‘Disasters don’t discriminate’: Health officials push to protect communities of color from COVID-19

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As lawmakers work to pass the next round of COVID-19 relief funding, health experts are pushing Congress to protect communities of color from the virus.

“I remain concerned that the coordination and the leadership isn’t there,” Georges Benjamin from the American Public Health Association said Friday.

It’s a strong call from the nation’s health care professionals, asking Congress to do more to protect vulnerable populations from COVID-19.

“We don’t have a national strategy of any kind,” said Leana Wen with George Washington University.

Witnesses who testified during Friday’s House Homeland Security hearing called for more testing, surveillance and overall care for communities of color that they say have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

“Disasters do not discriminate. However, people do,” Chauncia Willis with the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management said.

Illinois Democratic Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, who is also a registered nurse, asked about the dangers of disinformation being spread about the coronavirus and potential vaccines.

Benjamin said the misinformation is targeting specific areas.

“The flyers say ‘if you’re infected go to a synagogue, if you’re infected go to a minority community,’” he said.

The virtual hearing focused on the challenges minority communities are facing with access to help and what new dangers could be on the way.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) asked about the potential of her district facing the pandemic and a hurricane.

Benjamin said now is the time to prepare for that perfect storm.

“We gotta rethink and re-imagine how we’re going to protect people should we get hit with another hurricane,” he said.

Lawmakers hope to pass the next round of coronavirus relief funding in the next few weeks.

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