COVAC Statement on Structural Racism and Public Health

Logo for COVID-19 Action Coalition

COVID-19 Action Coalition Statement 

Structural Racism and Public Health: a Call to Action Against Two Related Pandemics

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Tony McDade. As we mourn these victims of racist violence committed by police and others, along with countless other Black men and women killed in racist acts, we also mourn the thousands of Black people that have died at disproportionate rates from COVID-19. These deaths are not only a deeply disturbing stain on the fabric of justice, they result from racism, a pervasive public health threat as real and as devastating as COVID-19.


Black Americans have a much higher risk of dying from excessive force by law enforcement, just as they also have a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.  Research estimates that 1 in 1000 Black men and boys will be killed by police in their lifetime, and Black Americans are at least 2 to 3 times as likely to die of brutal force at the hands of law enforcement as white Americans.  Sadly, Black Americans are also dying of COVID-19 at rates at least 2 to 3 times higher than white Americans. 


The disproportionate health effects on Black lives from COVID-19 are a direct result of the legacy of centuries of slavery and structural racism. We have long known that Black people experience much higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and a wide range of other chronic conditions that also increase the risk of COVID-19 related complications, but higher rates of chronic health conditions are only one of many factors influencing their risk of acquiring and dying from COVID-19.  Black people are also dying from the COVID-19 pandemic due to many other social factors that combine to reduce their protection from this devastating public health threat, including inequitable access to testing and treatment, disadvantaged socioeconomic status (e.g. crowded living conditions, increased exposure as essential workers), and disproportionate imprisonment.


The two closely intertwined public health threats posed by racism and COVID-19 can only be resolved by sustained concrete actions to systematically examine and dismantle the societal structures that support racism in all its forms.  As health care professionals, the COVID-19 Action Coalition believes it is our collective responsibility to lead and support initiatives that will transform both our healthcare system and the societal structures that perpetuate the conditions for continuing health disparities.  We will work tirelessly with public health experts, industry leaders, policymakers, and the community, to develop and implement actions effective against both pandemics.


Showing Support from Home: There are several ways in which you can be anti-racist and express solidarity in fighting against injustices while staying home and staying safe from COVID-19.

  1. Donate to anti-racist movements that need funding – Reclaim the Block, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Black Lives Matter, Color of Change, ACLU of Minnesota, Official George Floyd Memorial Fund, Justice for Breonna Taylor Fund, I Run with Maud Fund (for Ahmaud Arbery), Tony McDade Fund, and more (link 1, link 2).
  2. Sign petitions.
  3. Write to your elected officials (Campaign Zero).
  4. Get a group you are involved with to raise a collective voice – your place of work, a volunteer organization you are a part of, your place of worship.
  5. Speak your voice and show solidarity through virtual outlets (e.g., social media, writing comments to articles, liking/disliking posts, amplifying black voices, posting links to fundraisers, sharing articles, writing blog posts, re-tweeting news and statistics).
  6. Support black communities, activists, newspapers, business owners, and restaurants.
  7. Support legal aids and bail funds (Know Your Rights Camp, Massachusetts Bail Fund).
  8. Stay informed of the rapidly evolving situation.
  9. Use this opportunity to learn about the anti-racist struggle as this will be an ongoing fight. Do not stop fighting when the hashtags fade away. Do not forget the names and faces of the individuals lost. Lessons learned from today will be useful for the future.


How to Protest More Safely: If you choose to protest in large groups, it is important to take COVID-19 precautions, as the virus spreads easily through respiratory droplets and in crowded settings. 


In solidarity and support,


The COVID-19 Action Coalition