– Calls for a Just Recovery Response to COVID-19 that Centers The Most Vulnerable –
Contact: Olivia Burlingame [email protected] 301-613-4767
Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) calls upon the Trump Administration, states, and local health agencies to ensure a rapid and responsible approach to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) that will lead to the long term resilience of vulnerable communities. Disease and climate disasters are the new normal, and the speedy, though inconsistent and inequitable, response to coronavirus so far proves that governments, businesses, and communities are capable of quickly addressing crises, including the climate crisis. CJA is committed to holding our governments accountable, while supporting our members and grassroots, frontline organizations in preparing a community care and centered approach to COVID-19.
Whether it is our elders and frontline communities that have high rates of respiratory illness, diabetes, and autoimmune disease; or working class families, those who are houseless, undocumented, incarcerated or those with disabilities who have the least access to housing and healthcare, COVID-19 puts our communities at further risk, especially those in rural areas and American Indian and Alaska Native lands. Trump’s xenophobic and racist response, and his refusal to heed the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), which would have delivered test kits to the US given the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) inability to create its own, has only increased the danger. It also underscores the need for a response based in a Just Recovery approach, where local communities are involved and lead the way in assessing and addressing the real concerns of their communities, including developing the best care models for their most vulnerable.
INTERNATIONAL TO LOCAL ECONOMIC REPERCUSSIONS SHOW THE NEED FOR A JUST TRANSITION
Coronavirus is here and is a litmus test for how the climate crisis will destabilize markets, open opportunity for disaster capitalism, disrupt global supply chains, and expose inadequate or failing systems like our healthcare system. We are already seeing a stunning drop in oil prices, price manipulation of key health related products, hoarding, and a concern on the supply side of renewable energy components. Frontline communities have been here before and we know how corporations and special interest groups use people’s suffering for profit.
This is why we need a Just Transition away from extractive and polluting economies to economies that are governed and designed by local communities, and aim to protect workers while ensuring safe and sustainable energy. There is no need for us to be dependent on energy giants who exist only to make a profit and who have historically harmed our communities when we can control our local economies, create jobs, learn trades and plan our own development justly.
THREATS OF QUARANTINE HAVE HISTORICALLY BEEN LINKED TO RACIST, MILITARIZED STRATEGIES
Quarantines, containment strategies (including surveillance that typically has a security component), and states of emergency can escalate to authoritarian and racist policies of control. As more cases are identified in the U.S., there are reports that people exposed to the virus are being caught up in quarantine, sometimes in military bases like Lackland Airforce Base in San Antonio, or at the behest of the National Guard, as in New York. In the U.S. we know that local law enforcement agencies and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have used every opening to attack the undocumented and other immigrants and racially profile members of our communities.
Access to adequate preventative health care and testing for those who often live in the shadows, such as the houseless and undocumented communities, must be guaranteed. Therefore, we call on local and state health departments to guarantee access to care free of fear of repercussions for all in the community. Further, we demand no coordination of any agencies managing the public health crises with ICE, Department of Homeland Security (CHS), or U.S. Border Patrol agents.
RACIST ACTS AND PORTRAYAL OF VIRUS VICTIMS IN THE MEDIA MUST BE CONDEMNED
Physical violence and abuse are a reality for many in our communities. We condemn the racist and anti-immigrant attacks being waged by the Trump administration and its surrogates. We call on the Trump Administration, all state and local officials and media outlets to immediately stop promoting the lie that some groups of people (primarily those with Chinese and Asian roots) are more likely to carry the virus. This is categorically untrue and there are reports that this is already having economic ramifications in Asian communities and businesses across the country.
“As COVID-19 spreads, so do the panicked reactions that are targeting our Chinese and Asian immigrant and refugee community members and workers in Oakland Chinatown and across the state. Home-care workers are being interrogated, businesses are being targeted, and people are being assaulted in public places. The fear and hatred that promotes racial profiling and xenophobic attacks on immigrants and refugees is a pre-existing condition that has been weaponized by the Trump administration since day one.” – Miya Yoshitani, CJA Steering Committee Member and Executive Director of Asian Pacific Environmental Network
To date, those most at risk are the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, regardless of race or country of origin. We must create communities of care, not ignorance.
DISRUPTION OF WORK AND TRAVEL DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTS INMATES, LOW-WAGE WORKERS, AND CONTRACTORS
Just as we see xenophobia rising, disease capitalism is currently accelerating in the U.S. Grounded in profiting off the misery of others, it includes price hikes and hoarding of sorely needed medicines and disinfectants, forcing the incarcerated to produce currently hard-to-find items for little or no pay, costly testing and potential vaccines that may be out of reach for many, or layoffs. The ripple effects of quarantine, remote work, canceled travel, and disrupted supply chains result in more demands being made on low-wage workers and incarcerated people; often no protocols or rapid response plans exist for those in prison or jail. Workers are being laid off with little to no support systems and some, such as nurses, taxi drivers, or cruise ship workers are being put in high risk/exposure situations.
We condemn disease capitalism and demand free access to healthcare, paid sick leave and containment leave, eviction protections, safety protocols, unemployment benefits, and jobs guarantees so our communities are able to recover justly. Given the current politically motivated response to COVID-19, which has included downplaying the impact to the public, lax containment and social distancing recommendations and militarization, the Trump Administration has paved the way for disease capitalism to prosper.
THE U.S. HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IS DESIGNED FOR PROFIT
COVID-19 has exposed how deeply inadequate, inequitable, and limited the United States healthcare system is. Built for profit rather than human need, those most vulnerable in our communities are at higher risk of serious health concerns, including death, if they become infected. Health care costs are real, especially when you consider loved ones who don’t have coverage and no paid time off. Just imagine the 7 million food service workers who would have to take unpaid leave to care for themselves or a loved one. This expectation is unrealistic, unfair and unsustainable.
Therefore, we demand immediately that the federal government ensure an abundance of tests and make resources available to all states and American Indian and Alaska Natives so that adequate testing and intervention can begin. Due to the lack of any real federal response, many states with only a few cases of COVID-19 have already declared states of emergencies in order to receive funding to begin a robust medical response. We do not know, however, if this will suffice.
Congress recently passed an $8 billion bill for recovery. We demand that the federal government immediately pass these funds on to local, state and tribal health departments, which at this time, have the best capacity to control the spread of the virus. Moreover, we recognize the need for the United States to live up to its trust and treaty responsibilities to tribal nations and we support the request of no less than $120 million allocated to tribal nations and urban Indian organizations who deserve access to the same funding support and information as states. Further, it is imperative that local officials work with community base building organizations who understand the best way to access and address the real concerns of frontline communities. Local community involvement and leadership is key. With recent community hospital closures, especially in rural areas, along with a reduction in hospital beds, it is critical that resources be made available across the board and that federal, state, local and tribal authorities are working in a coordinated effort to combat the spread of the virus. Universal health care is a right and is the strongest way to ensure all of us can access testing and treatment now, and well into the future.
IT’S TIME FOR A RESPONSIBLE APPROACH THROUGH LONG TERM JUST RECOVERY
We encourage everyone to continue to follow the latest developments within the scientific community about COVID-19. At this point, we know little and encourage the federal government to strengthen and support, rather than impede, the larger medical community as it moves to implement measures and protocols that are based in sound science rather than fear. In the coming weeks and months as presidential elections draw near, our environment will become increasingly politicized. We remind everyone that medical experts, not politicians, should be consulted and sought out for advice on self-quarantine and testing.
The extreme mismanagement, at the highest levels of our government from the outset, speaks to the dire situation we face in the U.S. and the importance of who holds public office. As more cases of the virus are identified in more states, we must look to our communities to support them and learn from them about how best to safeguard those on the frontlines of this public health crisis.
The Climate Justice Alliance, representing 70 members from urban and rural frontline communities, organizations and supporting networks, is committed to a collective care and community building approach developed through a process of intentional deliberation. We understand from the WHO that the next couple of weeks can be pivotal and we want to contribute to the management of this virus for vulnerable members of our communities. We must be smart, not scared. We call for and embody a sensible approach, drawing upon the wisdom of our elders, to stop the spread of the virus, grounded in community leadership and a Just Recovery.