As the country buckles down amid the current surge of COVID-19 infections, residents in one predominately white New York City neighborhood have criticized the city’s plan that it says prioritizes testing and treatment along “racial and ethnic” lines. The Big Apple’s infection rate has been spiking in recent weeks, including in Staten Island’s South Shore neighborhood, where a city councilmember said his constituents “are being turned away after waiting for hours” for COVID-19 testing provided by the city.
A staffer for City Councilman Joe Borelli, who represents Staten Island, informed New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene of the issue and was reportedly told in response that “they would prioritize neighborhoods flagged by the city’s Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity,” according to the New York Post.
A list of city neighborhoods that are “most impacted by COVID-19” and “have a high percentage of other health and socioeconomic disparities” included dozens of racially diverse communities in the city. Three neighborhoods in Staten Island were ranked 33rd — last — on the list.
“I think we are clearly not on their racial and ethnic rubric priority list,” Borelli told the New York Post.
New York City health officials responded in part by telling the Post that communities that have “borne the brunt of this pandemic due to structural racism” were being prioritized.
The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene explained last month in a letter inviting proposals for “Public Health Vending Machines” that it is “committed to improving health outcomes for all New Yorkers by explicitly advancing racial equity and social justice. Racial equity does not mean simply treating everyone equally, but rather, allocating resources and services in such a way that explicitly addresses barriers imposed by structural racism (i.e. policies and institutional practices that perpetuate racial inequity) and White privilege (i.e. historical and contemporary advantages in access to resources and opportunities afforded to White people) so that all people have access to what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives.”
Ironically, in 2020 at what seemed like the height of the pandemic, an ABC News analysis found that white neighborhoods had more access to COVID-19 testing sites at a time when Black and Latino communities were being hit the hardest by the effects of the coronavirus.
“We’ve been to locations that are predominantly African American where everyone had insurance and they couldn’t get tested,” Dr. Ala Stanford, a decorated and revered physician who is hailed as a health champion for Black communities, said at the time.
Interestingly enough, there were no complaints coming from Staten Island’s South Shore — or any other white communities — back then.
This is America.