People of color, immigrants hit harder than the affluent, officials say, but data is missing
'They’re being told, in essence, you’re dispensable’
The city’s public advocate and Brooklyn’s borough president charged on Tuesday that there are two systems for dealing with the novel coronavirus outbreak in this city — one for the affluent and one for poor black, brown and immigrant communities.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and BP Eric Adams said that while the affluent can work from home and afford to have supplies delivered, others are being told that they must make deliveries, ride on cramped subways and work in hospitals and grocery stores without personal protective equipment.
“They’re being told, in essence, ‘you’re dispensable,’” Williams told reporters.
The officials called for the city to release data on which ethnic groups are getting tested and which are getting sick, information currently not available. This data is necessary to direct resources such as PPE to where it is needed the most, and “adjust in rapid fashion to a rapidly-developing enemy,” Adams said.
Their joint press conference followed a statement from New York City Comptroller Comptroller Scott Stringer on Tuesday saying that the pandemic is hitting low-income people of color harder than affluent New Yorkers, widening pre-existing health disparities. According to Stringer, 75 percent of all frontline workers are people of color.
Stringer wants Mayor Bill De Blasio and New York City Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot to release demographic data that tracks the race, ethnicity, and occupation of COVID-19 patients.
“By all accounts, this crisis is deepening systemic social and economic inequalities in New York City and the consequence of these disparities is reinforcing a cycle of transmission, mortality, lost income and poor health care that disproportionately affects lower-income people of color,” Stringer wrote to the mayor and the health commissioner.
Williams said that the city has been sending out a “muddled message” about social distancing, including mayor de Blasio, who was photographed walking in the park without a mask on. He called for a one week total lockdown, with a zoned delivery system.
“Construction, parks — lock it down for a week or two. No rush hour. No laundromats or dry cleaners for a full week. Just pharmacies and groceries,” Williams said.
Adams said disadvantaged communities are not getting the same message that affluent neighborhoods are getting. He recalled speaking a few weeks ago about the need for social distancing to some youngsters who were playing basketball.
“Social distancing? What’s that?” they asked him.
A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office said during Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Tuesday press conference that hospitals don’t report coronavirus death rates to the state by race.
“We call the coroner’s office,” she told reporters. “We want that data, too. We’ll have that later this week.”
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