Leaked emails obtained by The New York Post revealed that NYC officials gave preferential treatment to racially diverse areas over majority-white neighborhoods for COVID-19 testing. The latest revelation surfaced amid reports of non-white people being preferred for receiving monoclonal antibody treatments and Pfizer's new pills by the state Health Department during a nationwide shortage.
An email conversation between representatives from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and employees at City Councilman Joe Borelli's office noted that constituents on Staten Island's South Shore were facing problems in getting tested for COVID-19 at city-run centers. According to The Post, the agency responded to the email and said that they are keeping neighborhoods flagged by the city's Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity on priority. The task force in question has reportedly identified 31 neighborhoods to receive preferential COVID treatment.
The task force noted that the neighborhoods were picked based on a DOHMH analysis of 'health status, living conditions, social inequities, occupation, and COVID-19 Wave 1 impact.' They did not, however, shed light on the methods the agency used to weigh the various factors.
A Health Department rep defended the agency's move to prioritize minority communities because they have 'borne the brunt of this pandemic due to structural racism.' According to city data, since the pandemic began, blacks and African Americans have had 12,808 residents per 100,000 people test positive, for Hispanics, the data is 15,309 residents per 100,000 people and white people have had 13,095 residents per 100,000 test positive.
Over 160 COVID testing sites are operational in the city, aided by more than 100 mobile teams and 60 plus brick-and-mortar locations. New Yorkers, however, are continuing to spend hours in long queues waiting for their turn to get tested amidst the rising cases of COVID in the city. The city reported 33,119 new cases on Friday, December 31.
'COVID-19 does not discriminate'
According to the New York Post, due to the city's preferential treatment of minority communities, Staten Island's mostly white, middle-class South Shore residents couldn't get many tests. The area in question had one of the highest COVID infection rates in the city in December.
In central Queens, Councilman Robert Holden, who formed the aforementioned task force, noted that his district still does not have a testing center, despite the area reporting an average of 2013.35 cases over the past seven days. "COVID-19 does not discriminate by politics and neither should lame duck de Blasio," Holden said.
The revelation made headlines just one day after it was reported that the state Health Department sent out a memo 'telling white residents not to bother trying to get Pfizer's Paxlovid pill or monoclonal antibody treatments.'