Tomorrow morning after a long week, I am getting up early to go back downtown to meet up with local physicians and health care workers to march from our county hospital/trauma center to the Mayor’s office to show our support for the Black Lives Matter protests. We are all learning right now. What the COVID-19 pandemic has made even more clear to me are the health disparities between people of color and others. The data in the this article in the New England Journal of Medicine is damning. In Louisiana, 30% of the population is black but in this group of patients almost 77% of people with COVID-19 were black and 70.6% people who died were black. However, when they controlled for sociodemographic data, like public insurance and living in a poorer area, as well things like obesity and other conditions, blacks were no more likely to die than whites. The conditions that caused risk are often cause by poverty and living conditions, but not by the medical risk of race. In a pandemic, weakness are laid bare. Systemic racism becomes visible.
We are all learning. This week the King County Health Department put out this statement in response. to the realities of being black in our community. Not just access to care, but real fear that wearing a mask may be dangerous for them, with concerns of racial profiling. Now, I get why the health Department did not make masks mandatory.
I am learning more, and agree with our march tomorrow in support of learning about and facing our own racism. Our march in the morning is organized by University of Washington physicians who wrote an open letter advocating a non-racist response to the demonstrations. It directly called out the lethal dangers of white supremacy and the difference in response to the earlier white armed protestors. More than 1200 public health professionals and physicians signed it. These efforts have helped the health department shift to supporting the protests, despite the risks of the Coronavirus. They called for the police to stop the use of teargas because it can increase transmission of the coronavirus and today the Chief of Police announced the ban, recognizing that the vast majority of protesters are peaceful. Looting was not done by the demonstrators.
I am learning so much and facing my own subtle, inadvertent racism. Tomorrow, I will wear my white coat and my N95 mask, and carry hand sanitizer, of course, keep a safe distance, and join my fellow health care workers to declare that racism is dangerous for the health of our citizens. I still have much to learn. And I know that non-violent resistance is the most effective way to make change.
Wash your hands, wear your mask, and keep safe six.
And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.