The coronavirus has held a mirror up to societies all across the world. As countries respond to the pandemic, we're learning the different things that societies value. The elderly and the poor - the most vulnerable in every society - are the most at risk from this disease and require extra care and attention.
Different countries have responded to their needs in different way. A photograph from Las Vegas has raised eyebrows over the past 24 hours, and shone some light on the depressing inequality of living and dying in America.
The Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, a 500-bed homeless shelter in Las Vegas was forced to close last week, when a resident and a staff member contracted Covid-19. The residents needed to sleep somewhere, so the shelter improvised. It used the car park of Cashman Field, a small soccer stadium in downtown Vegas. Resident slept on sleeping mats on the tarmacadam and staff ensured that they kept two metres of distance.
Nevada, a state in one of the richest countries in the world, has painted social-distancing boxes on a concrete parking lot for the homeless to sleep in. pic.twitter.com/svNJ0N9r3f
— A Mancino-Williams (@Manda_like_wine) March 30, 2020
It's such a depressing image. And yet it could somehow be worse. One woman quoted by a local news outlet said the arrangement meant people could feel more secure. "This right here is helping us feel secure, feel safe. Other places, you don’t feel safe,” she said. It was also a better way to avoid Covid-19 than sleeping in a crowded homeless shelter.
But here's the kicker: these people are living in Las Vegas, the tourism capital of America. There are estimates of 150,000 hotel beds in the greater Las Vegas area and estimates of 6,500 homeless people in the city. All of those beds are empty right now. The coronavirus has levelled Las Vegas tourism. Surely some hotelier could open his doors to the homeless community of the city. It would curb the spread of the disease and ease many people's burdens at a very difficult time. Don't these casino owners, who've wildly profited for decades in Sin City, have some moral responsibility to now open their doors?
Perhaps it's no surprise that in the same city this week, an A&E nurse was evicted from her apartment because she was exposed to Covid-19.
Here in Ireland, we cannot throw any stones when it comes to dealing with homelessness. However we can certainly learn from the failings of other countries. Unfortunately America is providing many examples of what not to do during a pandemic.
Photo credit: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock