COVID-19 deaths show racial disparities

COVID-19 deaths show racial disparities

Gov. John Bel Edwards shared new data on Monday showing that black Louisianans, who make up only 32% of the state’s population, account for more than 70% of deaths from COVID-19. These numbers result from huge health disparities between white and black residents, the product of centuries of systemic racism. The Advocate’s Gordon Russel and Sam Karlin report: 

Several experts said the prevalence of chronic health conditions among black people is clear evidence of lingering structural racism in health care delivery. “These differences are produced by policy, not physiology,” said Amy Lesen, an associate professor and researcher in the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center at Dillard University. “They’re based on race and class bias in the health care system, access to health care and preventative care.”

Experts also note another inequality exposed by the pandemic: For many black workers, who disproportionately staff essential jobs in the state that require on-site work, working from home is not an option. 

“We’re seeing more infection in black communities, and that’s because of the front-facing jobs, not being able to work from home,” (Dr. Camara) Jones, (a family physician, epidemiologist and visiting fellow at Harvard University) said. “We’re equally susceptible biologically, but we’re not equally susceptible socially.” 

One way to reduce disparities would be to ensure that front-line workers have the equipment they need to be safe at work. Writing in | The Advocate, former Louisiana health secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee and Xavier University President Reynold Verret elaborate:

We believe that we need to look at access to protective gear and education about workplace safety as a health equity issue. … Unfortunately, many … essential personnel are disproportionately low income or hourly wage workers. They are unable to stay home from work to protect their health and often lack benefits such as paid sick leave. … Leaders lead during times of crisis and right now it is time for our national corporations to lead the effort to protect their employees and establish work safety standards.


Low pay and poor worker protections leave Louisiana’s economy vulnerable
The economic wreckage of the coronavirus pandemic has exposed critical gaps in Louisiana’s safety net for workers, such as inadequate unemployment benefits and a lack of a paid sick leave requirement. While the federal stimulus laws brought a temporary salve for many, we need lasting reforms to ensure our economy works for everyone. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy’s Jenice R. Robinson explains why we can’t return to the economic status quo after we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The pandemic did not create the 40-year trend of widening economic inequality, a hollowed-out middle class and stagnant workers’ wages. The responsibility for this rests squarely on special interests, corporate forces and their political allies who have facilitated explosive growth in CEO compensation and shareholder value while suppressing rank-and-file workers’ wages and benefits.  


Worries for renters when Louisiana’s eviction ban ends
The federal CARES Act includes a 120-day ban on evictions. Yet many Louisiana renters will still face removal from their homes when Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statewide eviction ban is lifted, which could come at the end of this month. That’s because the CARES Act only applies to those living in government-subsidized housing and landlords with federally-backed mortgages. The Advocate’s Terry Jones outlines steps lawmakers can take to ensure no one is evicted during this global pandemic: 

Fair housing advocates say Congress should go a step further as lawmakers mull over possibly drafting another stimulus relief package related to the coronavirus pandemic. They say unless it includes stipulations that actually press the pause button on everyone’s obligations to pay monthly rents and mortgages as the nation struggles to rebound from the job losses the virus has caused, the state’s homeless population will skyrocket by the summer. “We need Congress to look at things like rent and mortgage forgiveness,” said Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center. “Or some kind of significant investment in providing housing assistance, like cash, to help people catch up on housing costs once the moratorium ends.” 


The bills pile up for colleges
It took Louisiana’s public colleges and universities nearly a decade to start recovering from the financial hits they endured after the Great Recession. Now the prospect of another, deeper financial downturn has institutions across the nation scrambling to stay financially afloat as campuses shutter and revenue from sports, campus housing and other sources dry up. The AP’s Collin Binkley and Jeff Amy report that many are looking to Washington for help: 

The $2 trillion rescue bill signed by President Donald Trump last month provides $14 billion for higher education. The American Council on Education, an association of college presidents, had requested $50 billion and called the package “woefully inadequate.”


Number of the Day
$38 million – Amount that BCFS Health and Human Services, a faith-based nonprofit based in San Antonio, is being paid by Louisiana to provide medical staff and services at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Local union leaders have raised alarms that no Louisiana workers were hired to do this work. (Source: | The Advocate)