The Connecticut State Conference of NAACP Branches has released a COVID-19 Action Plan that aims to ensure Black and Brown communities receive resources during the pandemic and to address inequalities that people of color may face during future crises.
COVID-19 Impact on Communities of Color
People of color continue to be impacted at a disproportionate rate by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. According to state data, Black and Hispanic residents are more than three times as likely to test positive for COVID-19 as white residents. Black people are more than two and a half times as likely to die from the virus as white people. Hispanic people are more than one and a half times as likely to die from the virus.
"It is tragic when someone goes through that situation. It is a tragedy," said Maurice Williams, a New Haven resident who tested positive for COVID-19.
Williams spent more than 30 days in the hospital fighting the virus. He spent seven of those days on a ventilator. The only way Williams was able to see any of his friends or family was through a phone screen.
"It was tough. Mentally and physically," said Williams.
Williams does not know how he contracted COVID-19, but he said that he almost died twice during his fight.
"We don't think about how simple it is to die. We don't understand that...a heartbeat skipped, a breath not caught causes death," said Williams.
Doctors attribute the racial disparities in COVID-19 cases to pre-existing social inequities including less reliable access to health care and a higher rate of chronic illnesses. People of color are also more likely to have jobs that require them to leave the house and to live in environments, such as apartment buildings, that make social distancing more difficult. These inequities existed before the pandemic, but the pandemic exacerbated the issues.
Williams, a diabetic, said that it affected his fight.
"These things magnify COVID," said Williams. "There needs to be more resources, more education, more messaging."
NAACP COVID-19 Action Plan
The CT NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, partnered with the Connecticut Black and Puerto Rican Caucus to discuss issues within urban communities and ways to fix disparities that exist for Black and Brown people across CT, according to a press release from the NAACP.
As a result of the discussions, and with contributions from additional members of the NAACP, scholars, doctors and state leaders, the NAACP released the COVID-19 Action Plan.
According to the 23-page report, the purpose, "is to suggest ways to ensure that Black and Brown communities receive resources during the COVID-19 pandemic and improve the inequalities they may face during future crises."
“This is a serious situation. It is a life or death situation and we need to handle it accordingly," said Scot X Esdaile, State President of the CT NAACP.
The plan consists of four sections: public health, police accountability, education and voting. Esdaile said that they chose to focus on those four issues because lawmakers are considering the same topics. The report outlines disparities within each issue and offers solutions moving forward.
Esdaile said that the overall goal of the report is to highlight disparities and make sure that the NAACP has a seat at the table in developing solutions.
"To let the governor and others in leadership know exactly what is going on in our community and how it can be properly served," said Esdaile.
For example, the top priority of the section on public health is to work with the state to prepare for the second wave. That includes immediate goals like establishing more testing in urban communities and expanding upon an awareness campaign to reach communities of color statewide, ensuring that people are aware of all resources and free testing opportunities.
"We want to make sure that the accurate information is getting over to them," said Esdaile.
An example of a longer-term goal is making rental or hotel spaces available to people in communities of color when someone tests positive because people of color are more likely to live in multi-family units.
The plan calls on Gov. Ned Lamont to convene a special task force with the CT State Conference of the NAACP Health committee to accomplish the goals laid out in the plan.
What is Next?
The CT NAACP said that they are planning to meet with the governor next week.
Rep. Brandon McGee, chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, said that the report will serve as an important guiding document for him and his colleagues as they prepare for a special session in September.
"The report is timely, but if we look back at the report in its totality, we have got a mountain to climb," said McGee. "COVID has shined a bright light on the inequalities in communities of color."