Puerto Rico Remains So Very Fucked (and the Rest of Us Might Be, Too)

The unsurprising but still alarming number of dead from Hurricane Maria, as estimated by a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, is more than 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina combined: at least 4645 killed directly by the storm or in the aftermath. It ought to be a scandal that our bumblefuck president not only low-balled the number by over 4500 but bragged about the federal government's response in keeping the death toll minimal. It ought to be a scandal that it took a private entity to accurately report the thousands of dead. But scandals are cheap in this shit era we're damned to live through. And the only thing that's cheaper are the lives of the American citizens on Puerto Rico.

Here's what else we've learned recently:

On Sunday, El Nueva Dia reported, "Eight months after Hurricane Maria, four main transmission lines of the island's power grid remain unrepaired." This means that much of the island now gets power from sub-transmission lines, and that leaves the power grid vulnerable to weather events, like, say, another hurricane, the season for which starts Friday. Actually, one FEMA official said that "a small tropical storm" could take down the grid. On top of that, thousands of families still do not have power and some still do not have water.

A Frontline report revealed just how disparately the situation in Puerto Rico was treated when compared to the federal government response after Hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida. Nine days after the storms, Puerto Rico, where a third of the houses had been wrecked or damaged, received just 5000 roof tarps, compared to 20,000 for Texas and 98,000 for Florida. Just 10,000 federal personnel were in Puerto Rico after 9 days, compared to 22,000 for Florida and 30,000 for Texas. Yes, by the time of Maria, FEMA and other federal workers were stretched thin, but even at its peak of 16,500, Puerto Rico never had the same number of people there to help out as the other two.

FEMA has approved less than half of the 750,000 applications for housing assistance for people who are trying to rebuild in Puerto Rico. This is because, especially in rural areas, people don't have the records that are required in order to get the aid. And even those who had them saw them washed away in the storm. FEMA has provided an average of $2974 in assistance, and the program will end on June 30.

Finally, there continues to be the way that the disaster in Puerto Rico has the potential to be a disaster for the whole country if we don't invest a fuck-ton of funds there. 90% of emergency room physicians say that "they have experienced shortages or absences of critical medicines in their emergency departments" in the past month. On top of that, 93% say "their emergency departments are not 'fully prepared' for patient surge capacity in the event of a natural or man-made disaster, or mass-casualty incident," with less than half saying they are even "somewhat prepared." One reason (though not the only one) for these shortages is that "up to 10% of all drugs consumed by Americans" were made at pharmaceutical companies in Puerto Rico, along with about half the IV saline and a large percentage of the IV bags used by, well, everyone from the local EMT to your big damn hospitals. Those facilities still aren't fully back and are subject to the whims of the weakened power grid.

The fact that we're not still focused on how fucked Puerto Rico is speaks to a general acceptance that the rank racism of the Trump administration is just a part of our daily lives. There was a massive tragedy involving millions of our fellow Americans, with thousands of them dying, and our government is choosing to do the bare minimum because bad news fucks up the MAGA triumphalism.