“The people in power right now are too comfortable with other people’s deaths.”
– Rev William Barber, Poor People’s March
As we approach the sixth month of COVID-19, we are reminded of our other plague: systemic racism. In mid-July the official count of cases per the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) was 3.5 million, which is admittedly low because there were hundreds of deaths in elder care centers not considered until a “whistleblower” in New Jersey complained to his local newspaper. Even now, many nursing homes do not “bother” doing COVID-19 tests on residents who have died. Following ethnicity is difficult because not every death is specifically listed as Black, LatinX, or Native American. But the general consensus is that Black Americans and LatinX people are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as Whites. In New Mexico, specifically, half of all COVID-19 deaths were Native American.
It is no surprise that people of color are more likely to sicken and to die than Whites. They are more likely to face economic hardship, to work in industries that expose them to coronavirus, and to suffer from chronic health problems.
In western states with meat-packing plants, Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI) sought information re: compliance with OSHA recommendations for safer work places, but USDA officials had no information and she was not allowed to tour the facilities. Of 5 million meat plant workers, supposedly only 86 have died from COVID-19. Records seem sparse.
Many people remain resistant to wearing masks and social distancing. Texas is reported to have dozens of emergency refrigerator trucks as standby mortuary vehicles. All of these areas continue to have inadequate supplies of PPE.
In mid-July, the Trump administration chose a new route to deal with questions of new COVID-19 cases and deaths by shutting down reporting of these critical facts to the CDC. Instead, all of this data will go to Health and Human Services and will NOT be available to the public. The lack of PPE and the abundance of secrecy are hideous and cannot be allowed to continue. We must vow to call our Senators and Representatives and remind them that the CDC should continue as the site for disease data.
— Karen Pataky, Director for Public Policy and Chair, Health Policy Task Force