Encouraged by Governor Polis’ decision to start collecting data on race for all (past and future) COVID-19 cases, over 130 organizations, elected officials, and health professionals have signed onto a letter urging the Governor to do more by leading our state and the country in responding to the COVID-19 crisis through an equity lens.
COVID-19 has laid bare the vast inequalities that plague the country and this state. We are witnessing the consequences of systems that for years have left communities of color behind, specifically Black and Brown communities. This is a vital moment, one in which the Governor has the power to define the way our state responds to inequality and the disproportionate impact that this pandemic is having in communities of color. Colorado has the power to be an innovator and lead the country in moving to address the current crisis through an equity lens.
“In this moment of crisis, we need to all come together to ensure that those who are being most directly impacted by COVID-19 are not left behind. The state must promptly act to support our communities and ensure that Black, Brown, Asian, Native and immigrant folks are not left alone to survive this crisis. We must ensure that communities of color receive the care and support that they so desperately need at this moment and we must fight to end inequities in our state now and in the future,” Lizeth Chacón, Executive Director, Colorado People’s Alliance (COPA).
We are urging Governor Polis to:
Collect and Report Coronavirus Data by Demographics. Data are a critical component to understanding the progression, spread, and containment measures needed in a public health crisis. As such we are requesting that the Governor direct the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to release a variety of data on coronavirus. Specifically, age-adjusted rates per 100,000 by race/ethnicity on incidence, prevalence, mortality rates, screening rates, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions, readmission data, and cost of care. As a complement, we are requesting the State report the geographical distribution of these data and document “hotspots” by county, city, zip code, and/or census tract. We also ask for data on income to be collected and reported. These data are key to supporting the State and the public health community at-large to “define the problem” as well as containing the spread and target resources and interventions where they are most essential.
“The state must promptly act to support our communities and ensure that Black, Brown, Asian, Native and immigrant folks are not left alone to survive this crisis.”
Lizeth Chacón, COPA
Create a Statewide Hotline for Workers. Increasingly workers are experiencing abuse from their employers and being threatened with possible loss of their job. It is critical that the state have a way to track employers who are not providing protective equipment to their employees or complying with the guidelines established by your administration and have a way to support workers who are risking their lives every day during this pandemic.
Create a Statewide Hotline to Report Health Disparities. Discrimination in the medical environment is real and exists in Colorado. We know firsthand how bias within the medical setting leads to poor outcomes for people of color. Reports are coming in from across the country, and in Denver, that people of color are being turned away from hospitals and are less likely to be admitted when presenting with COVID-19 symptoms. This leads to higher ICU rates for people of color and higher morbidity rates. Colorado should create a statewide hotline, possibly 211, where people can report discrimination and trends can be reported to the appropriate hospital personnel to quickly rectify. This could save lives.
Establish a Cash Assistance Fund for those with an ITIN number. Undocumented Coloradans are on track to be completely devastated by the current crisis. It is critical that our state work to ensure that no Coloradan is left behind and that we provide the desperately needed support for those who will be left out of federal or state programs. We ask Governor Polis to immediately work to establish a cash assistance fund for those with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
Create an Equity Response Team. Establish an Equity Committee within your Economic Stabilization and Growth Council. Due to the disproportionate impact that this pandemic is having in communities of color it is imperative that the state acts to have an analysis on the immediate and long-term impacts of this pandemic in communities of color. The committee should be tasked with coordinating services to ensure there is equitable access to vaccines and treatments, track the cost of hospitalizations and treatment, analyze the economic impact of the pandemic on communities of color, monitor the equitable distribution of recovery dollars for communities of color from state and national sources, and retrospectively examine the States response to determine lessons learned for future pandemic responses. The committee should include representatives from different departments, non-profit leaders, minority owned businesses, and workers.
“Across Colorado, Black and Brown people are disproportionately contracting COVID-19, being denied medical care when showing symptoms, and dying from the virus,” said Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver). “To address the impact that generational oppression has had on the health of Black, Brown, and immigrant communities, we need to expand the data collected on race and ethnicity, allow patients to report health disparities to a centralized hotline, and provide financial support to Coloradans callously left out of the federal COVID-19 response.”
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