Congress must keep COVID-19 money flowing to help the uninsured

Chicago has sponsored hundreds of events to ensure equitable access to vaccines and testing. The announcement that all funding of these resources for the uninsured will end undermines this work.

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President Joe Biden smiles after receiving his second COVID-19 booster shot in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Wednesday, March 30, 2022, in Washington. Before receiving the shot, Biden gave remarks call on Congress to pass further legislation to provide more funding to aid the COVID-19 pandemic response.

President Joe Biden smiles after receiving his second COVID-19 booster shot at the White House on March 30. Biden called on Congress to pass legislation to provide more funding for COVID-19 response.


The federal government has tragically failed to fund emergency supplemental funding for COVID-19 testing and treatment for the uninsured. On April 5, funding for vaccine administration will run out. The end of the government’s significant investment in making vaccines, boosters, treatments and masks widely available, regardless of ability to pay, threatens the last 14 months of progress against COVID.

Chicago has sponsored hundreds of events to ensure equitable access to vaccines and testing, carried out by public entities, non-profit organizations, clinics, schools, hospitals and pharmacies. The announcement that all funding of these resources for the uninsured will end undermines this work.

Vaccine efforts in Chicago are already shutting down. One such effort is with a community-based organization, Centro San Bonifacio, which opened a weekly vaccine clinic in November 2021 with Broadway Pharmacy and health care providers from the Chicago Vaccine Brigade. The clinic served families until last week, when vaccines became unavailable due to funding cuts.

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There are many more efforts such as this one throughout Chicago and the nation, reaching the uninsured and/or hard to reach.

The failure to make funds available now will be disastrous as new strains of COVID emerge. Have we learned nothing over the past two years about the danger of under-preparedness? How many more preventable deaths and severe illnesses will we experience?

We urge all Chicagoans to write to their representatives in Congress to demand full funding for COVID-19.

Chicago Vaccine Brigade Leadership: Peg Dublin, RN, MPH; Beth Blacksin, RN, PhD; Ellen Mason, MD; Kathleen Kilbane, RN, MSN; Charles Gutfeld, RN, MPH, MBA; Carol Friedman; Candace Wayne, JD.

A tribute to handwritten letters

We learned in school that Abraham Lincoln voiced his displeasure with Gen. George Meade in a letter Lincoln never sent. The 16th president wrote the letter in July 1863, 11 days after the battle of Gettysburg. The Union Army, led by Meade, had been victorious at Gettysburg, but in the following days the general failed to pursue the retreating Confederate Army and prevent it from reaching the safety of Virginia. In his letter, Lincoln reprimanded Meade for missing an opportunity to end the war.

Our history teacher said Lincoln had a habit of placing the letters he wrote in his desk drawer overnight. In the morning, he often decided not to send them, particularly when they were critical of others. Reflecting further on his letter to Meade, Lincoln considered factors such as the great number of casualties the Union Army had suffered at Gettysburg. He sealed the letter in an envelope, and it was later found among others Lincoln decided not to send.

How quaint it all now seems. Today we don’t craft letters in longhand at a desk; we key in messages on the run. We don’t pause before mailing a letter; we hastily hit “send” before we’ve given ourselves a chance to think.

I remember a customer complaint letter I received when I managed a shoe store on Michigan Avenue. The handwriting was shaky but legible. The language was plain and simple. The grammar and spelling were correct. The customer said he was disappointed in his latest pair of Florsheim shoes because the sole was wearing out after just six months. He had always worn Florsheim shoes, as had his father. He had bought them at the company’s store in his hometown until it closed years ago.

I imagine the customer sitting at a desk, or perhaps the kitchen table, to write the letter. He expressed himself in a tone that was persuasive rather than angry. At one time, his letter might have been considered quite ordinary. In my reply, I assured him we would replace the shoes and thanked him for his very good letter.

David Caplan, West Rogers Park

Ditch Columbus for Vespucci, an Italian worthy of a statue

It seems the tug of war over the Grant Park statue of Christopher Columbus is back on Chicago’s agenda, as if anything has changed since it was removed months ago in the wake of an uproar over it. The world has learned Columbus’ moral failings are too egregious to ignore, much less revere, and overshadow his good deeds. That’s why Robert E. Lee’s statues have been removed: His cause and deeds were too flawed to stand, now that our nation rejects mythology in favor of facts. Both men have too many skeletons in their closets to any longer be seen as heroic.

Even Columbus’ alleged “discovery of America” rings hollow because this continent was already populated. If in the same era a crew of Native Americans had sailed a boat eastward and landed anywhere on European shores, could it be said that they “discovered” an already populated Europe? 

After Columbus, another Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, made a name for himself exploring not in the name of Spain as Columbus did, but in the name of Italy. Unlike Columbus, his bold deeds have not been found to be controversial. Why not replace the Columbus statue with one of Vespucci, after whom America — a Latinized version of Amerigo — is named? Voila! A genuine, uncontroversial hero of Italian ancestry worthy of a statue in Grant Park or anywhere else should settle the issue.

Both reality and Italian pride would be honored in equal measure.

Ted Z. Manuel, Hyde Park

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