The COVID-19 pandemic has embedded terms such as testing, community spread, shelter-in-place, death, infection, vaccine, and antibodies in our global psyche. In the United States, it has also highlighted the many communities whose daily experience of inequity, vulnerability, and marginalization has been intensified by the pandemic.
Low-wage workers have either lost their jobs or are working in at-risk essential jobs, such as front-end workers in checkout lines or caregivers in health care settings. Older adults in nursing homes are experiencing a rapid spread of the virus.1 Marginalized populations, including people of color, are experiencing higher rates of infection and death due to underlying health and environmental conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and asthma; are living in high-density areas; or lack affordable health care.2,3 A history of racial and economic injustice has created the perfect conditions for the inequitable spread of the virus. And when it is behind us, those conditions will remain, leaving lasting inequities in place.
Changing the deeply rooted systems that have allowed COVID-19 to spread disproportionately across our country will take multiple actions on multiple fronts. Emerging public health data reveal the extent of the inequities and allow us to see gaps where efforts can be targeted.4 All marginalized populations merit targeted efforts for testing, support for changes that allow physical distancing, the provision of adequate personal protective equipment, and when needed, high-quality medical interventions.
Collectively, EDC staff uphold our long-standing commitment to promoting equity for all we serve. Building on EDC’s work in health, human development, and education, we are compiling specific strategies to directly support those affected by COVID-19, including those who may be marginalized. For example:
- EDC’s learning- and health-related resources cover a range of topics, from virtual learning to coping with substance misuse.
- The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has compiled resources for mental health and coping support.
- The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention resources and tools help with messaging and support.
- The Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands at EDC has produced nine FAQs to provide schools and districts with resources to reframe education in the new virtual learning context. Several FAQs are for students who lack access to reliable technology, who have disabilities, and who are English learners.
As COVID-19 intensifies inequities, we will continue to align our work in support of long-lasting community change. Since we all play a role in acknowledging and addressing inequities, doing so during and after this pandemic is a call to action for this moment and provides us a unique opportunity to begin this effort now!
Written by: Camille Lemieux, Elaine Fitzgerald Lewis, Jessica Miranda, Carrie Parker, Sarita Pillai, and Jerry Reed
1 Ellis, B., & Hicken, M. (2020, April 24). COVID-19 is ravaging nursing homes. Government nursing homes show why. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/24/us/nursing-homes-coronavirus-invs/index.html
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 22). COVID-19 in racial and ethnic minority groups. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/racial-ethnic-minorities.html
3 Weiner, S. (2020, March 16). The new coronavirus affects us all. But some groups may suffer more. Retrieved from https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/new-coronavirus-affects-us-all-some-groups-may-suffer-more
4Resnick, A., Galea, S., & Sivashanker, K. (2020, March 18). COVID-19: The painful price of ignoring health inequities. Retrieved from https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2020/03/18/covid-19-the-painful-price-of-ignoring-health-inequities/