This is what I’m observing since I heard the words COVID-19.
COVID-19 has created a disruptive new normal. It has caused a breach in our systems. There is a spotlight on words such as social distancing, shelter in place, quarantined, and essential workers. There are reminders everywhere: wash your hands, wear a mask, and practice social distancing. We’re becoming more mindful of our health (at least I hope so).
The impact is devastating. Life is chaotic. As the virus rips through cities, people are losing their lives, jobs, connection to community, and a sense of stability. Parents are home schooling their children. People are supporting family and community members in ways they did not imagine. Simultaneously, we are digesting breaking news about COVID-19 that seems to change daily (if not hourly). There is a lack of money, people, and resources to attend to the emerging needs of people and communities. People are fearful and stressed. Our rituals are being compromised. People are grieving the passing of loved ones through online viewings and funerals.
For billions of poor people, COVID-19 has exacerbated inequalities. The pre-existing racial and health disparities already present in the US have been intensified by the pandemic. According to the worldometers.com on this day in the US, we have 1,667,437 cases, 98,691 deaths, 446,927 recovered. As disaggregate statistics come out, we are seeing the impact the virus is having on marginalized populations. The data confirms that racial disparities exist. African Americans are dying at a higher rate compare to any other racial group.
Poverty, race, gender, immigration status, frontline low-wage occupations, homelessness, poor housing stock, underlying health conditions, special needs, and geography (rural and urban) are the social vulnerability factors that make people vulnerable to the virus. They create a greater unequal impact for people who fall into more than one of these categories. The reality is that you are either going to die from the virus or you’re going to die from the lack of necessities such as food, shelter, poor health, and substandard health care. The more vulnerable you are, the more likely to be devastated by the effects of the virus. The healthier and wealthier you are, the better your chances of resisting, recuperating, and bouncing back stronger.
The disruptive new normal has changed things. Although we are facing uncertain times, we’re seeing more community engagement, sharing, resilience, and caring. People are organizing, reconnecting, raising up their voices, and resisting. People are also committing to radical self-care, a disciplined and tough-mindedness approach that emphasizes the importance of taking care of yourself so you can take care of others. Many are reconnecting with the power of living and breathing life into the connection with spirit and community. People are reflecting, reading, adopting healthy habits, eating more plant-based foods, meditating, taking online yoga classes, walking, and running and/or jogging.
Recognizing and addressing the stark reality of inequality are so vital right now. Examining the existing power structures can also help us build stronger and more equitable systems. If we put people before corporations, health before profits, and equity before power and privilege, the better our chances are to work as a collective to rebuild better and more resilient communities to future crises.
What are you observing since you heard the words COVID-19?
Stay safe, strong, and informed as we organize and care for one another.