By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
The COVID-19 Equity Response Team says that in order to keep people of color safe from the COVID-19 pandemic, New Hampshire needs to work on racial inequalities already plaguing the state.
In a report presented to Gov. Chris Sununu on July 12 and released by Sununu’s office late Wednesday, the Equity Response Team states that people of color in New Hampshire are contracting the potentially deadly illness at a higher rate because of racial biases already at work.
“As cases of COVID-19 increased in New Hampshire, quantitative public health data, along with anecdotal evidence, began to tell the story we expected to hear: People of Color were more likely to contract COVID-19; more likely to work in essential industries and positions that placed them in hazardous situations; more likely to not be able to easily access testing; less likely to be able to socially/physically distance and less likely to be able to recover from the economic and social impact of the pandemic. This pandemic, like all others before, was quickly amplifying and widening the divide,” the report states.
State data shows that minorities are getting the illness at rates larger than their share of the population. Latinos make up 3.9 percent of the state’s population, but 632 Latinos have tested positive for the illness making 11.9 percent of all the COVID-19 cases in the state. African Americans, who are 1.4 percent of the state’s population, account for 302 cases, or 6 percent of all COVID-19 cases. There are more than 6,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state.
The Equity Response Team includes Dr. Trinidad Tellez with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Dottie Morris with Keene State College, Bobbie Bagley, Nashua’s Director of Public Health, Kirsten Durzy with the Division of Public Health for DHHS, and Rogers Johnson, president of the Seacoast NAACP.
A copy of the initial report can be found here.
The team wants the state to increase teasing in minority communities, assure testing sites have written protocols for community outreach and demographic identifier data, and provide housing support for people who are required to isolate or quarantine, among other recommendations.
The state also needs to work on dealing with the racial inequalities that lead to poor access to healthcare, nutrition, education and other opportunities for people of color.
“Merely addressing the health care system in isolation is not sufficient to decreasing and eliminating racial health disparities. There must be a comprehensive approach to address bias, discrimination and racism in all human-made systems responsible for oversight of various services,” the report states.
Sununu said in a statement about the report that he was prepared to begin work on several of the recommendations.
“While our office continues to review their report, we have identified numerous recommendations that are currently either underway or that can prompt immediate action from the state. We will continue to work with members of the Equity Response Team as well as the Governor’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion to identify additional action items,” Sununu said.