Catastrophic circumstances demand unchallengeable fairness and clear-cut objectivity. Although the absence of such fairness and objectivity is a hard reality of life, it should be at this most frightening of times. Part of the official response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the United States conveys what is wrong, what leaves the most vulnerable in society more exposed to potentially more life-threatening situations.
In a revealing article titled, “Most coronavirus testing done in whitest and wealthiest zip codes” (New York Post, April 16), it becomes clear that the haves are far more favoured than the have-nots. A study by the paper “found that more than two-thirds of the 30 ZIP codes with the highest per-capita rates of testing were either whiter or wealthier — and frequently both — than the city average population”. This means that early detection and consequential medical protections can be initiated to save those so helped.
On the other hand, the downside of such selective utilisation of scarce resources translates to the harsh reality of what was pointed out by the city’s highest-ranking black official, Public Advocate, Jumaane Williams: “the COVID-19 crisis is hitting communities of more color the hardest – while those same communities have less testing to diagnose the virus or resources to fight it” Advocate Williams recommended that a citywide task force is urgently needed to “rapidly implement an action plan to mitigate racial disparities in COVID-19 exposure, testing, access to resources, and fatalities.”
To sift through Mr. Williams’ statement “communities of more color” means urban and immigrant, as in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The reality is that those places, in large swathes, are poorer and very populated with many minorities. In there are large contingents of Guyanese. KN broke the news a while back that 34 Guyanese in New York City alone have been fatally stricken by the virus. It is hoped that that number would remain unchanged, but the odds are not encouraging, especially when hundreds of persons are still succumbing daily to the deadly plague.
The hope and prayer are that none of this surfaces here, where well-known and embedded problems hurt and devastate. In this society where everything takes on an automatic racial taint, including unfounded suspicions, there are some lessons for our leaders and guides on how we approach and deal with what is before us. Here, the worst of racial distrusts could be easily triggered in Guyana for nothing, and those readily fed and incited along dangerous pathways. Thus, the greatest sensitivity and care should be employed to manage this by ensuring that patients are treated in a way that minimizes the effects of the virus to themselves, their families, their communities, and the wider Guyanese public at large.
In aggregate, this does not necessarily mean equity in prioritizing attention, but what the urgencies of the medical circumstances and intelligence (maybe even commonsense) dictate and demand. Hard choices have to be made relative to the dispensing of scarce resources, deploying of efforts for contact tracing, and towards inducing much-needed confidence in any processes implemented, as well as the people spearheading such processes. In all of this, it must be remembered that all that is required is for one infected person to be moving back and forth unknowingly in our heavily mixed thoroughfares, and the damage would be done.
As background, New York State represents the anger that rages between its Democratic Governor and the Republican leader of the Senate over declaration of bankruptcy by cash-strapped states. New York is at the head of the list. It does not vote Republican and the thinking is that it is being made to pay a hard price in a harder time. Our hope is that our own efforts addressing this fatal sickness be devoid of politics and race. We plead: let it be color blind and politically neutral.
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