It's Day 8 of the government shutdown. For many Americans who don't actually work for the government, it doesn't seem like it's too big of a deal. Sure, travels plans might be changed for the weekend, but other than that, life as many Americans know it has not really been affected.
But this isn't just about closing a few national parks and turning off some websites. Real lives are in danger because of this shutdown.
Just ask Cathy Frye. She's the hiker found yesterday sunburned, naked, and severely dehydrated in the Texas desert. She and her husband had been hiking in the Chihuahuan desert wilderness to celebrate their anniversary but had become lost when they realized that the route they had planned through Big Bend National Park was now barred due to the government shutdown. It's not at all unusual for hikers to get lost or hurt while out in nature. What is unusual — and dangerous — about the situation now is that many hikers are having to find alternate routes through the woods or desert without adequate maps, food, water or preparation. Consider the thousands of hikers attempting to hike the Appalachian Trail, the 2,100-mile hike from Georgia to Maine. The AT hike usually takes about five months to complete, so the vast majority of hikers left well before the shutdown and are now trying to figure out where they are allowed to hike to continue their journey. And when these hikers do get lost, the federal employees who are uniquely trained to locate and rescue them in the wilderness environment are furloughed and unable to come to their assistance.
The national parks aren't the only places feeling the effects of the shutdown. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been put in the painful position of having to turn away patients for clinical trials. For most of these patients, this is their last chance of survival. Traditional treatments have not worked and they are thus resting all of their hopes on a clinical trial that could be the difference between life and death. Because of the shutdown, the NIH is turning away some 200 patients a week for treatment.
You know who else is out of work thanks to the shutdown? Those Food and Drug Administration inspectors who make sure that new products entering the marketplace are safe. And the federal occupational health and safety inspectors who ensure safety standards are being met in the workplace.
The employees at the National Highway Travel Safety Association (NHTSA) who announce new car recalls and update safety defect complaints are out of work too. From the NHTSA's website: "Due to a lapse of Federal Government funding, NHTSA is unable to post any new recalls after close of business September 30, 2013."
The government shutdown has also curtailed funding for the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children. Though the program is funded through the end of the month, nearly 9 million mothers and children who currently utilize this service — women and children who live near or below the poverty line — run the risk of running out of food before the shutdown ends.
Real people. Real lives. Real dangers.
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