NYC admits to prioritizing race in distributing COVID tests

New York City health officials have been using race to help decide how to allocate valuable resources for coronavirus testing, leaked emails from the agency show.

In a conversation with representatives from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, City Council Member Joe Borelli’s office said voters on Staten Island’s south shore were having trouble getting tested at city facilities.

“Our office has been getting calls related to NYC mobile H + H testing sites like Wolfes Pond Park. It seems that many are waiting with delays and are being turned away after waiting for hours, ”wrote Briana Nasti, a member of the Borelli staff, in an email on December 22.

The agency responded the same day and informed Nasti that they would prioritize the neighborhoods identified by the city’s Task Force on Inclusion and Racial Equity.

The task force, created by the de Blasio administration in 2020, identified 31 underserved neighborhoods for “priority” attention from the city.

The task force said the nabes were chosen based on a DOHMH analysis of “health status, living conditions, social inequalities, occupation and impact of COVID-19 Wave 1,” although the methodology has never been published.

People fight for free COVID-19 tests on December 24.
People fight for free COVID-19 tests on December 24.
Lev Radin / Sipa United States

Staten Island’s middle-class, mostly white South Shore, despite having one of the highest COVID rates in the city during December, is not one of the priority neighborhoods. The district has 13 city test sites, all on the most diverse North Shore.

“I think we are clearly not on their racial and ethnic rubric priority list,” Borelli told The Post. “There was no problem pointing the finger at the south shore of Staten Island when it came to sending thugs into law enforcement.”

He was referring to small business owners on the island who say they have been victims of strict enforcement of the mask mandates and vax card rules.

Queens Councilor Robert Holden said his district still does not have a test site in the city weeks after the Omicron surge.

New Yorkers line up for free COVID-19 tests.
New Yorkers line up for free COVID-19 tests.
Lev Radin / Sipa United States

“COVID-19 does not discriminate because of politics and neither does Blasio’s lame duck. We need test sites and home test kits right away, ”Holden said. “Bill de Blasio views middle class taxpayer districts who did not vote for him as people who do not deserve protection against COVID-19. His administration only enters districts like ours to fine small businesses and use them as ATMs ”.

Some blocks in your district are within Woodhaven, a neighborhood selected by the task force.

A representative from the Department of Health claimed that minority communities had “endured the brunt of this pandemic due to structural racism” and that the tests were being distributed through community organizations in targeted neighborhoods.

A recent “Request for Proposals” from DOHMH touted the agency’s commitment to racial equity.

People fight for a test in a distribution center.
The city is currently operating more than 160 coronavirus testing sites with more than 100 mobile teams and more than 60 locations.
Lev Radin / Sipa United States

“” The… DOHMH is committed to improving health outcomes for all New Yorkers by explicitly promoting racial equity and social justice. Racial equity does not mean simply treating everyone equally, but rather, allocating resources and services in such a way that explicitly addresses the barriers imposed by structural racism (i.e., institutional policies and practices that perpetuate racial inequity) and privilege. of the whites, ”he said.

The city is currently operating more than 160 coronavirus testing sites with more than 100 mobile teams and more than 60 physical locations, said Adam Shrier, representative for NYC Health & Hospitals.

The racial equity task force did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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