Across the country, communities of color continue to be among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. In many of these communities, for example, local leaders are intervening to try to resolve a problem that they believe is under development.
In Richmond, Virginia, teams of local firefighters and volunteers deployed across the city, knocking on doors with plastic bags, masks, hand sanitizer, and health information. way to stay healthy.
Local health officials say African Americans and Latinos account for the lion’s share of positive cases here, and 23 of the 29 local deaths from the virus so far have been among these groups.
During a recent visit to a social housing complex, Lt. Travis Stokes of the Richmond Fire Department said the result was unfortunately and entirely predictable.
“It will always affect low-income communities and minorities, just for the simple fact that they have been doing things for so many years,” said Stokes. “He hasn’t left; he’s still there.”
Richmond coronavirus data reflect national statistics that show the largely disproportionate impact of coronavirus on communities of color. According to Data from the Centers for Disease ControlBlack Americans are hospitalized at about five times the rate of white Americans. For Hispanics, the rate is four times that of whites.
Stokes, who recently obtained a doctorate in health sciences, is helping to lead the effort, which targets areas of high poverty and pre-existing health problems, and with a significant number of residents belonging to racial minorities. All are groups considered to be at increased risk for the coronavirus.
Richmond partners with the Commonwealth of Virginia to distribute tens of thousands of bags of personal protective equipment to help fill racial gaps.
Dr. Danny Avula, director of public health for Richmond, said another goal was to build trust with people who may be afraid of government officials after a long history of oppression.
“Our response to that was, OK, we have to be more on the ground; we have to have more face to face conversations, and we have to find credible voices and faces in these communities to be able to get the message out,” Avula said.
Country leaders and activists face similar challenges as they try to reach those most at risk.
In Massachusetts, public servants hire local workers at community health centers to work as contact tracers who can, in many cases, literally speak the language of the people they are trying to reach.
Michael Curry, an official with the League of Massachusetts Community Health Centers and a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors, said it was important at a time when many people are trying to navigate complicated and sometimes contradictory messages. health officials.
“This is all so confusing and it makes people very suspicious – even suspicious of the system – hence the reason why you have to be very intentional about who communicates with them,” said Curry.
In Mississippi, NAACP leaders say they have distributed masks to people living in hot spots for the virus.
Dr. Oliver Brooks, president of the National Medical Association, a group representing black doctors, says efforts like these are a good start.
“This is really important, because literally right now people are dying, so you have to have an acute response,” said Brooks.
But Brooks says preventing another crisis like this will require substantial systemic changes to improve access to food, housing, employment and health care for people of color.
“We have to tackle the social determinants of health. This puts us at greater risk of poor outcomes,” he said. “It’s the same old story, but that’s what needs to be done.”
Angel Dandridge-Riddick, 34, has worked as a nurse and sometimes visits his mother in the social housing complex in Richmond called Creighton Court. On the day of the distribution of supplies, she said she appreciated the effort to provide protective gear to the people here, but warned that this was just the beginning.
“What they are doing is great – but having a hand sanitizer and a few masks – if you have three other people in their house who work in different fields, they will need their own hand sanitizer. A bottle will probably last you a week, “said Dandridge-Riddick.
In addition, she said, it is difficult for many of your neighbors to stay healthy during a pandemic, when they often lack basic health care.
“I’m just being honest, a lot of people here at Creighton Court don’t know anything about health care coverage; all they know is Medicaid,” she said. “And if they can’t get it, they have nothing.”
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney says the problems that have made this pandemic worse for many people of color have been around for a long time and that without major structural changes they will continue after the pandemic is over. Stoney said he hoped this crisis would give way to long-term change.
“We cannot go back to where we were before COVID-19; we have to go to a different place which ensures that every citizen of this country gets the most out of it,” said Stoney. “It doesn’t matter the neighborhood they live in or the color of their skin.”