CHN’s COVID-19 Watch: Tracking Hardship February 5, 2021
February 5, 2021
The vaccinations and racial inequality edition. This week, the U.S. crossed an important hurdle in the fight against COVID-19. For the first time, the number of Americans receiving a COVID-19 vaccine exceeds the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. throughout the entire pandemic. Over the past week, new daily reported cases fell 17 percent, deaths declined nearly 12 percent, and hospitalizations dropped 15 percent, according to data tracked by the Washington Post on February 5.
All of which is good news. But public health experts worry about variants spreading quickly across the U.S. — and perhaps leading to a new surge of infections in March and April, leading to more hospitalizations and more deaths. Even more worrisome: a trove of data released this week shows extreme racial disparities in who is getting the vaccine. White Americans are being vaccinated at rates close to four times as high as Black Americans in Pennsylvania and Florida, even though Black residents in these states are more than twice as likely to die from COVID as white residents. There is no reliable national data. Across the country, including in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington D.C., there are reports of Black people struggling to get vaccinated while white residents travel to communities of color to get a shot.
It is clear that a “color-blind” approach to vaccines will not work. As a nation, we must pursue vaccination strategies that smartly and effectively target Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other people of color. These communities will continue to be disproportionately harmed until and unless we act affirmatively to prevent it.
Until vaccinations and safe practices get the pandemic under control, our economy will suffer. The January unemployment data show 406,000 people left the civilian labor force in one month; over a year, 4.3 million had dropped out. Not a good sign.
Meanwhile, Congress is moving forward with President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which is the right scope to ramp up vaccine distribution, protect the jobless and the poor, and help workers. Such as: it cuts child poverty in half, raises the minimum wage to $15, provides paid leave, and funds state and local services. Have you contacted your House member or Senators yet? If not, you can write them here and urge them to approve the plan without delay.