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Since the start of coronavirus’ spread throughout the country, Latinos have lacked the resources to battle against widespread rates of infection, death.
Soon, that community will have a voice on President-Elect Joe Biden’s recently announced COVID-19 Taskforce, which includes two Latinos — Dr. Luciana Borio, former assistant FDA commissioner, and Dr. Robert Rodriguez, a professor of emergency medicine at UCSF School of Medicine.
This kind of representation is critical to combat the horrific experiences Latinos and other people of color have experienced during this epidemic, especially as winter arrives, said Dr. Leana Wen, the former Baltimore health commissioner.
“[Biden’s] work needs to begin right now. He needs to begin communicating the urgency of actions with the American people,” Wen said in a phone interview with CNBC. “His biggest challenge is going to be getting people to follow his recommendations. He can have the best policies and even the best way to implement his policies, but unless you can win the hearts and minds of the American people, it’s not going to make a difference.”
Getting a Seat at the Table to Address COVID-19
This White House COVID-19 Taskforce will look different than the one, which has little representation of members from communities of color.
At the same time, minority groups have faced the highest rates of infection, mortality, economic impacts, trauma, and a host of life-altering issues.
“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden said in a press release “The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations.”
Who Are the Latinos on the COVID-19 Task Force
Latinos living in the Rio Grande Valley will have one of their own representing them.
“Rodriguez grew up in Brownsville, Texas, along the US-Mexico border, and he traveled there this summer as the city dealt with a surge of COVID-19 cases and a lack of doctors and resources,” CBSDFW writes. “He was the lead author in a UCSF study published this summer that examined the heightened stress and anxiety levels among doctors during the pandemic.”
He also serves as a mentor for people in underrepresented groups at all levels of medical training, according to The Mercury News.
“Regarding my research mentorship philosophy, I believe that exposure to basic clinical research is essential for physicians to develop an analytical grasp and appreciation of the medical literature,” Rodriguez said.
At the FDA, Borio helped develop and execute the agency’s medical countermeasures and public health responses to the 2009-10 H1N1 flu pandemic, the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak, and the 2015-16 Zika outbreak, according to a biography of her career. She also helped start the government’s National Influenza Vaccine Modernization Strategy 2020–2030.
She is currently practicing medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.
“I’ve dedicated my career to preparing for epidemics,” Borio said in her 2015 TEDx Talk.
Also, Dr. Julie Morita, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—one of Salud America!’s parters and funders—will join Dr. Luciana Borio and Dr. Robert Rodriguez once Biden in sworn in.
What You Can Do to Promote Health Equity amid COVID-19
That’s why, until we have a greater understanding of COVID-19, individual action is so important.
First, beware of pandemic fatigue.
Second, check out the Salud America! “Juntos, We Can Stop COVID-19” bilingual communication campaign to help Latino families take action to slow the spread.
Third, download the free Salud America! “Get Your City to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis Action Pack”!
The Action Pack will help you gain feedback from local social justice groups and advocates of color. It will also help you start a conversation with city leaders for a resolution to declare racism a public health issue along with a commitment to take action to change policies and practices. It will also help build local support.
Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio, created this Action Pack with input from several San Antonio-area social justice advocates.
Editor’s note: Graphic via NBC News, photos via Reuters & The San Francisco Chronicle