COVID-19: ‘will we ever know how many have succumbed to this virus?’

By Pat Ruda, justice and peace promoter 

COVID-19 has certainly proven to shake up our world. This virus has spread globally to change the lives of all in its way. I think it is important to note that COVID-19 has had a strong impact globally, regionally and locally on our marginalized populations. The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to devastate vulnerable communities, especially refugees, migrants and women and children challenged by economic hardships and social disparities. Will we ever know how many have succumbed to this virus?

We are all impacted by COVID-19 but not to the same degree. There are compounding effects of systemic injustice and institutional racism. COVID-19 is hitting black, Latino and indigenous communities particularly hard. It appears that people of color may have more preexisting conditions like hypertension, diabetes and COPD, putting them more at risk during this pandemic. According to Politico magazine, African American communities in Chicago, Illinois, represent about two thirds of the city’s COVID-19 deaths despite making up only one third of the population. We read daily about the large numbers of blacks and Latinos working at meat packing plants who tested positive for the virus. I believe these are prime examples of why we need to advance racial justice.

Blacks and Latinos represent 51% of New York City's population. Reports indicate that 62% percent of COVID-19 deaths in the city have occurred within these racial groups. Black residents of Louisiana make up only 25% of the population but 70% of COVID-19 deaths. It also appears that air pollution has a dramatic effect on this population in relation to asthma, heart and respiratory conditions and health outcomes.

In La Crosse, Wisconsin, reported COVID-19 infection cases are low and I have not seen anything referencing people of color. What we do know is that vulnerable populations — low-income folks — are being challenged by loss of work. In April, the Coulee Region Immigration Task Force applied for and received a grant to assist immigrants with basic needs. A second grant was awarded in May. A total of $55,000 was granted to help this vulnerable population that may not be eligible for federal and state assistance. Fifty families were assisted at that time.

COVID-19 has certainly affected all of us — globally, regionally and locally — in everything we currently do. With some statistics indicating it could be 18 to 24 months before we return to what we knew to be normal, it appears that a new normal will be unveiled.

Also in June Presence:
Extension Cords Companion Community: presence at a distance
A common thread: environmental justice, current ministries and a pandemic
Sisters take to the air to invite discernment with FSPA
Refreshed website offers visitors new opportunities
Presence Briefs June 2020

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