End disproportionate impact of COVID-19

WE MUST CREATE a new future where ALL OF US can live in dignity and thrive

The outbreak of COVID-19 is impacting all of us, though some communities are more likely to bear the brunt of an inadequate public health response and face additional challenges in following public health guidance and accessing health care services. 

This disparate impact is felt by, but not limited to, communities of color, Indigenous Peoples, people who are experiencing homelessness, housing insecurity, or poverty, people with disabilities, people who are undocumented, migrant workers, people in precarious/insecure employment including in the “gig” economy, people who are incarcerated or held in immigration detention, and people who are working in the informal sector or with lower socio-economic status.

The limited data that is currently available indicates that COVID-19 is disproportionally impacting communities of color:

  • According to Louisiana’s governor, as of April 24, black residents in Louisiana account for approximately 33 percent of the state’s population yet represent nearly 60 percent of known COVID-related deaths.
  • According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, as of April 29, while black residents represent 30 percent of the city’s population, they account for 54 percent of the city’s known COVID-related deaths and 40 percent of confirmed cases
  • In NYC, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois, COVID-19 cases have disproportionately affected communities of color, immigrant communities, and lower-income neighborhoods.
  • The situation seems even more dire for some Indigenous communities: as of mid-April, the Navajo Nation’s coronavirus infection and death rates are 10 times higher per capita than their neighboring Arizona.

Socioeconomic factors further contribute to disparities in COVID-19 outcomes. People with lower incomes are more likely to have chronic health conditions that increase the risk for COVID-19 and more serious health outcomes; may be unable to adhere to physical distancing guidelines due to living circumstances or employment as essential and frontline workers or as the family’s sole earner; and have higher rates of underlying medical conditions. In the United States, black and Latinx workers are less likely to be able to work from home or have employment that provide them paid leave, which would allow them to stay home and seek appropriate medical care if they or a family member become ill.

COVID-19 and the U.S.’s public health response has brought these structural inequities into sharp focus. These inequities are compounded with inequality and discrimination to amplify the effects of the outbreak in certain communities.

HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE COVID-19 RESPONSE

An effective and fair U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic will incorporate human rights in all aspects of prevention, treatment, and care. A human rights-centered response protects the well-being of all, while explicitly addressing the inequities and inequality, enlarged by a U.S. history of structural discrimination and deficient human rights framework. 

The U.S. has signed or ratified human rights treaties requiring it to guarantee the right to health. The right to health includes the prevention, treatment, and control of epidemic diseases, such as COVID-19. There is an obligation to ensure that preventive care, goods, services, and information are available and accessible to all persons. 

The U.S. government must fully account for the needs of adversely impacted and marginalized groups and people in its plans and strategies to respond to COVID-19. The government must also plan for groups that have been particularly and disproportionately impacted by the epidemic who may require targeted assistance.

Every person should have a standard of living that can ensure their health, dignity, and well-being as well as that of their family. This includes the human rights to housing, food, water, clothing, education, necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control. The U.S. must also take specific action to end discrimination and stigma, and to protect all individuals from mistreatment.

RECOMMENDATION

As an initial step, Amnesty International calls for a targeted approach to address disparities and inequities through, in part, the creation of equity task forces at the state level in consultation and collaboration with impacted communities.  These equity task forces should be adequately funded.

At a minimum these task forces should ensure the following:

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES