COVID-19 has cut a destructive path across along racial lines. African Americans and Latinos are bearing the brunt of this virus with higher rates of infections. Few understand this better than the people who work at Community Health Centers. Health centers care for nearly 30 million people, and many of them are essential workers in our food, agriculture, service industries and other necessary frontline jobs. NACHC’s new infographic — based on weekly data collected by the Health Resources and Services Administration on health centers’ operations — provides an evolving snapshot of what’s happening on the frontlines of the pandemic. Health centers have tested more than 1.5 million patients since April, and 238,770 have tested positive. The last weekly analysis showed that 62 percent of the patients who tested positive for virus detection were racial or ethnic minorities.
The pivotal role of health centers in caring for vulnerable populations during the pandemic was recently highlighted in a Perspectives column published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Authors Sanjay Kishore, M.D., and Margaret Hayden, M.D, write that health centers
have been critical to the U.S. response to Covid. They were already caring for the black and brown communities that have been most affected by the pandemic. Now, more than 90% of them are also Covid testing sites, more than half the people they test are people of color, and the test-positive ratio in CHCs is more than double the national average… CHCs are providing life-saving surveillance and mitigating the profound inequalities of our Covid response.
The op-ed also called on Congress to adequately fund health centers and provide universal coverage to the millions of Americans losing their employer-coverage. Their recommendations are the latest call to action by experts who are making the case for a stronger public health infrastructure, starting with sustainable funding for health centers, and a plan to address the inequities within the U.S. health care system. They write:
As our nation grapples with racism in the wake of Covid and police brutality, we would argue that CHCs can be the foundation of an antiracist health system. We believe health care and public health professionals should call on Congress to rescue our health centers and lay the foundation for a health system that works for everyone.
NACHC’s Research and Data Manager Sarah Baizer contributed to this blog post. To view more data and information about health centers and COVID-19, please visit this link. Also check out our new podcast on Community Health Centers, Data & COVID.