COVID 19 shines light on equity issues in the United States, particularly the missing perspective of many communities in the national conversation regarding effects of COVID-19 including hospitalization and death rates.
Dr. Daniel Turner-Lloveras, a founding member of Latino Coalition Against COVID-19, who received his medical degree from the University of Chicago- Pritzker School of Medicine, explains: “We foresaw some of the events today when the disease first came out. We saw the rates at which Blacks and Latinos were dying and the inequitable distribution of the vaccine. Part of the issue is there are only 20 states at the moment that are sharing data related to the racial background of those getting vaccines. If we are unable to measure the number of people of color who are being vaccinated, it is difficult to see the disparity when there is one and to find a solution. We have essential workers, which are predominantly Black and Latino Americans, and we do not see them being represented and considered when decisions are being made, they need to have a say and a voice. Once the vaccine is widely available, we have to do a lot of outreach in all neighborhoods and talk to people in their language and answer all their questions without judgment they might have about the vaccine.”
Virginia Hedrick, executive director of the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health and a member of the Yurok Tribe, further elaborates: “As we had predicted, we are seeing American Indians and Alaskan Natives contracting COVID-19 at rates 3.5 times higher and hospitalized 4 to 5 times more than non-Hispanic white counterparts. What’s really important to laser in on is the disparities that exist among certain age groups. There has been special attention on elder adults, but in our community, we are seeing those aged 20 to 29 dying at a rate 10.5 times high than that of our non-Hispanic individuals. We are not experiencing COVID in the same way and it is different in each place.”
Dr. David M. Carlisle, president and CEO of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, who earned his PhD and Master of Public Health from UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, adds: “What is really concerning to me is we weren’t prepared for COVID-19. Los Angeles Times publishes information on COVID every day. We can see the percentage of cases and deaths compared to the population, divided by race. This is California wide data, and it shows how significantly our Latinx and Black communities are being overwhelmed by COVID-19. They are more likely to be infected and more likely to die. Most people of color know someone who has died from COVID. I would like to see the data in a noncumulative form meaning looking at the change in the change. Also, there was an article in the New York Times titled “Dying of COVID in a ‘Separate and Unequal L.A. Hospital’” and the most shocking thing for me when I read in this article was how MLK Hospital had called for reinforcements. They were was trying to transfer their worst patients, and they were told repeatedly no by other hospitals, because their patients did not have health insurance. MLK is a private not-for-profit community hospital. It has only 130 beds and was not made to deal with the complexities of patients who had COVID-19. They are located in epicenter of the pandemic in the Los Angeles County. There is only so much they could do. They had tents outside and they staff working twenty-four-hour days.”
Adam Carbullido is the director of policy and advocacy at the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Carbullido summarizes some of the major challenges: “In many of the national conversations I have seen, the experience of Asian American, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders is often left out of the dialogue nationally.
There is a high burden of COVID deaths in the Asian-American community, who have the highest risk of hospitalization. Pacific Islanders have the highest confirmed cases according to states that provide racial data on COVID. Unfortunately, was pointed out previously, data is not great in our communities.”