-case scenario, who gets tested at all.
It sounds super dystopian. It sounds like I’m making it up. In fact, it sounds like a very special episode of The Hunger Games before they were The Hunger Games, aired on The CW, where the darkest person you’d hypothetically see on its cast would be a Zoë Kravitz tether. But, if we really consider who has been able to be publicly tested (and have access to such testing) in the last couple of weeks, it starts to make sense:
The Utah Jazz
Approximately a week ago, before the NBA would officially cancel its regular season, it was announced that Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19. And then a clip emerged of him, some time prior, touching all over a bunch of mics, tables, chairs, and etc after a press conference “as a joke” because he hadn’t taken the virus seriously at the time. And within x amount of days, it was reported that the entire team had been tested as a result (with only Gobert and teammate Donovan Mitchell testing positive)… and that the state of Oklahoma had used whopping 58 tests on them (to put it in perspective, the US was barely testing 55 people per state at that point). Of course, people were rightfully upset with Gobert’s carelessness (as was I), seeing as his foolishness put his team in danger in real-time and caused unnecessary panic. But a question lingered in my head:
How the fuck were they all tested that quickly?
Particularly when it’s clear that the US is way behind the rest of “the developed world” when it comes to testing for COVID-19? Well, this is a question that would not get answered right away and would instead become increasingly and gratingly relevant as time went on.
Tom and Rita Hanks
Five days ago, Tom Hanks announced that he and his wife, Rita Hanks, had been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Now, this is the one that punched me in the chest. Tom Hanks is a national treasure (with the exception of subjecting us to his son… Chet), with a heart of gold, who mostly minds his own fucking business. I mean, the dude played Mr. Rogers for crying out loud. And mayhaps, because of his celebrity, it did not even occur to me that Hanks could even catch this shit… even though people have been—for lack of a better group of words—very diligent about parroting who exactly is more “vulnerable” to COVID-19 (I.e the immunocompromised, people over 60, etc). But Hanks shattered this facade by posting to his socials that he and his wife had been positively diagnosed with the aforementioned virus after experiencing symptoms like body aches, chills, “slight” fevers, and intensified fatigue. The “How the fuck were they tested so quickly” question was very much in the back of my mind, but considering that they were both abroad—in Australia to be clear—because Hanks was filming a movie at the time, I didn’t focus on it nearly as much as I should.
Which… was a big mistake.
Earlier this week, in news that rocked the worlds of aunts and aunties everywhere, Sir Idrissa Elba came onto his socials and announced that he, too, had tested positive for COVID-19. This is coming after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic over six days ago. This was also Earth-shattering for a number of reasons. Mainly because Elba was most certainly the last person I thought would catch it because of, again, celebrity. And this particular thought goes beyond “the cult of celebrity”. Nah. I feel this to be the case because fame, in particular, is very good at obscuring one’s humanity. This obscurification—whether celebrities lean into it or not—results in these famous people being somewhat removed from the general populace. In a worst-case scenario, it can intertwine with “the cult of celebrity” and grant them somewhat god-status, and in the event of death, tenuous immortality. And this gets multiplied times 28237504394303 when the celebrity in question is revered, loved, and respected.
This is why there will continue to be shock at [beloved] celebrities like Elba and Hanks popping up with positive statuses—sans the injustice of only celebrities appearing to have access to this test.
In addition to this, if you were not convinced that Black people could test positive for the disease after the Utah Jazz fiasco, Elba’s diagnosis makes it very likely you will be convinced now. And lastly… because Elba had just confirmed what the CDC and health officials around the world had hoped to every God in existence was not the case:
That one could be asymptomatic when it comes to COVID-19… and still be spreading that shit around.
Indeed. Elba confirmed this when he stated that he was showing no symptoms, but had (wisely) decided to self-quarantine for the foreseeable future. Part of me breathed a sigh of relief that he was okay, acting in a responsible manner that was the complete opposite of “rugged individualism,” and was using his platform to warn all who could see that, yes, your goofy-ass could never cough once and could STILL be carrying the disease… which means your goofy-ass needs to stay inside your house. But the other part of me questioned, again, how he got tested so quickly?
Lots of people hypothesized that he had been tested so quickly because he had possibly been in contact with other positive people—allegedly after posing for a photo with Sophie Trudeau at a charity event—while partying and socializing around the globe… as celebrities do. But with this being the third example of a celebrity coming forward about testing, while the rest of the so-called “Western world” (mainly the US and the UK) scramble to get access to even one singular test, it’s—as Nene Leakes once said—getting weird. I mean, how else do we explain the fact that the American turnaround for tests still clocks in at days instead of hours (and whose weekly testing numbers are barely touching the hundreds) and yet somehow these celebrities that either live here or do mad business here are seemingly able to pull these test results out of their ass? How do we explain the fact that whole state governments and governors are being forced to do our baboon-of-a-president’s job and push for faster and more accessible testing not just for the general populace but for the first responders who are treating them or at the very least providing them with food? How do we explain that even “leaders” over in the UK seem resigned to letting their general populace die and yet, again, we have whole UK-born celebrities emerging with positive test results?
At this point, if you’re still stuck on the surface-level BS of these celebrities getting tested because “they travel so much,” you are missing the point.
And the point is that you, whether you consider yourself poor, working-class, or even middle class, are not a priority for testing… or resources. And this goes doubly for those who operate outside the scope of celebrity.
Which is yet another example, a sneak peek even, of the divide in the greater turmoil to come. Whether it includes a pandemic like this or, say, climate change. The rich (and the famous) will always get access to these resources first, and in extreme cases, receive the option to escape or opt-out of the turmoil first. We can joke about it all we want (with some examples being more hilarious than others like Amram’s tweet), but that’s the deduction. That’s the conclusion.
We can either accept that or we can keep pretending that nothing is wrong and that there isn’t something stupendously rotten about this system we’re living in.