The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating gross inequalities in the Commonwealth. Rampant racism and systemic discrimination existed way before the pandemic, but now they’ve left communities of color defenseless to the consequences of coronavirus. In Virginia, more Black and Latinx residents are dying from COVID-19 than white residents and more people of color lost their jobs than white Virginians as a result of the pandemic. Now more than ever is a dire time for all of us to demand access to healthcare for our neighbors and justice for working families across the Commonwealth.
Because of a historical lack of healthcare access, people of color are more likely to live with pre-existing conditions thus making them more susceptible to dying from complications from COVID-19. Do you know one of the most dangerous pre-existing conditions that people of color live with? It’s racist––and it’s preventing the federal government from developing a national plan to collect demographic data on coronavirus cases so it can find out more about how and why different communities are infected. Virginia isn’t doing much better in tracking its COVID-19 cases. In fact, around 10,000 COVID-19 cases in Virginia lack racial data, which is a third of the overall number.
A disproportionate number of Black and AAPI Virginia residents filed for unemployment between March and May of this year, further exacerbating the numbers of people of color who are falling ill from coronavirus. That means that not only did people lose their income and their way to provide for their family, they also lost their health insurance that they got from their jobs (if they had it in the first place). A lot of people of color that still have their jobs have kept Virginia functioning through the pandemic by being on the frontlines for essential jobs like healthcare professionals, grocery workers, bus drivers, warehouse workers and truckers, gas station attendants, childcare providers, and janitors. Aaaaand they’re probably not getting paid well enough to put their health on the line, which is why we need to increase Virginia’s minimum wage. Shoot, $15 an hour still isn’t enough for any worker to risk their life.
This is why re-opening Virginia is a bad idea. It puts already vulnerable communities in a very bad position of bearing the brunt of this crisis. Haven’t communities of color already been through enough? That’s why the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam outlining their “grave concerns” about the state transitioning back to normal. We couldn’t agree more. Our partners at New Virginia Majority are also teaming up with other statewide groups to oppose re-opening the state because of the devastating impact it would have on communities of color.
How we respond to the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on our neighbors will define who we are as Virginians for generations to come. It’s time to stay at home and stand with our neighbors who can’t stay at home and have to work by demanding that our government collect better data, make testing more available, and delay opening the state for business. Sign this petition to urge the Governor to delay re-opening Virginia and that he protect communities of color during the pandemic.