- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
COVID-19 tore through New York City when it first hit the United States, leaving unimaginable death and suffering in its wake. And the fight is far from over.
Although we have made great strides in understanding, treating, and tracking the virus, our planning is flawed and inconsistent — and it is costing us lives. At the same time, COVID-19 hit us as hard as it did because our public health system was — and still is — woefully inadequate, especially for communities of color.
Like a patient with a weak immune system, the underlying condition that has allowed COVID-19 to kill so many Black and Brown New Yorkers is inequality. We cannot hope to control the coronavirus without also curing that disease.
People of color in our city have far-higher rates of chronic illness and the comorbidities that make people vulnerable to COVID-19 and other viruses. Black New Yorkers’ life expectancy is a full four years lower than the citywide average. That is the result of poor healthcare, lack of healthy food options, and unhealthy living conditions.
I was one of those people of color living with a chronic illness that could have been prevented. I was diagnosed with diabetes and lost sight in my eye. My doctor told me I was facing blindness and amputations. So, I switched to eating only healthy foods and began practicing mindfulness. Within weeks, I was feeling better. Within months, I had sent my diabetes into remission.
Now I want to do the same for all New Yorkers who just need access to quality healthcare and food to improve their health and protect themselves against illness and this deadly virus. I am certain we can. What it will take is an unprecedented commitment to public health from City government.
Turning around this city starts with taming COVID. We need an all-in effort that restores public confidence as it protects public health, undoes the deep racial health disparities in our city, and reduces inequalities by increasing delivery of services.
I have already released a number of proposals that should be implemented immediately, including: instituting a color-coded vaccination program to ensure we reach herd immunity and vaccinate the most vulnerable New Yorkers as quickly as possible; ; sending community health workers directly into neighborhoods with high morbidity rates; expanding access to telehealth; building out a robust rapid-testing program, and setting up COVID care centers in NYCHA complexes and in vacant storefronts in lower-income communities.
In the coming weeks, I will lay out a detailed plan for how to improve our public health system, the health of New Yorkers, and our success against the coronavirus.