|Coronavirus: Remember Vulnerable Communities
by Jamala Rogers
Last month, Wisconsin confirmed its first coronavirus case in Dane County. The coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19, is worth watching
for several reasons. The virus has infected nearly 110,000 people and killed 3,800 in 100 countries.
The orange man in the White House first proclaimed the coronavirus as a Democratic hoax. Then in his infinite ignorance, president trump assured
the country that the virus would “miraculously go away” by summer. Luckily, some local and state jurisdictions proceeded to chart their own
strategies to safeguard the public.
It appears that the outbreak finally got the full attention it deserved once the U.S. stock market plunged. When rich folks cough, poor folks have
convulsions. When white folks catch a cold, Black folks get pneumonia. Race and class are often contributing factors in which communities receive
information and services, and when.
From what I’ve read, Wisconsin is building its network of agencies and partners to coordinate a strategy of prevention and intervention. I’m not able to
judge the efficacy of these efforts. And from where I sit, I definitely can’t tell if there’s an aggressive, multi-faceted campaign to get vital information
and services to vulnerable communities.
For a variety of reasons, COVID-19 is still not at the top of most poor and working-class people’s priority list. Many of them are struggling for day-to-
day survival. They are trapped in issues such as poverty, unemployment, homelessness or unsafe housing and mental health issues. Add in social
factors that affect health like food deserts, lack of insurance and limited recreational opportunities. All this is compounded by a legitimate mistrust of
government and the medical industrial complex.
I’ve witnessed a couple of these situations in my lifetime from national disasters to health epidemics. I checked out how my community and other
communities of color are affected, how they are served — or not. I think about the AIDS epidemic and how it ravaged African American communities.
Accurate information was slow to be disseminated to Black communities. Misinformation like AIDS being a white, gay disease allowed risky
behaviors to run amuck in Black spaces.
Similar rumors has emerged about the coronavirus on social media —
Black people can’t catch it, the virus doesn’t “stay” on us.
The initial AIDS funding poured into LGBTQA communities. Black and
Brown communities had to fight to get their share of the pie.
Communities of color were unnecessarily pitted against the gay
It was deja vue when the crack cocaine epidemic was unleashed on
our communities with a vengeance in the 1980s. The devastation on
Black families and Black futures is still untold and immeasurable. For
its pain and suffering, the community was punished with long and
harsh sentences whether they were users or dealers. Racist laws on
crack sentences is one of the biggest factors in the explosion of the
prison industrial complex.
Fast forward to the opioid crises affecting mainly white people. Laws
and policies decriminalize its use and programs abound for abusers.
The drug Narcan that reverses opioid overdoses is widely available.
Again, pitting communities against one another.
Given modern history, I don’t have high hopes that communities like
mine will get the preventive attention they need in the face of COVID-19.
The budgets of most city’s public health departments have been
decimated and their capacity to sound the alarm is limited. There’s no
calvary coming to save us. Just the facts. The symptoms are fever,
coughing and difficulty breathing. If you experience these symptoms,
seek immediate medical attention. Wash your hands and wipe down
surfaces like you have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Stay
away from people who are coughing or sneezing. It will be up to people
like you and me to get the word out to these vulnerable populations
about how to prevent the spread of the virus in our homes, workplaces,
schools and neighborhoods.
We must take matters into our own hands. Just thoroughly wash them