April 07, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic that began in Wuhan, China, a few months ago was transmitted to the Western Hemisphere primarily via the affluent: travelers who were fortunate enough to be able to afford vacations in faraway destinations reached by airplanes and cruise ships. News coverage of the outbreak in the hard-hit Lombardy region in Italy emphasized the area’s relative wealth, and early reports of the coronavirus status of NBA stars gave the impression the disease was a condition of the rich and famous.
But not for long. By now we’re already seeing evidence that African Americans and persons with low income are overrepresented among reported coronavirus infections and deaths. Indeed, stopping the next wave of the pandemic will depend in large part on what happens to the socially and medically vulnerable. People in vulnerable groups are not only at increased risk of contracting Covid-19, but they are also at risk for contributing to its spread, straining medical resources, and increasing the risk for everyone.
What this means is that if we want to slow and eventually halt the spread of the coronavirus, we’ll need to do a lot more than wear face masks and use Zoom to work from home. We’ll need to deploy a range of other policies targeted at those most at risk for serious illness and those most at risk for passing the virus on to others.
March 30, 2020
The speed and spread of the coronavirus have been stunning. Roughly three months ago this virus was unheard of, yet it has resulted in more than 720,000 known cases and more than 34,000 deaths around the world. In my home of King County, Wash., which includes Seattle and was the initial hot spot for the U.S. outbreak, as of Sunday there were an estimated 2,159 confirmed cases and 141 deaths.
The spread of the coronavirus and its associated disease, COVID-19, will highlight and likely exacerbate social inequities in our cities and counties, disproportionately impacting low-income communities of color as well as indigenous, immigrant, and refugee populations. These inequities are the result of historic and systemic racism, and it is imperative that we prioritize equity in our response.
March 18, 2020
The Pacific Northwest has experienced COVID-19 ahead of other areas of the country and had to respond quickly. Its local governments and states have been working to address the impacts from the virus and to meet the needs of residents. Even so, it is not clear how well everyone is doing in terms of dealing with the social equity impacts. That requires a perspective that sees and meets the particular kinds of needs and problems experienced by persons of color, women, the elderly, those with disabilities, lower-income residents, and the homeless. Consider the following 10 questions that have grown out of our experience to date. These are important not only for the local governments on the front lines but also for states or federal agencies that want to work with them.