New York City declares a totally different public health crisis

New York City declares a totally different public health crisis
AP Photo/John Minchillo

The New York City Board of Health issued a new proclamation of an official public health crisis yesterday, but it wasn’t in response to the COVID pandemic. Or at least not directly aimed at the pandemic, though it was mentioned. The declared crisis in question is… racism. The Board’s analysis has concluded that the pandemic only shone a brighter light on the effects of systemic racism on the health and well-being of BIPOC (Black, indigenous, persons of color) New Yorkers. As such, racism will now be defined as a public health crisis and a lengthy list of orders have been issued to deal with the situation. What we’re seeing here is yet another instance of an executive order being issued instead of any sort of legislative action, resulting in more mandates to come after a new round of public reports have been filed. We’ll get to why this seemingly well-intentioned demand should be worrisome to you in a moment. (CBS New York)

Racism is now officially a public health crisis in New York City.

Monday, the city’s Board of Health passed a resolution recognizing the impact of racism on people’s health during the pandemic, which magnified inequities in communities of color.

“We must confront racism as a public health crisis. This pandemic magnified inequities, leading to suffering disproportionately borne by communities of color. But these inequities are not inevitable,” New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi wrote on Twitter.

You can read the Department of Health’s full release here.

The DoH is attempting to address the impact of racism on healthcare from two different angles. One is the disparate impact of COVID on communities of color while the other is the overall quality of healthcare available. As to the second point, there is data to support the fact that healthcare options in majority-minority communities in New York (and other cities) are fewer and of lower quality than in more affluent neighborhoods. As usual, they choose to blame this imbalance on racism when it’s actually the effects of endemic poverty being observed. You can go into some of the poorer, primarily white rural communities, particularly in the south, and see the same thing. It’s just more visible in the cities. And that’s definitely a problem worth addressing, though nobody seems to know how to manage the feat.

When it comes to COVID, however, the biggest disparity we observed in communities of color was in vaccination rates, leading to higher numbers of cases of infection. Population density was also an issue, but that goes back to the endemic poverty challenge. The vaccination rates, however, were not being driven by a lack of access for people of color. New York set up some of the first mass vaccination pods in the poorest neighborhoods, just as was seen in other cities. There were state workers and volunteers literally going through neighborhoods and banging on doors, begging people to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, vaccine hesitancy was highest among Black New Yorkers for a variety of reasons, many of them quite understandable.

To get back to the worrisome nature of this decree, let’s reflect on how these actions are being put in place. As we learned from the beginning of the pandemic, you can wield a lot of special powers when you make an official emergency declaration and you don’t have to go through the legislative process to put new mandates and restrictions into effect. By declaring racism to be a public health crisis (even when poverty is the actual challenge they are facing), the city is now opening itself up to new mandates and restrictions that the voters will have no say in via their elected representatives.

If they can do that, how much else might they do? How long until they make gun violence a health crisis? Or climate change? (Liberals already refer to the “climate crisis” on a regular basis.) Is it really so far-fetched to think that some power-mad Democrat might try to issue a gun control mandate in the name of addressing the “health crisis” of guns? Might they just start ordering all of the natural gas lines in the city shut off in the name of combatting the “health crisis” of climate change?

Go ahead and call me crazy or paranoid or whatever you like. But we’ve seen seeing this game of autocratic power-grabbing play out for going on two years now. And officials who get a taste of that sort of power don’t always want to give it up. If they run out of reasons to keep treating COVID like a “health crisis” in the coming months, I’m not going to be the least bit surprised if a series of additional “official crisis” declarations follow.

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David Strom 6:01 PM on March 29, 2023