By Gabriella Sanchez
Inequality and COVID-19; two closely related issues. Inequity has been prevalent since our country’s founding and explains the disparities in communities across the nation. While affluent areas are filled with schools, hospitals, and supermarkets, other parts of the country have little to no access to such utilities. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has undeniably exacerbated this issue of inequality between different socioeconomic groups, heightening the challenges for minorities across the country.
Image Credit: Sushil Nash
A study published in JAMA Network Open states that Black people, Brown people, Native Americans, and Hispanic people have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, as “a higher level of Black or Hispanic composition in a country is associated with a higher COVID-10 incidence and mortality” (De Maio 1). This statistic comes from working for jobs that could expose them to the virus, as many of them are not given the luxury of staying home during this pandemic. In fact, a large percentage of people of color have jobs that are considered essential; “According to the CDC nearly 25% of employed Hispanic and Black or African Americans work in the service industry, compared with 16% of non-Hispanic white workers” (Marshall 1). In addition, minorities are more inclined to take public transportation and live in crowded areas, increasing their susceptibility to the disease.
Many Americans live in very developed areas with access to healthcare facilities. However, others are not as fortunate and experience barriers to getting proper health care. “In 2017, according to the CDC, only about 6% of non-Hispanic white people were uninsured, while the rate was nearly 18% for Hispanics and 10% for non-Hispanic Black people” (Marshall 1). Make no mistake — lacking fundamental care when sick with the coronavirus can be fatal.
Just as this vulnerable group sees a light at the end of the tunnel, more inequality arises. These past few months, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of Americans vaccinated — that is, white Americans. But the vaccine rollout is much slower and almost nonexistent for other parts of cities that have high numbers of African Americans, Hispanics, and other minority groups. Samantha Artiga, the director of the racial equity and health policy program at Kaiser Family Foundation, says that the vaccine system has “created an environment where those who have internet access and a vehicle are more likely to be able to sign up for a vaccine.” Wealth has become more and more of a dividing factor in this pandemic, and continues to be one in the distribution of vaccines. Take Florida for example — while the first communities to be vaccinated had a high elderly population, nearly all of the residents lived in affluent, white communities. On the other hand, Palm Beach County only received 4.1-4.7% of vaccines as of March 1st. In this area, nearly 18% of residents are Black, and 21.7% are Hispanic.
COVID-19 has created two very different Americas, with the wealthy America staying on top and the poor America struggling behind. It is up to us to bridge this gap of inequality and help those that have worked the hardest, but benefited the least during this pandemic. Fauci announced on May 5th that 12 to 15 year olds will be eligible for the vaccine starting as early as next week. Those privileged enough to have access to vaccines should take advantage of this resource as many communities in our country lack access to them.