The Inequity of COVID-19
As a senior nearing the end of my high school career, I was dumbstruck when first told that the impending threat of COVID-19 may actually impact my own life. I was heartbroken about the spring break plans cancelled, the nonexistent last classes with my favourite teachers, the broken promise of wearing my prom dress and the inability to walk across the stage to get my diploma. While I am still heartbroken over these things—over the moments I had planned and looked forward to for four years gone in an instant—I have learnt to put a new perspective on this heartbreak.
I remember a conversation I had with my brother a few days after the stay in place order was announced. I, half joking and half searching for someone else to feel sorry for me, confessed how worried I was that I might not get the prom and the graduation I had always wanted and expected. He responded, without missing a beat, that he was actually worried about losing elderly family members to this deadly virus. In that moment, though I was just somewhat faced with proof of my ignorance, I didn’t truly comprehend the full extent of how lucky I was and am.
I soon began seeing a surge of news articles, and even celebrities, drawing the public’s attention to the unequal ways that COVID-19 has been affecting different communities, particularly those of color and lower income families. A virus that has previously seemed to affect both the rich and the poor, the nameless and the famous, has developed at alarming rates in marginalized communities.
According to the CDC, African Americans only make up 13% of the U.S population but account for 30% of COVID-19 patients. Sadly, there are glaring reasons for these disturbing numbers. According to Anna North, a reporter from Vox, factors ranging from racial discrimination in medical settings, to housing discrimination forcing people of color into areas more affected by “environmental contamination,” to even the health impacts of discrimination have led to the discrepancy.
Unfortunately, the majority of essential workers are people of color, particularly women of color. According to the Current Populations Survey, 37.7% of essential services were comprised of black employees, compared to 26.9% of white employees. This disparity is even more striking in fields such as healthcare, where employees are 50% more likely to be black. The New York MTA system is a glaring example of this inequity; people of color comprise more than 60% of the MTA workforce, which since April 8th reported that 41 of its employees had passed away and 6,000 had been diagnosed with COVID-19, or were quarantining for precautionary measures.
Recently, the New York Times also drew readers’ attention to the fact that one out three of every employed woman works as an essential worker. The article, written by Campbell Robertson and Robert Gebeloff, was striking, and it summed up a very shared and important sentiment: those who we rely on most right now are those who we constantly forget. In all honesty, this article was not meant to prove or argue anything, but rather to remind us that as a community we must never forget those who worked tirelessly, and at a great cost, to provide us with at least a taste of normality and humanity during this crisis.