We write to you as we learn to cope with life during a pandemic — wholly concerned with the well-being of those most vulnerable to this virus and its after effects and trying to find moments of peace in our surreal conditions. We hope you and your loved ones are as well as can be in this incredibly hard and unprecedented moment.
We see and are grateful for the immense efforts by local and state health departments, chronically underfunded for decades, rising to the challenge of containing this outbreak and mitigating its harm. We are proud to see our public health community active in mutual aid efforts being organized across the country to mobilize the knowledge, support, and resources most immediately needed.
As you know, the social and economic conditions on which this novel coronavirus lands aren’t new themselves.
The injustices that Black, indigenous, other people of color, immigrant, poor people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized communities face daily are now coming into sharp focus for many others. Decades of underinvestment in our basic infrastructure and a focus on neoliberal policies are vividly exposing their consequences: a myth of self-reliance when what we need is social solidarity.
This moment brings into stark relief what we know well: so long as our systems deny well-being to some, all of our well-being is at risk.
Directly impacted communities are naming and working towards the solutions, and our role in public health is to act on them:
- Prioritize protections and supports for healthcare workers and caregivers
- Establish worker protections, like paid leave and fair wages
- Provide comprehensive health care for all
- Shelter the unhoused and stop encampment sweeps and vehicle tows
- Enact a moratorium on foreclosures, evictions, and utility and water shutoffs
- Decarcerate jails and prisons
- Enact a moratorium on all deportation and ICE activities
- Ensure full accessibility for non-English speakers
- Ensure full accessibility for our community members with disabilities
- Cancel student and medical debt
- Ensure food security programs such as SNAP and free school meals
Long-term, these actions will help us build a foundation to advance racial justice, deepen democracy, and build community resilience to any shock.
At HIP, we are supporting the field of public health in centering health equity in its COVID19 response.
For example, as part of our Public Health Awakened initiative (and in collaboration with The Spirit of 1848), we are crowdsourcing an emerging database to inform a public health response to the pandemic.
We are also trying our best to care for one another.
Our team calls often start with tears and fears and end with deep breaths together. We are reevaluating our work plans and making sense of how we can best leverage our strengths in service to what’s needed at this moment. We are taking more deep breaths. We know so many allies and friends are also navigating these conversations and reckoning with their future.
Here’s what is absolutely certain: We are in desperate need of racial, social, and economic justice and of centering humanity in how we organize and resource our society.
Let’s seize the moment together as an opportunity to build the infrastructure we need to achieve healthy, thriving communities. Because we know we ALL deserve that and more.
The HIP staff: Amber, Ana, Christine, Lili, Martha, Megan, Nashira, Sari, Shannon, Solange, Sophia, and Sukhdip
P.S. Here are some resources and opportunities to take action:
- Sift through this emerging database created by Public Health Awakened in collaboration with the Spirit of 1848
- Find information on COVID19 in almost any language
- Organizational sign-on to prioritize public health response over militarized response: We need public health organizations and leaders to sign a letter to this effect ASAP (before 10 am PT on 3/25)
- Organizational sign-ons to protect workers: Get your organization to sign onto the PAID Leave Act (and if you’re in California, get your organization to sign onto this letter to the Governor demanding AB 5 be enforced to protect gig workers)
- Individual sign-ons: Sign the Black Lives Matter demands letter and sign the COVID19 and Housing/Homelessness letter demanding federal action