As the nation erupts in protest and outrage in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbey, Breonna Taylor and the countless other Black individuals who have been the targets of police violence and murder, it is a responsibility of the public health community to stand with the movements for police accountability and an end to state sanctioned violence against Black people.
It is also clear that the disproportionate and devastating impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on Black and Latinx communities is not an accident. It is the predictable outcome of years of consistent, conscious choices made by people with power -- elected officials, policymakers, corporate leaders, and others. Higher levels of air pollution in communities of color is a choice. Lack of access to safe, affordable housing for families of color is a choice. Lack of access to healthy, affordable food is a choice.
In our fight for health equity and racial justice, expressing our outrage is vitally important. This must also be connected to demands for different policy choices: choices about police accountability and the way our criminal legal system targets people of color, choices about housing and health care justice, and choices about how our state responds to COVID-19 right now. Because lack of access to adequate protections for essential workers, who are disproportionately Black and Brown, is also a choice.
Governor Baker is slated to make an announcement in six days about whether to proceed with Phase Two of reopening Massachusetts. Yet, essential workers don't have access to adequate testing, protective equipment, or workplace protections. Massachusetts continues to lack meaningful data to track how infection and death rates are trending among Black and Latinx residents. And representatives from communities most impacted by the epidemic are notably absent from the groups advising Governor Baker on the reopening.
That is why, this Thursday morning, MPHA and the Task Force on Coronavirus & Equity will hold a virtual press conference to demand an equitable reopening.
We know that employment -- good jobs that provide benefits and a living wage -- is a critical social determinant of health. We want a strong economy, and we want people to return to work as soon as possible. But we will not accept a reopening that happens at the expense of low-wage workers and people of color. Additional phases of reopening must be carried out with equity at the center.
We hope you will join us this Thursday as we release a set of criteria that are prerequisites for an equitable reopening. More details will follow soon.