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Birdie Shelton, a driver who returns rental cars, dies from coronavirus: the effects of massive exposure to the new pandemic virus


(photo courtesy of pixabay)

Yesterday’s Washington Post carried an article telling the story of Birdie Shelton, a woman who returned rental cars for servicing to their central locations.  In her job, she was exposed to secretions and excretions from people who had driven and ridden in cars that they had rented.  In part, their motives were to prevent exposure through riding on public transportation.  Her job, which she was forced to do by economic necessity, probably killed her.

The story was particularly affecting and effective because it was told by her partner, who dictated his recollections of her sudden illness and demise within days of its onset.  These people, Indiana residents and members of the lower middle class, are helpless in the face of economic and epidemiological pressures that prevent them from taking time off when they are sick and massively expose them in the course of their work.

Never mind that she had multiple risk factors for severe disease.  Never mind that she voluntarily chose this job.  The rental car companies are responsible for their employee’s well-being.

First, the story shows how massive exposure can result in sudden, fatal symptoms.  Second, this story shows why the capitalist system, without sufficient regulation and supervision, will be the death of us all (except the lucky 0.1%).

PS at the time the story was published, Birdie’s partner was also ill and confined to his home.  He was unable to access her cell phone because she was too sick to give him the password.  His electricity had been turned off (he got it back on, luckily).  He was in danger because she had handled the finances for the two of them, and he was unable to find work.  He will probably die too, because his exposure to her was of the same magnitude as her exposure to others.

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