COVID-19 in Communities of Color

Posted on 05/14/20

Workers carrying boxes in walk-in freezer

AARP has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years.

In the face of this pandemic, AARP is providing information, advocacy and resources to help older people and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus, prevent it from spreading to others, and cope with related health problems and financial disruptions. Here are AARP's coronavirus resources and in Spanish.

AARP Colorado on behalf of its 670,000 members and all older Coloradans is working to raise several issues of concern affecting Coloradans of all ages in this COVID-19 pandemic.

AARP is committed to understanding the state's focus on protecting the health and safety of our residents, which is paramount, and we are grateful for the efforts made thus far.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic is shedding light on a myriad of disparities in Colorado that existed before this crisis and that have been exacerbated in the months since the spread of the virus began.

For example, a recent study shed light on how African-Americans are more likely to be affected in the hardest-hit counties around the country. That study also found that socioeconomic factors like employment and access to healthcare were predictors of infection, even more so than overall health conditions. It is evident that there are stark racial disparities affecting health outcomes for communities of color in Colorado.

As a fierce defender of all older Americans, we believe it is critical to address these issues and for our state leaders in government to take the following actions.

Protect Essential Workers
Colorado's essential workers have put their lives on the line to keep our state running and provide the services that Coloradans rely on. They have kept our buses running, they have stocked our grocery shelves with food, and they have saved lives in hospitals throughout the state. They put their own lives on the line every day in the process. These workers should be a top priority. We encourage our state leadership to ensure all front-line workers have adequate and functioning personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes those working in healthcare, home care, nursing homes, transportation, food service, janitorial service, grocery stores, and any other profession considered essential in Colorado. These workers should also be given as much in-language, culturally relevant information on how to minimize their risk, and where needed, it should be delivered by the appropriate spokespeople.

Portrait Happy Man Farmer Leaning On Tractor Looking At Camera

They should also be fairly compensated for continuing to work under such dangerous conditions and receive paid sick and family leave.

Demographic Data Collection and Reporting
In order to address health disparities in Colorado, we encourage you to frequently provide regular, detailed reports of actions and plans being taken to address inequities in the health and economic impacts of the outbreak. Among those actions, we believe it is critical for Colorado to gather data and publicly report on COVID-19 cases and deaths, and testing rates broken down into as many categories as possible while protecting patient privacy, including race, ethnicity, disability, occupation, preferred spoken or written language, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, housing status and type (single family vs. multi-family), venues such as hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, residential homes, and location, which can further include region, zip code, or municipality. The data should be contrasted with 2019 numbers before the pandemic arrived in Colorado in order to truly understand the impact of COVID-19 and the data should be dis-aggregated for all groups. Analysis of this information will help Colorado improve outcomes for all Coloradans and minimize the spread of the virus.

Creation of COVID-19 Disparities Task Forces
Unfortunately, simply knowing that a problem exists is not enough. Coming up with solutions comes next. The data we have mentioned above can be used to address many disparities seen in our state. Leveraging this information will require the formation of a Disparities Task Force, as many other states have done, that can analyze the data and recommend actions to take.

These task forces should be made permanent. The disparities in our state existed before COVID-19, and they will continue after the virus has abated. The work of the task force will help Colorado prepare for future health crises.

Medical Trials

Laboratory worker examining contents of petri dish

Throughout this pandemic, many medications have been tested and are currently being used in clinical trials. We believe it is critical that multicultural communities have access to successful clinical trials, but we stress that a balance must be struck between access and protecting communities from potentially harmful, unproven remedies. No one community should be disproportionately used to test any remedy for COVID-19 and any clinical trials conducted in multicultural communities should be done with the advice of medical professionals and scientists.

Combatting Xenophobia
The spread of COVID-19 has unfortunately led to discrimination and targeting of our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. The ire directed at them has hurt small business owners, individuals, their families, and it should not be tolerated. We urge our elected officials to address rising xenophobia in Colorado and educate constituents on how destructive it can be for all Coloradans. It is important that Coloradans hear from their leaders on this issue in a unifying tone.

While racial and ethnic disparities have existed for decades, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has once again sent a clear message — this time, perhaps louder than ever. Now is the time to work collectively — across all levels of government, non-profit, and the private sector — to expose and address structural inequities that adversely affect communities of color. It is a matter of life and death.

This story is provided by AARP Colorado. Visit the AARP Colorado page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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