Gov. Cuomo to expand coronavirus testing for minorities

With black, Latino and lower-income residents being infected at higher rates, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday he was launching a coronavirus testing initiative aimed at addressing the disparity.

Cuomo told reporters he plans to expand coronavirus testing at 24 churches in communities of color and low-income areas. Public officials, working with churches and religious leaders, will help organize and run the temporary facilities and encourage people in those communities to get tested, Cuomo said.

The governor said 20 of the 21 ZIP codes in New York with the most COVID-19 hospitalizations have greater than average percentages of black or Latino residents.

“There is no doubt it is a problem,” Cuomo said. “We must address the racial disparities of this pandemic, and meet the need where it is.”

“Hospitals report nightly how many cases they have and where they come from. When you look into that information, especially in Brooklyn and the Bronx, it’s clear the communities are from heavier low-income and minority populations.”

Cuomo said coronavirus testing is also being offered at public housing complexes and that officials have delivered face masks and hand sanitizer to public housing residents.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who is helping coordinate the assistance effort, said people of color and low-income communities across the nation historically have been hit hard during emergencies because of a lack of resources.

“We can address this COVID-19 pandemic with these houses of worship and religious leaders who have the capacity to reach those in the community who need to be tested,” he said. “This is not over for any of us.”

In Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp lifted some coronavirus restrictions last week, the CDC released a study which found that black residents accounted for 83% of COVID-19 hospitalizations, despite making up 32% of the state’s population.

Georgia residents are now allowed to again dine in restaurants and go to movie theaters, gyms, churches and beauty salons as long social distancing guidelines are observed, even though the number of confirmed cases in the state has reached 32,497 and the death toll has climbed to 1,400.

According to new information from the APM Research Lab, black residents in Kansas have been seven times more likely than white residents to die from COVID-19. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly began allowing some businesses, such as restaurants and religious centers, to reopen on Monday as long as they comply with social distancing guidelines.

Researchers at APM also found that black residents in Missouri, Wisconsin and Washington D.C., have been six times more likely than white residents to die from the virus. In Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Oregon and South Carolina, researchers said, black residents have been three times more likely to die.

On Saturday, the nation’s death toll from the pandemic stood at more than 77,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Hard-hit New York has witnessed a steady decline in daily reports of new cases and a dip in coronavirus-related hospitalizations in recent weeks. But Cuomo said a disturbing number of New Yorkers are still dying daily.

He said 226 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 in a 24-hour period ending Friday, bringing the total in the state to more than 21,000.

“There are 226 people who lost their lives despite everything our healthcare system could do,” Cuomo said. “You see how that number is infuriatingly constant. It’s where we were five days ago.”

He also expressed alarm that the virus has taken the lives of three young children in New York and that 73 toddlers who had tested positive for COVID-19 in the state had been showing symptoms similar to toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease.

Cuomo said the new information, which he called “truly disturbing,” is an indicator of just how little is definitively known about the virus.

“We were laboring under the impression that young people were not affected by COVID-19. And that was actually good news,” Cuomo said. “We are not so sure that is the fact anymore.”