'ByeCOVID' offers free, mobile coronavirus antibody testing to communities of color
ByeCOVID

The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color in the United States, adding insult to injury in the ongoing fight for racial equity in all areas. According to an NPR analysis of available data, the following are some disparities that have been found:

-Nationally, deaths from COVID-19 are nearly two times greater for Black Americans than would be expected based on share of population. In four states, the rate is three or more times greater than expected.

- In 42 states plus Washington D.C., Hispanic/Latino people make up a greater share of cases than expected for population share

- In 37 states plus Washington D.C. white deaths are lower than expected for population share



In response to these disparities, the city of Compton, California is partnering with Black-led organizations to respond to the testing and care needed in Black and Brown communities. ByeCOVID is an initiative founded by Originals Nation, a non-profit organization focusing on economic progress and wealth-building for Black America. It provides infrastructure to support innovation, as well as Trap heals, an artist/strategist collective utilizing community engagement, artistic activism and cultural leadership to honor and heal communities of color.

Together with the mayor of Compton, Aja Brown, these organizations are offering free, FDA-approved, rapid antibody testing to the community through byeCOVID.

In fact, today they are offering free antibody testing to all attendees of Compton College's Juneteenth celebration, with both walk-up and drive-thru options available.

The byeCOVID website describes the coronavirus initiative as, "a cultural response system that can deploy resources directly to underserved communities during this crisis."

Why is a "cultural response system" needed? Because we are in a healthcare crisis that relies on a healthcare system that already has a problem with disparate racial outcomes. The fact that the pandemic has followed suit points to certain needs not being met in communities of color.

"Providing underprivileged communities with free COVID-19 antibody testing delivered in a culturally sensitive manner is our chance to transform the narrative and uplift the people," the website states. "We won't stop with getting them access to the testing kits. We will also provide them with holistic care packages curated to promote positive well being that can sustain long-term healing."

A byeCOVID van can bring mobile testing into communities where testing is needed, and the care packages offered are "filled with essential items, personal protective equipment (PPE) and many soothing grooves to promote healthy coping mechanisms and best mental health practices."

Since the healthcare system doesn't generally recognize or attend to the cultural needs of communities of color, this initiative aims to help fill the gap, at least during the pandemic. "Racism is a public health crisis and we must come together to protect the most vulnerable among us," the byeCOVID site states. "During this global pandemic, which has prompted immense societal reflection, healing elements that remind us of self-care and communal togetherness need to become standard for the cultural spaces we create."

Canva

As millions of Americans have raced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, millions of others have held back. Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, of course, especially with new vaccines, but the information people use to weigh their decisions matters greatly. When choices based on flat-out wrong information can literally kill people, it's vital that we fight disinformation every which way we can.

Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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