With Sacramento COVID-19 rates rising and hospitals preparing for an extreme increase in admissions, now more than ever is the time to stay home and schedule a test for the virus. Yet this is a luxury that many lack, and a closer look at the issue highlights fundamental, multi-issue disparities between communities in this country.
With the increase in cases comes in increase in demand for testing, and testing centers are currently experiencing this overload directly. After a shortage in testing supplies at UC Davis, the testing supply partner of Sacramento County, several testing centers across Sacramento were forced to close.
Last week, however, the sites reopened to the public in an effort to combat the recent increase in cases. Many of these centers are located in lower-income areas and are home to communities that have been shown to have been hit the hardest by the virus.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” UCLA Labor Center research director Saba Waheed said of the disparity in interview. “[Lower-income individuals] didn’t really have the choice not to work, they didn’t have the option to work from home. And so, it basically puts them way more at risk than higher income people who had way more options.”
It has been observed that Latino and African-American workers are statistically less likely to be able to continue work remotely. Additionally, non-white individuals have been shown to have a higher mortality rate from COVID-19.
With regards to testing, African-Americans may be particularly cautious due to a history of mistreatment, according to Noha Aboelata, founder of the Roots Community Health Center community clinic in Oakland.
“We think of Tuskegee [a series of experiments in which African-American participants were falsely informed they were being given a cure for syphilis] as the classic example of experimentation on and mistreatment of Black people. But there are many other examples,” she said.
“[…] if we don’t think about investing heavily in marginalized populations, there will inevitably be severe disparities in communities of colour,” Aboelata added. “There needs to be an understanding that this will have to look very different from how we deliver care to other populations.”
Ibraheem, a Sacramento chapter member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action, highlights a similar disparity.
“We see how COVID-19 disproportionately impacts communities that were already hurting the most,” he describes. “When we’re talking about black and brown communities, we’re talking about under-served communities, we’re talking about unhoused communities. These are all the communities that are at the forefront of this crisis, just as they’re at the forefront of other issues as well.”
“[As] the research is showing that COVID-19 specifically has impacted communities in different ways disproportionately,” he continues, “I think it’s important to acknowledge that the same thing is true when it comes to housing and the way gentrification impacts black and brown communities disproportionately as well.”
Currently the ACCE is campaigning for a cancellation of rent during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to keep tenants in their homes and to avoid evictions en masse when rent moratoriums are lifted.
“We are on the verge of a wave of evictions because we have moratoriums in place right now to keep families in their homes, […] but once the state of emergency lifts, we’re looking at folks who haven’t been able to pay rent or who have only paid partial rent, and the courts are going to be open and people are going to be getting evicted by the thousands.”
He concludes by emphasizing the role of the state.
“The disproportionate amount of deaths within black and brown communities because of COVID-19 is state-sanctioned violence, just like how a black man was just shot in Sacramento [on Tuesday] and that’s state-sanctioned violence. The disproportionate evictions that people undergo, that’s state-sanctioned violence. All of these cases are part of the same system of oppression and so I think that the solution is also targeted and the responsibility lies on the state to fix these issues.”