NEW YORK – African American clergy leaders join forces with the United Way of New York City for a new initiative designed to combat the huge number of COVID-19 victims in African Americans through intensified testing, contact tracing and management of the treatment.
The details of the new effort, shared with the agency The Associated Press Ahead of their launch on Monday, they are based on leveraging the influence on the ground of church leaders to distribute resources that can better equip African-American Americans to protect themselves and treat the virus. Its rollout will begin in five major cities with seven-figure seed funding, which will focus on scaling up public health education and testing, with the goal of further expansion, ultimately reaching several hundred thousand. underinsured or uninsured African American Americans.
The Rev Calvin Butts, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, said participating churches were stepping forward to serve as a “first line of defense” for the African American community against the virus.
“I am pleased to say that we are strongly united across confessional lines and, even when there may be political differences, we are still shoulder to shoulder in dealing with this crisis,” Butts said.
COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 Americans, and hospitalizations hit an all-time high this week as deaths in the United States from the virus reached their highest levels since the pandemic emerged in the spring. The African American community has been hard hit, an August study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that African Americans had a 4.7 times higher virus hospitalization rate and a mortality rate 2.1 times higher than the white population.
Sheena Wright, executive director of the United Way of New York City, highlighted that impact by outlining plans to help boost the association’s technical and fundraising capabilities.
“We’re focused on really closing the opportunity gap for communities of color in the city, and we’ve certainly seen in COVID-19 the profound disparities and impact on the black community,” Wright said, noting a historic “lack of investment in health institutions ”that serve African Americans.
Virus testing is scheduled to begin in January in five cities: New York, Detroit, Atlanta, Washington and Newark, New Jersey. Clergymen who helped spearhead the effort include civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton and Reverend Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and Democratic Senate candidate in Georgia.
Financial support will come from the testing company Quest Diagnostics and Resolve to Save Lives, a nonprofit public health initiative led by Tom Frieden, CDC director during the Obama administration.
The project builds in part on the strategy used by the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, founded in the 1980s to combat another epidemic that disproportionately affected African Americans. The coronavirus initiative will involve establishing leadership roles in participating churches with responsibility for coordinating testing, screening, and connecting people positive for the virus with healthcare, said Debra Fraser-Howze, founder of the commission for the coronavirus. AIDS and partner in the new project.
The fight for the coronavirus “is similar to the AIDS epidemic” in that the African-American community has “been left out again, without resources,” said Fraser-Howze. “We have the highest rates of death and illness. So it is time for those who lead us to understand what is happening. “
The Associated Press agency’s religious coverage is supported by the Lilly Endowment through the Religion News Foundation. AP is solely responsible for this content.