COVID-19 counts as much on the 2020 election ballot as anything else, particularly for African Americans who have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic.
And while President Donald Trump continues to engage in a war of words with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and White House Coronavirus Task Force member, Americans remain without a national plan from the White House to eradicate coronavirus.
On Sunday, Nov. 1, during a campaign rally for Trump in South Florida, as the president made his case for how effectively he has led the nation in ongoing efforts to gain control over COVID-19, the crowd began chanting “Fire Fauci! Fire Fauci!”
Trump responded, suggesting that he might do just that, saying, “Don’t tell anybody but let me wait until a little bit after the election.”
However, while may Trump may have riled up the crowd by spouting in not-so-subtle fashion that he’d be showing Fauci to the exit shortly after winning the election, he lacks the legal authority to do so. Because Fauci does not serve as a political appointee but is instead a career federal employee, he remains protected by federal civil service regulations which shield him from being fired or demoted for political reasons.
In lieu of a plan, Trump has repeatedly encouraged his supporters that the virus “will eventually go away.”
Meanwhile, Democratic nominee Joe Biden outlined his seven-point plan to beat the virus and put the country back on track. The plan’s seven points are:
Testing as many people per day as are currently tested per week by doubling the number of testing sites in the U.S.; investing in rapid and at-home tests; creating a Pandemic Testing Board to oversee test production; and building out a 100,000-person national contact tracing workforce that would collaborate with community groups.
Ramping up production of personal protective equipment like masks and face shields.
Working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to produce clear guidance for businesses, schools and other facilities trying to reopen, accompanied by government funding for businesses, schools and state and local governments.
Creating (and investing $25 billion in) a vaccine production-and-distribution plan that ensures free and equitable access, while allowing scientists to clearly communicate progress with the public.
Protecting vulnerable populations like the elderly and people of color, including through a COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force and publishing a real-time data dashboard that provides local information about the outbreak.
Restoring the White House office responsible for monitoring global health risks, which Trump disbanded in its original form in 2018, and rejoining the World Health Organization, among other efforts to strengthen the global health response of the U.S.
Encouraging universal masking by urging governors and local lawmakers to enforce mandates.
Thirty-One States Set One-Day COVID-19 Cases
“I couldn’t stop thinking, ‘What if we had this all along during the pandemic?’ What a different place we would be in,” Dr. Leana Wen, a professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken School of Public Health, told reporters this week.
At least 31 states set one-day records in new coronavirus cases over the weekend, leading up to Election Day. Fifteen states reported their highest one-day tallies of coronavirus-related deaths.
Citing experts, CNN reported that America’s seven-day average of new daily cases was 78,380 on Oct. 31 – a number that has risen 128.2 percent since a post-summer-surge low Sept. 12.
Now, with the colder months upon most of the country and flu season dawning, Fauci and others have demanded that Americans take precautions by wearing masks and, if possible, shelter in place.
Most African Americans, who are now seeing fewer cases after a deadly beginning to the pandemic, have heeded warnings by Fauci and members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Coronavirus Task Force. The results have been increased awareness, community activism and a much stronger adherence to safety mandates.
One collaborative organization, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, recently announced the establishment of a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to provide needed pandemic recovery funding for the organization’s state partners serving the needs of Black women and families in Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans and Philadelphia.
Black Women for Wellness, Black Women’s Health Imperative, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, SisterLove, Inc., SisterReach, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, The Afiya Center and Women With A Vision, comprise the eight Black Reproductive Justice organizations of In Our Own Voice.
“This new fund will provide emergency resources to support the essential Reproductive Justice work being done in these communities by In Our Own Voice’s eight strategic partners,” stated Marcela Howell, president and CEO, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.
Howell added that the failure to act within the federal government drags on, leaving those already suffering and struggling to get by in a state of crisis as months have passed without critically-needed leadership, resources and economic relief measures.
The measures come as recent reports reveal a new surge of COVID-19 hotspots across the nation.
“Right now we have an opportunity to implement targeted measures including universal mask-wearing, making sure that high-risk businesses like bars in certain areas are shut down and instructing the public that we should be avoiding social gatherings of extended family and friends,” Wen, who’s also a former Baltimore health commissioner, told CNN.
“But if we don’t do these things now, we’re going to be overwhelming our health systems and then a lockdown may be necessary,” she said.
However, with a Trump administration which over the past few months ramped up its criticism on mask mandates and bans initiated by local governments on large gatherings, the result has been somewhat predictable – more non-Black Americans are becoming infected and dying.
On Oct. 31, a CBS San Francisco report highlighted a COVID-19 testing event at Oakland’s Acts Full Gospel Church which looked markedly different from one held in the same community in June. Back then, cars filled the parking lot, overflowing onto nearby streets. This time, things appeared to be far more calm and quiet.
Still, Dr. Kim Rhoads, event supervisor and UCSF professor of epidemiology, said testing at a pop-up site like the church could yield valuable information for those studying the disease.
“The reason it’s different is because we’re testing first-time testers,” she told CBS. “So, we’re capturing people that are not in their data sets.”
“Black people may trust coming to the church more than they do the medical establishment. As they test more in the community, a mysterious trend is emerging – African Americans as a group have a much lower rate of infection. We’ve tested close to 900 people at this point and we’ve had five positives. Five,” Rhoads said.
“As we’ve been through a number of test locations around the city and seen the same thing over and over again, I’m starting to wonder, should we be asking the question: ‘What is it that is going right in the African American community with regard to this pandemic?’” she remarked. “If a community is doing something right, that should be a model for other communities.”
In Mississippi, where Black people accounted for about 60 percent of early virus cases and deaths, recent trends now show whites contracting COVID-19 at their highest rates.
Whites accounted for nearly 47 percent of the state’s 3,323 total deaths, with Blacks slightly lower at 46 percent, 2.7 percent for Native Americans and less than 1 percent for Asians. Hispanics of any race reported deaths at 1.3 percent.
In October’s first two full weeks, about 60 percent of the state’s new cases and deaths were among White Mississippians, health officials stated, while pointing out that indoor events have driven the numbers.
While African Americans have taken measures to help stop the spread of the virus in Black communities, U.S. residents, particularly those trekking to the polls, have appeared ready to affect change.
“I understand that during the last pandemic in 1918, we didn’t know much about how to combat disease. In 2020, science and technology are advanced enough to give us a leg up even when the virus’s behavior is unknown,” Atlanta-based author and publisher Janice Elliott-Howard stated in an email.
“The White House should have created a national policy to aid in the protection of the American people. I’m disheartened that now several months in and thousands of lives lost, the government continues along the path of ignorance. Hopefully, the current election cycle will change the momentum of blatant disregard, she said.
WI Editor D. Kevin McNeir contributed to this story.