OPENINGS MAY PUT BLACK WORKERS AT DISPROPORTIONATE COVID-19 RISK

FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRES. OBAMA SAYS:

PUT MORE WORKER PROTECTIONS IN PLACE BEFORE STATES REOPEN

WOMEN OF COLOR “ON THE FRONTLINES” OF CRISIS

NEED TO KNOW MORE BE ABOUT SCOPE OF DISPARITY AND HOW TO ADDRESS IT

A new study shows that black communities account for a disproportionate amount of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the U.S.  African-Americans comprise 13.4% of the American population, but according to the study, counties with higher black populations account for more than half of all Covid-19 cases and almost 60% of deaths. Jocelyn Frye, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and former Deputy Assistant to President Barack Obama, joins MetroFocus to talk about why statewide reopenings could exacerbate that disparity, and what states and health care professionals can do to address it. She also gives us a look at how her research into the particular impact the crisis is having on women of color.

Aired on May 11, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

> WELCOME TO 'METRO FOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORWARD.

WE KNOW THAT COVID-19 HAS HAD A DISPROPORTIONATE IMPACT ON COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.

LISTEN TO SOME RESULTS OF A RECENT STUDY.

IT TELLS US THAT COUNTIES WITH BLACK POPULATIONS HIGHER THAN 13% WHICH IS THE NATIONAL AVERAGE, ACCOUNT FOR OVER HALF OF ALL CORONAVIRUS CASES IN THE U.S. AND FOR NEARLY 60% OF THE DEATHS.

THOSE NUMBERS ARE STARTLING, FRIGHTENING AND THEY ARE LEADING EXPERTS TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT WHAT SORT OF IMPACT WILL THERE BE IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR AS THE COUNTRY CONTINUES TO REOPEN?

TO TALK ABOUT ALL THAT, WE'RE DELIGHTED TO BE JOINED BY JOCELYN FRYE WHO IS A SENIOR FELLOW AT THE CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS AND STUDIED THESE ISSUES, ESPECIALLY THE IMPACT ON WOMEN OF COLOR.

JOCELYN, WELCOME TO YOU.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

WELL THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

GREAT TO BE HERE.

SO LET'S START WITH THAT NOTION THAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE IMPACT COVID-19 HAS HAD ON COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.

WHY IS IT THAT YOU'RE SO CONCERNED ABOUT AN ADDITIONAL IMPACT AS THE NATION CONTINUES TO REOPEN?

I THINK THERE ARE A COUPLE THINGS THAT ARE OF GREAT CONCERN.

FIRST IS THAT WE DON'T KNOW THE TRUE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM.

WE HAVE DATA FROM SOME STATES AND SOME COMMUNITIES BUT TRUTHFULLY, WE DON'T ACTUALLY KNOW IN GREAT DETAIL ACROSS THE COUNTRY THESE EXACT DISPARITIES AND WHY THEY'RE OCCURRING.

WE DON'T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT HOW THEY'RE BROKEN DOWN BY RACE, ETHNICITY AND GENDER.

WE MAY HAVE GENERAL NUMBERS ABOUT AFRICAN-AMERICANS AND LATINOS BUT DON'T KNOW THE GENDER BREAKDOWN.

THERE'S A LOT WE DON'T KNOW.

THE OTHER THING IS THAT WHAT WE DO KNOW, WE DON'T HAVE A HANDLE ON IT.

RIGHT?

LIKE WE KNOW THAT MANY PEOPLE OF COLOR ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY MORE LIKELY TO BE IN THE ESSENTIAL LOW WAGE JOBS WHERE THEY MAY BE MORE LIKELY TO CONTRACT THE DISEASE.

THEY MAY FEEL OBLIGATED TO GO BACK TO WORK BECAUSE THEY NEED THAT MONEY FOR THEIR FAMILIES.

AND WE ALSO KNOW THAT THEY ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY MORE LIKELY TO HAVE THE UNDERLYING HEALTH CONDITIONS THAT HAVE BEEN SHOWN TO INCREASE THE LIKELIHOOD OF BEING INFECTED OR CONTRACTING THE DISEASE.

SO WE KNOW ALL THESE THINGS.

BUT, YET, WE DON'T KNOW TO ADDRESS THEM.

WE DON'T KNOW THE SCOPE.

AND IN THIS MOMENT OF STILL TRYING TO THINK ABOUT EXACTLY WHAT THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM IS, WE'RE SORT OF MOVING FORWARD WITH REOPENING WITHOUT REALLY HAVING A HANDLE ON WHAT THE SCOPE IS AND WHAT THE SOLUTIONS MIGHT BE.

SO AS THEN THE STATES MOVE TOWARDS REOPENING, LIKE, WHICH THEY ARE DOING.

SOME FASTER THAN OTHERS.

YOU CAN RAISE THE QUESTION ABOUT THE SPEED THAT SOME STATES ARE LOOKING TO REOPEN, WHAT SORT OF CONCERNS DO THEY HAVE?

WHAT SORT OF APPROACHES SHOULD THEY TAKE THAT MAY KEEP IN MIND THE NOTION OF THE ADDITIONAL IMPACT ON COMMUNITIES OF COLOR?

FIRST OF ALL, THEY SHOULD MAKE SURE THEY HAVE THE INFORMATION, THE CONCRETE DATA TO KNOW IF THERE ARE IN FACT DIFFERENT RATES OF INFECTION AND DEATHS IN THEIR COMMUNITIES.

AND THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO LOOK AT THEIR COMMUNITY FIGURE OUT WHERE THE PACTS ARE OCCURRING.

THEY SHOULD ABLE TO CRACK WHETHER THE PEOPLE TRYING TO FLATTEN THE CURVE, IF THEY'RE DOING IT CONSISTENTLY BY RACE AND ETHNICITY OR ARE THERE PARTICULAR AREAS IN THEIR COMMUNITIES THAT ARE ACTUALLY EXPERIENCING THE DECLINES?

THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THAT AND ASK THOSE QUESTIONS.

THEY SHOULD ALSO BE ABLE TO MAKE SURE THAT PEOPLE HAVE ACCESS TO THE SERVICE THAT'S THEY NEED.

ONE THING WE KNOW IS THAT MANY PEOPLE OF COLOR LIVE IN COMMUNITIES THAT ARE UNDERSERVED.

THEY MAY HAVE FEWER HEALTH FACILITIES OR HEALTH -- ACCESS TO HEALTH PRACTITIONERS TO GIVE THEM THE TESTING AND THE THINGS THEY DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT, HOW TO TREAT THE DISEASE.

TH THEY NEED TO MAKE SURE ALL OF THAT IS IN PLACE BEFORE THEY START MOVING FORWARD FOR REOPENING.

BUT THE LAST THING I'D SAY IS WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT IF A WORKER IS SICK OR IF THEY HAVE SOME SORT OF CARE GIVING NEED THEY'RE NOT PENALIZED IF THEY NEED TO TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES OR THEIR FAMILIES.

WE HAVE SOME PROTECTIONS IN THE LAWS OF IMPACT.

BUT THEY'RE NOT -- QUITE FRANKLY, THEY HAVE GAPS.

AND NOT EVERYBODY IS COVERED.

THERE ARE TOO MANY PEOPLE THAT ARE GOING TO GO TO WORK SICK WHEN THEIR KIDS ARE THE AHOME OR SOMEBODY IN THE FAMILY THAT NEEDS CARE.

ALL OF THOSE THINGS SHOULD BE UPPER MOST IN THE MINDS OF STATES WHEN THEY CONSIDER REOPENING.

WHEN YOU CONSIDER HEALTH CARE AND YOU TOUCHED ON THIS A MOMENT AGO, BUT WE TALKED ON THIS PROGRAM BEFORE ABOUT THE IDEA THAT WITHIN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR, THE PRE-EXISTING MEDICAL CONDITIONS CONTRIBUTE GREATLY TO THIS DISPARITY.

UNDERSTANDING THAT, AND THAT'S A BIG PICTURE QUESTION THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED DESPITE THE COVID-19 SCENARIO, BUT GIVEN THE NOTION OF REOPENING, IS THERE SOME WAY THAT THE HEALTH CARE PEOPLE CAN BE BETTER PREPARED TO IDENTIFY THOSE WITH THE PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS THAT MAKE THEM MORE AT RISK?

AND AS A RESULT, HELP THEM?

THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION.

WE'RE TRYING TO DO MULTIPLE THINGS AT ONCE.

WE'RE TRYING TO DEAL WITH THE IMMEDIATE PROBLEM AND ALSO DEAL WITH THE REALITY THAT ONE OF THE REASONS WE HAVE THE PROBLEM IS BECAUSE OF LONG STANDING SYSTEMIC BARRIERS.

AND SO I THINK, YOU KNOW, WHAT IS CRITICAL FOR HEALTH PRACTITIONERS TO DO IS HAVE A SENSE OF THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM.

WHAT DO THEY KNOW ABOUT THE COMMUNITY?

THEY MAY HAVE HIGHER RATES OF DISEASE AND TARGETING THE COMMUNITIES, MAKE SURE THEY HAVE, YOU KNOW, A DIVERSE GROUP OF HEALTH PRACTITIONERS THEY HAVE ON STAFF TO DEAL WITH THE DIVERSE COMMUNITY.

ALL OF THOSE THINGS ARE IMPORTANT.

GOING OUT INTO THE COMMUNITY, THERE IS SOME, YOU KNOW, CERTAINLY ANECDOTAL DATA THAT PEOPLE ARE RELUCTANT TO GO FORWARD AND GO INTO THE HOSPITALS.

THEY'RE CONCERNED ABOUT INFECTIONS.

THEY'RE NOT SURE IF THEY HAVE SOMETHING.

SO, YOU KNOW, SEEING IF THERE IS A WAY TO EXTEND THE SERVICES INTO THE COMMUNITY.

I THINK ALL OF THOSE ARE PRACTICAL THINGS THEY CAN DO.

I ALSO THINK THAT THE HEALTH PRACTITIONERS HAVE BEST SUITED TO ALSO SAY WE NEED HELP.

THEY CAN ALSO SOUND THE ALARM ABOUT WHERE RESOURCES NEED TO BE TARGETED AT THIS MOMENT.

RIGHT.

YOU ALSO DONE A GREAT DEAL OF RESEARCH ON THE IMPACT THAT THIS HAS HAD.

ONCE AGAIN, AN IMPACT ON WOMEN OF COLOR.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SPECIFIC FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THAT IMPACT?

WOMEN ARE ON THE FRONT LINES OF THIS CRISIS IN A NUMBER OF WAYS.

THE FIRST IS THAT WOMEN OF COLOR ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY MORE LIKELY TO BE AN ECONOMIC DRIVER IN THEIR FAMILIES, YOU KNOW, ECONOMIC STABILITY.

PARTICULARLY IF YOU LOOK AT AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN AND LATINAS.

THEY ARE MOTHERS WHO ARE AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND LATINA ARE FAR MORE LIKELY TO BE BREADWINNERS FOR THE FAMILIES, MEANING, EITHER THE SOLE OR PRIMARY SOURCE OF SUPPORT FOR THEIR FAMILIES.

ALMOST 68% OF BLACK WOMEN PLAY A -- BLACK MOTHERS PLAY THAT ROLE.

SO THEIR CRITICAL TO THE ECONOMIC STA BIFBILITY OF THEIR FAMILIES.

IF YOU LOOK AT FAMILY HOUSEHOLDS GENERALLY, A LITTLE OVER 40% OF BLACK FAMILY HOUSEHOLDS ARE FUNDED BY WOMEN.

SO JUST THE VERY NATURE OF THE ROLE THAT MANY WOMEN OF COLOR PLAY IN THEIR FAMILIES IS WHY THEY'RE ON THE FRONT LINES.

A REMINDER, FOLKS, WE'RE TALKING WITH JOCELYN FRYE, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS.

YOU TALKED ABOUT THE ROLES OF THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY CAREGIVERS, OCCUPATIONAL RISKS.

I ALSO SEEN YOU USE THE TERM UNSPOKEN EXPECTATIONS.

PLACES UPON WOMEN OF COLOR.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

YOU KNOW, I THINK WE HAVE DEEPLY EMBEDDED ATTITUDES IN OUR COUNTRY ABOUT WOMEN GENERALLY AND WOMEN OF COLOR SPECIFICALLY.

AND THE ROLES THAT THEY PLAY.

WHAT WE KNOW FROM OUR HISTORY IS THAT WOMEN OF COLOR HAVE OFTEN BEEN THE CAREGIVERS.

THEY'RE THE HOME HEALTH AIDES.

THEY'RE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN THE CHILDCARE WORKERS.

THEY'RE THE PEOPLE THAT PEOPLE HAVE RELIED ON TO DO CARE.

OFTEN WITHOUT ADEQUATE MONEY TO BE SURE.

AND ALSO WITH LITTLE REGARD FOR THEIR OWN PERSONAL NEEDS.

AND EVEN THOUGH, YOU KNOW, WE'RE NOT, YOU KNOW, IN THE 1860s, AND WE HAVE, YOU KNOW, MOVED PAST MANY OF THE ROOTS THAT LEGACY OF HOW WE VIEW CARE AND WHO DOES CARE STILL SITS WITH US.

AND THEY OFTEN HAVE VERY FEW BENEFITS.

WE JUST -- WE EXPECT WOMEN OF COLOR TO SORT OF BE THERE.

BE THERE AND TO DO THE CARE, SERVICE, AND DO THE WORK AND THAT'S IMPORTANT.

IT'S CRITICAL ROLE.

WE ALSO DON'T VALUE IT THE WAY THAT WE TALK ABOUT.

THE ROLE THEY HAVE PLAYED THROUGHOUT THE COURSE OF OUR HISTORY, BY THE WAY, BEING THERE FOR THEIR FAMILIES.

YES.

LET ME TALK ABOUT SOME PROPOSALS THAT YOU HAVE OFFERED IN THE ORGANIZATION HAS OFFERED.

TO AT LEAST ADDRESS THEM.

REMEDY IS TOO OPTIMISTIC.

YOU TALKED ABOUT SOME STATISTICS.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN NEARLY 68% OF THEM ARE THE PRIMARY, THE SOLE OR PRIMARY WINNERS.

YOU ALSO HAVE A STATISTIC IN THERE THAT TO ME WAS STAGGERING.

YOU TALK ABOUT THE NOTION OF WEALTH.

WHAT THEY CAN DRAW ON.

AND YOU TALK ABOUT FOR A SINGLE BLACK WOMAN, IT WAS AVERAGE OF $200.

COMPARED TO A SINGLE WHITE WOMAN WHICH WAS ABOUT $18,000.

SO LOOKING AT THE AMOUNT OF MONEY, WAGES ARE BEING PAID, THE WEALTH OR THE WEALTH THAT IS NOT THERE, LET'S SAY, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE REMEDIES THAT WE COULD BE LOOKING AT?

IN THE SHORT TERM, WE WANT TO MAKE SURE TO THE EXTENT THAT WE'RE CONTEMPLATING DIFFERENT PROPOSALS, WE HAVE TO FOCUS ON HOW DO WE MAKE SURE PEOPLE GET AS MUCH INCOME AS POSSIBLE?

WE OUGHT TO BE THINKING ABOUT ARE THERE SOLUTIONS OUT THERE THAT ACTUALLY WILL GET PEOPLE CLOSE TO A HIGHER MINIMUM WAGE THAN THEY CURRENTLY MAKE?

ARE THERE THINGS PARTICULARLY FOR MANY WOMEN OF COLOR WHO ARE IN JOBS WHERE THERE ARE ESSENTIAL WORKERS?

ARE THERE THINGS LIKE PREMIUM PAY?

EXTRA PAY?

THEY'RE IN THE VERY HAZARDOUS JOBS AND THEY NEED ADDITIONAL COSTS FOR THINGS LIKE CHILDCARE OR MAYBE HOUSING.

YOU KNOW, CAN WE DEAL WITH THAT?

I THINK LONG TERM WE'RE REALLY TALKING ABOUT HOW WE ELIMINATE SOME OF THE LONG STANDING PAY INEQUITIES THAT WE KNOW ARE THERE FOR WOMEN OF COLOR.

WOMEN GENERALLY EARN LESS.

THEY KNOW THAT.

THERE IS A LONG STANDING PAY GAP.

THE WOMEN OF COLOR ARE THE LOWEST PAID WORKERS AND THERE IS MORE WE CAN BE DOING THERE.

YEAH.

WELL, THERE IS SO MUCH -- YOU HAVE A WHOLE LIST OF PROPOSALS THAT WE HAD MORE TIME WE COULD GO OVER ALL OF THEM.

I THINK IT'S A VERY THOUGHTFUL AND PROVOCATIVE LOOK AT A VERY SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM HERE.

SO ONCE AGAIN, JOCELYN FRYE, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SPENDING SOME TIME WITH US.

I HOPE WE CAN TALK AGAIN SOME MORE ABOUT SOME OF THESE ISSUES AS WE MOVE FORWARD.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

GREAT TO BE HERE.

YOU BE WELL NOW.

YOU TOO.

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