In this week’s Extra! Extra! COVID-19 we see how the pandemic taps into existing discrimination and continues to deepen divisions the world over.
Early in March, we shared ways in which COVID-19 and the pandemic would disproportionately harm the LGBTQ+ community. Reporting from USA today shows that so many of these issues have, in fact, come to pass. Members of our community have experienced substantial issues in accessing health care, are at greater risk of exposure with far more working in essential industries and are more greatly affected by the economic standstill because so many more were already living in poverty before any of this started.
There is, of course, a racial element to it too. Report after report shows mostly white protesters clamoring to reopen the economy and businesses, while the pandemic has taken a disproportion toll on the Black and Latinx communities around the country. This is again due to the burden of essential services falling disproportionately on those communities and disproportionate rates of poverty. As the LA Times article reports in an interview with an LA resident:
“When Latinos are out protesting immigration or other problems, the first things you hear are white people saying, ‘Get a job!’ or ‘Follow the rules!’” said Alexis Rodriguez, 22, of East Los Angeles. “But when it’s white people in Huntington Beach, it’s all about ‘fighting for your rights.’”
Law Enforcement in the Era of COVID-19
Even during these extraordinary times, when prisons are seeing some of the worst outbreaks the world over (more on this below), American law enforcement continues its racist policing and immigration enforcement policies. It’s unfathomable to me that stop-and-frisk-like policies are re-emerging in New York in the name of “enforcing social distancing,” and in Miami homeless people continue to be arrested for small crimes. This after national attention finally turned to the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery on February 23 at the hands of a retired investigator, with Arbery’s only “crime” being going for a jog.
Meanwhile, instead of releasing detainees to address overcrowding in detention centers, ICE is just transferring them to other detention centers.
The Rush to Reopen
America has had one of the worst outbreaks in the world because of a collective unwillingness to take any of this seriously. And now, governors are reopening states without any scientific evidence that the threat has truly passed and without any meaningful new measures to test and contact trace. Georgia is evidence of why a piecemeal, state-by-state approach to reopening simply will not work. If one state opens without any indication the disease has actually been contained, people from neighboring states will (and actually did) just go there and the spread continues. The politics of it is infuriating. Brian Kemp stole that election in 2018. Wisconsin Republicans gerrymandered their way to a majority in the legislature. And now they are abdicating their responsibility as leaders because they are so beholden to having power and making money.
Meanwhile, this wrenching essay from an MTA worker in NYC serves as a sobering reminder of, as we said earlier, who is paying the price for these decisions. There are a lot of things that happen in America which show whose lives are actually valued by society as a whole. The pandemic is yet one more lens, unfortunately, through which to view that.
Coronavirus Emerging and Resurging Among Vulnerable Populations Worldwide
Sometimes, reading the news, it really feels like there is no end in sight to any of it – the pandemic or any of the discrimination that continues to circulate in its wake. South Korea is seeing a spike in cases after successfully containing COVID-19 early on; the cases are connected to nightclubs, including a few gay clubs. The homophobia that has made its way into some reporting on this has made LGBTQ+ South Koreans hesitant to access testing and treatment.
As we’re seeing in the state-level within the US, a piecemeal approach at the global level is not going to work for a pandemic. China continues to see new cases in provinces bordering North Korea and Russia – one of which, at least, has a confirmed outbreak. Migrant workers are especially at risk both for exposure to the disease because they often perform essential services and live in close quarters. We’re seeing these communities bear the brunt of the pandemic in, for instance, the Gulf and in Southeast Asia.
Alongside migrant workers, other vulnerable populations continue to be severely affected. Just as in US jails and prisons, COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate through Philippine Jails, which are among the most crowded in the world. And, as we’ve talked about before, countries that had weak and informal economies to begin with are in a particularly precarious position. They can ill afford to keep social distancing measures in place because of high rates of extreme poverty, but they also lack health care capacity to deal with the spread and severity of the disease.
You Have to Find a Little Solace Where You Can
As governments continue to fail, people are reaching across the world to offer a hand and repay old favors. It’s not enough – it’s not the global response any one of us deserves – but it’s what we have.