The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the home care workforce, which is almost entirely women, and majority Black or Latina. Already, these workers earn low wages and are far less likely to have health benefits. Beyond lacking protective gear, health insurance and sick leave, other inequities further heighten the risk for home care workers. In general, they are much more likely to rely on public transportation, which increases the risk of infection. The pandemic means older clients are more likely to need to stay home. So workers are the ones running errands that take them out of the house and into crowded, indoor spaces — pharmacies and grocery stores, for instance — adding another layer of risk.
Researchers in Massachusetts determined that the biggest predictor of infection was being a recent immigrant to the U.S., followed by living in a household with a large number of people and working in the food-service industry. These three factors only explained the increased infection rates among Latinos, not Black people, suggesting that there are other factors at play that need to be addressed for this population.
Contact tracing has been used as a tried-and-true public health method to stop the spread of infections, from sexually transmitted diseases to HIV/AIDS. And this new generation of trackers has been crucial over the last few months in the effort to fight Connecticut’s COVID crisis.
One of the notable features of the new coronavirus, evident early in the pandemic, was that it largely spared children. But recent studies have renewed concern that children of color are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. They are infected at higher rates than white children, and hospitalized at rates five to eight times that of white children. Children of color also make up the overwhelming majority of those who develop a life-threatening complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome. The higher rates of infection seem to be driven by increased exposure because many live in households with parents that are essential frontline workers unable to stay home and telecommute.
The past months have exposed the inextricable connection between two pandemics in the United States: COVID-19, which is disproportionately affecting Black Americans, and systemic racism, which has set the foundation for the stark health disparities we see today. Yet, missing from the conversation is an analysis of structural racism within the Medicaid program, and how Medicaid policies have failed to resolve racial health disparities throughout the program’s history. While Medicaid serves as an essential safety net and has contributed to improved health outcomes for minority populations, its history and politics—since the program’s inception—have been steeped in the structural racism of the US.