When White people get a cold, Black people get pneumonia SOS holds press conference at Alabama State Capitol steps to highlight health disparities and advocate for immediate expansion of Medicaid

Montgomery, AL: The Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS), held a witness and press conference on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol, on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. The witness by SOS leaders, standing six feet apart, was to highlight the disparities in health impacts for Black and other minority communities caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
SOS advocated to Governor Kay Ivey and state leaders to immediately expand Medicaid to provide insurance coverage to over 340,000 working people in the state of Alabama as a meaningful response to the corona virus pandemic.
SOS also urged state and local leaders to release all non-violent offenders in prison and persons held in jails for failure to make bail, as a humanitarian response to the coronavirus pandemic since adequate social distancing is not possible for incarcerated people in Alabama’s overcrowded prisons.
Attorney and former Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders said: “Unfortunately, the reality is that when White people get colds in our society, Black people and other Minorities get pneumonia. The coronavirus has shined a blinding light on this longstanding reality. Because the coronavirus is much more contagious and deadly than pneumonia, Black people and Minorities are at much greater risks from the coronavirus. The time to address these inequities and disparities is now.”
Community Advocate Karen Jones said: “The statistics are overwhelming in showing the greater and deadlier impact on Black and other minority communities when it comes to the coronavirus. The statistics for today from the Alabama Department of Public Health show that 43% of the 3,800 people who have tested positive for coronavirus are Black and that 53% of the 99 deaths attributed to the virus are Black. This is in a state where 25% of the population overall is Black. These are cold, hard facts. This is an opportunity not only to act to save lives now – but also to save lives in the future. Alabama must seize this opportunity now and expand Medicaid.”
Attorney and Civil Rights Advocate Faya Toure said: “Black and other Minorities are hit by the quintuple whammies of: (1) poverty; (2) lack of health care and access to care due in large part to the failure to expand Medicaid in states that have greater Black and Minority populations; (3) difficulty in securing health insurance due to cost and jobs that do not provide health care; (4) jobs that expose them to greater risk of contacting the coronavirus; and (5) closer living spaces, whether that is in the home, the community or in our prisons and jails.”
Founder of the World Conference of Mayors and former Tuskegee Mayor and State Representative Johnny Ford said: “The United States is testing fewer than one percent of our population, and Alabama is testing at an even lower rate. Alabama is also testing at the lowest rate in Black and other Minority communities.
In fact, the Alabama Department of Public Health has only held one day of very limited testing in two Black Belt counties Bullock County on April 3rd and Lowndes County on April 7th – out of 18 Alabama Black Belt counties. ADPH limited testing to people (1) who are symptomatic with either a fever, cough or shortness of breath and (2) who also are immune-compromised or have comorbidity, 65 years or older, a healthcare worker or associated with a long-term healthcare facility. That was it for the Black Belt. That must change NOW.”
SOS Health Care Committee co-chair and Chair of the Greene County Health System John Zippert said: “The State of Alabama and the federal government must direct resources to the communities where the greater likelihood of death and serious illness exist. This includes testing, medical care, data collection and more. And by testing, we mean mass testing because that is the only way to detect and prevent mass spread of this virus. We cannot get ahead of the virus until we begin mass testing.”
Zippert also said, “Gov. Ivey must immediately expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor, up to 138% of the poverty level, to help insure that more small rural hospitals will be able to remain open in the state to serve people during and after the pandemic. Most rural hospitals in the state are running at a financial deficit because they are serving people who would otherwise be covered by insurance secured through Medicaid expansion.”
Law Professor Emerita Martha Morgan added that data from a Pew Charitable Trusts report released yesterday had very disturbing findings, including: “It looks increasingly likely the South will endure more death and economic loss from COVID-19 than any other region in the country – and not just because Southern governors were slow to shut down businesses and order people to stay at home. Southern poverty rates are high, social welfare programs spotty and health care infrastructure threadbare.
Last year, 120 rural U.S. hospitals closed their doors; 75 of them were in the South. And emerging data from some cities and states shows that Black people – more than half of whom live in the South – are contracting and dying from the virus at a disproportionately high rate.”
For more information on the work of the Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy, visit http://www.saveourselvesmovement@gmail.com.

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