Has the Pandemic ‘Dust’ Settled For Your Family?

There is now talk about COVID-19, whereby it is said that “the dust has settled”. The market has rebounded, and people are shifting into ‘high gear’. Exactly what does that look like for individuals, families and businesses in the U.S.?

The country has been on ‘lock down’ since  early-mid March, and by now, every person here is filled with uncertainty about the future, yet anxious to come back outside. People want to shop, work, learn and play as we had grown accustomed to, as our ‘normal’. Navigating life in that ‘normal’ that we crave, first of all, did not work for everyone with any semblance of equity.

This pandemic has forced us indoors, without the many daily distractions that characterized our lives before this public health crisis. The nation, the world, became scared and it was scary to even consider leaving the confines and safety of sheltering in place. As a result of being indoors, America has been forced to look at herself, caused us to look inward.

What was completely focused on white Americans as a warning against this threat, was shown to disproportionately impact the lives of people of color-the poorer members of society. We were flooding the media, TV and internet, with information on a daily basis, interrupting regular schedules with special segments focused on this virus. What Americans saw was white people and their reactions to the virus, the risks of being infected were targeting white people. The faces of the infected persons  were also white.-ALL white. The country shut itself down out of that intense fear of loss of white lives.

What was discovered was that those white people who became infected with COVID-19, recovered at much greater numbers than people of color, whom were never given a hint about even the most remote possibility that they would become infected. Testing facilities were placed or constructed in our suburbs, and more affluent white communities. The federal government, military forces were coming in from everywhere with floating hospitals, with health care workers traveling to those places, like New York, to help minimize the fatalities.

While whites were recovering, and thus taking their guards down considerably, people of color were dying of COVID-19 at alarming rates. This is just about the time when cries were heard around the country, for ‘opening up’ America for business. People were protesting to return to their normal business lives.White America saw the downed numbers in their bottom lines, and they were demanding that they return to their businesses of making money.

Black and minority-owned businesses were suffering, as well. However, with the information showing how devastated their communities were in reference to the pandemic, these business owners, or others, were loudly urging their leaders to give them the green light, and get back out there. Situations in these communities dictated that wisely, they must continue to wait. Their neighbors, friends and loved ones were at risk of death or were still dying.

 

Many stories would soon be told from black and brown people who sought medical consultation to address their concerns about their health status. In hospital settings or physicians’ offices, many individuals requested the much talked about COVID-19 tests, they were refused outright. Many were told that they simply had a ‘bug’, and were sent home for needed ‘ bed rest’ or Tylenol. Those refusals certainly contributed to the high death rate. Nowhere to get tested, medical providers’ refusals to administer tests, and inadequate health insurance coverage, all have and are still threatening lives and negatively impacting these families at alarming numbers. However, America is now preparing to get back to business as usual.

Sure, the published data suggests that the overall numbers of deaths and hospitalizations have significantly decreased since the early months of the pandemic. We have to consider what data might be evidenced, if disaggregated by race and ethnicity. Will the numbers of black and brown people who are dying or hospitalized due to COVID-19 be sufficiently decreased to statistically justify re-opening your state or the entire country? Or do these people, human beings, matter at all?

Death rates among Black people between 55-64 years are higher than for white people aged 65-74, and death rates are higher for Blacks aged 65-74 than for whites aged 75-84, and so on. In every age category, Black people are dying from COVID at roughly the same rate as white people more than a decade older. Age-specific death rates for Hispanic/Latino people fall in between.

These disparities can be observed at all ages, but are especially marked in somewhat younger age groups. These disparities can be seen more clearly by comparing the ratio of death rates among Black and Hispanic/Latino people to the rate for white people in each age category. Among those aged 45-54, for example, Black and Hispanic/Latino death rates are at least six times higher than for whites.

Whites comprise 62% of people in the U.S. between ages 45-54.  In that age group, 1,013 white people have died from COVID-19 (22% of the total) compared to 1,448 Black people and 1,698 Hispanic/Latino people. If the death rate has decreased, the decreases are shown to be among whites. That said, black and Hispanic populations are still at much greater risk of infection and resulting death from the coronavirus.

What can be presumed in light of the current climate, is that as soon as white people are in the clear, so to speak, states are reopening, even in light of the easily accessed data showing a large portion of our population, in general and specifically, are still suffering. Many have just recently been given access to testing for the virus. Results are still coming in-not yet conclusive. Do black lives really matter? And, are we supposed to believe that the ‘dust’ has settled in this pandemic health emergency? What seems obvious is that we need to do more reflecting, and decide whether we want ALL lives to matter or continue to under-value black and brown lives. We have to decide who are ‘essential’ , or whether we are all uniquely important to a true democracy wherein justice[racial, social, legal, education, medical care] is for ALL.

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