Tag Archives: public policy

We Are as Strong as Our Weakest Link

Coronavirus has overtaken how people are living their lives and is now controlling their psyche – as it should.

Reaction has ranged from indifference to paranoia. On one end of the spectrum, reckless students from University of Austin chartered a plane and flew to Mexico for spring break. 44 of them contracted coronavirus. On the other, fake news circulates, conspiracy theories go viral on WhatsApp, and people self-medicate with chloroquine, leading to paranoia.

What is fact and what is fiction?

Ethnic Media Services video briefing on Coronavirus

Ethnic Media Services held a video briefing last Friday, March 27th, with a panel of medical health professionals and advocates who are on the forefront of coronavirus research, work, and policy. The panelists addressed current information about the virus, safety measures, and effects on marginalized communities.

Dr. Daniel Turner-Lloveras, Harbor UCLA Medical Center, and Dr. Rishi Manchanda, Health Begins, spoke about overlooked populations and how their health will actually determine the efficacy of COVID-19. Turner-Lloveras pressed that we need to ensure access to public health for those that are undocumented or without health insurance. 43% of undocumented immigrants are without health insurance and are high risk populations if they contract the virus. 

Additionally, the pandemic has the potential “to disproportionately affect communities of color and immigrants,” Dr. Manchanda confirmed. He expanded that the reason for this is that these populations are at a “greater risk for exposure, have limited access to testing, and have severe complications.”

Dr. Rishi Manchanda briefing community media outlets

Many frontline staff for essential services belong to such communities and are at a higher risk of exposure because of their contact with the public. People on the frontline are unable to take time off due to the nature of their job and their dependency on the income; many continue to work while sick. Infection can spread from work to home and into these communities due to the density of housing.

Once exposed, vulnerable populations have limited access to testing for a multitude of reasons – fear of the healthcare system, lack of health insurance, inability to communicate their needs, and underlying racism. 

Infection from this virus can cause complications leading to chronic illness. The risk of developing chronic illness is higher for communities of color. Research shows that African American, Latinx, and Asian Americans have an increased probability of having chronic illness, over white populations; “Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are at twice the risk of developing diabetes than the population overall.”

The nascence of a pandemic brings with it a pressing need to address the gaps within the structural framework of the public health system in America. If we are unable to effectively help disenfranchised communities, then we are ineffective in controlling the spread of the virus. 

“By caring for others, you’re caring for yourself,” Dr. Turner-Lloveras urges. 

Public health is not an economic drain or a privilege, it is a right. Dialogue around healthcare has long forgotten the systemic racism embedded in it; the wealth gap limits the accessibility to health care or good health care. NAACP studies have found connections between coronavirus and negative impacts on communities of color. 

But racism has moved beyond just health…

Asians and Asian Americans are experiencing racism at higher rates. Manju Kulkarni, Executive Director of Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, recounted a story of a child experiencing verbal and physical assault for being of Asian descent at a school in LA. Since then there have been around 100 reported cases a day of hate towards AAPIs on public transit, grocery stores, pharmacies. Kulkarni and her team at A3PCON are doing everything in their power to legislate and educate.

That said, it is our social responsibility to stay informed and updated. “Bad information is deadly,” states Dr. Tung Nguyen, University of California, San Francisco, as he gives quick rundown of what is known about COVID-19 thus far:

  • Currently there is no known vaccine or immunity from COVID-19. 
  • Vaccines are 12-18 months out, if the vaccine was approved for phase 1 testing today.
  • COVID-19 has exponential spread; if there are 200,000 cases this week, there will be 400,00 cases next week, 1 million cases the next week, and 4 million cases by the end of the month.
  • COVID-19 is an infection that leads to sepsis and those with sepsis require ventilators; this has led to a national shortage of ventilators.
  • There is a 1.5% – 4.5% death rate from COVID-19.

Information to keep you safe:

  • Have the healthiest person leave the house to get essentials.
  • Have a room to disinfect in before entering primary areas of the house.
  • COVID-19 is in the air for 3-6 hours, lasts 24 hours on cardboard, and on steel and metal for 72 hours.
  • Clean commonly touched objects – faucets, handles – with disinfectant.

If you are sick, call your hospital or provider in advance. Hospital resources are currently limited and telehealth measures have been put in place to assess patients from a distance. You can find more on the CDC website

Dr. Tung Nguyen and Dr. Daniel Turner-Lloveras, both gave one big takeaway – the best thing one can do during this pandemic is STAY AT HOME

Abide by the shelter in place regulations and continue to keep the dialogue about the pandemic open. The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us of the need for awareness, the importance of early containment, and the accessibility of health care to colored communities/immigrants. 

Srishti Prabha is the current Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Doubts About the 2020 Census: How Will the First Online Census Work?

Question: Do you mean that this Census will be digital and we will have to put our information online? How will this work? What will happen to people who do not have access to a phone or computer?

The census will be online, but not exclusively. As we do with almost any other transaction today, the 2020 Census will be conducted primarily online. This will be the first time this happens in the survey´s 117 years of existence. 

The way things used to be: Historically, the Census has been conducted through printed forms that are sent to homes. If the form was not returned, a Census enumerator would then be sent to conduct the survey in person. 

Choosing how to respond: The 2020 Census will be conducted on a variety of platforms. This time, it will be different, explained Patricia Ramos, a Census Bureau spokeswoman. “Responding to the 2020 Census will be easy for everyone. For the first time, you can choose to respond online and you can also choose to respond by phone, mail, or to a Census worker who arrives at your home.

You will get an invitation to go online: Esperanza Guevara, director of Census programs for the Human Immigrant Rights Coalition (CHIRLA) explained that beginning March 12, the Census Bureau will send a letter to 80% of all households inviting them to fill out about ten questions online using a special identifier number. Another 20% will get similar letters plus a paper questionnaire.

Not everyone has the Internet. But the first online census does not forget that there are sectors of the population that simply do not have easy access to a computer or an Internet connection.  According to a report by the Public Policy Institute of California, 90% of households in California use the Internet and 73% have a cell phone. However, there are populations that are less connected: in low-income communities, rural areas and Latinos or African Americans, only 54% to 67% are connected to the Internet.

You will have more than one opportunity to participate. “The invitation will also include information about the option of doing it on paper or by phone,” said Guevara. “Then they will send four more reminders until the end of April.” All households that haven’t self-responded by mid-April will receive a paper form in the 4th mailing. The fifth mailing – a “it’s not too late” postcard – will be sent to those who haven’t responded.  If there’s no response from a household after that, an enumerator will come to the door.  

There will be  computers in the community: Guevara indicated that his organization, CHIRLA, is one of the “trusted” messengers who is working to answer community questions and to inform them of the importance of filling out the Census. CHIRLA will provide computers in its offices and knock on doors to remind the community that it is important to participate. It is anticipated that Public Libraries with computers will also become a favorite place for those who do not have easy access to the Internet. 

It takes little time to respond and it means a lot: “We want to remind you that the Census takes little time to complete, but it means a lot to our communities,” said the activist. “Their results help bring resources to their homes and ensure that our values are represented in government.”

Question: How can I be sure that my information will be kept confidential or that it will not be used against me by the government? 

According to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, 63% of Californians are concerned about the confidentiality of the data they give to the government in the Census. This sentiment is accentuated in communities such as Latinos (74%) and African Americans (74%). 

There are two levels of mistrust. 

The first is mistrust of the platform or whether delivering data “online” to the government is safe at a time when hacking into private financial companies is often in the news. 

The second is mistrust of the government and how it will make use of citizen data. 

As for the first question, the Census Bureau says it has worked at various levels to protect the information it will collect online or through its door-to-door enumerators who will also carry phones with a special application that will transmit data directly to headquarters.

The data will be “encrypted” to protect its transmission. Staff must use double authentication to verify users and the government will use the Einstein 3A system to monitor networks and identify malicious activity around databases. 

Second, the confidentiality of the personal information is guaranteed by law, according to Census spokespeople. 

“The law is clear: no personal information can be shared,” explained in an email Patricia Ramos, regional Census spokeswoman. 

“Under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, the Census Bureau cannot disclose any identifiable information about individuals, households or businesses, even to law enforcement agencies. All Census Bureau employees take an oath to protect your information. We have sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of your data. We could go to jail or be fined up to $250,000 if we violate that oath,” she added. 

Guevara, of CHIRLA added that the law is on the side of confidentiality. And for those who do not trust this government, the activist asked to trust the vigilance of the legal community and community groups. 

“We are committed to serving as guardians of what happens, we are not afraid to take on the fight necessary to ensure that this government complies with the law,” she said.

Information was gathered by https://ethnicmediaservices.org/ through social media. If you have a question or doubt about the Census, please write to [email protected] and we will consult the experts to get the answers.