Dr. Mary T. Bassett’s Statement on COVID-19 for the Poor People’s Campaign

At the request of the Poor People’s Campaign, Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, released the following statement on the health equity impact of COVID-19:

The United States was woefully unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, and now has the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the world. This was preventable.

Knowing the inadequacies of our country’s health care and social protection systems, we should have started preparing as soon as we received word of the outbreak in China. We are a global society and should have prepared accordingly.

The absence of a coordinated response from the federal government has left states to fend for themselves, and in some cases, compete for life-saving supplies.

As we’ve seen with other epidemics, communities that have long been subjected to racist and unjust policies – people of color, people living in poverty, and immigrants – will be harmed the most by this botched response.

We are only as safe as our most vulnerable resident, and must swiftly focus our efforts to protect our society’s poorest and most marginalized. Our COVID-19 response must protect the health and wellbeing of all who call this country home, and must ensure that essential workers have the tools and protection they need to stay safe. When we emerge from this crisis, let’s ensure people have health care, housing, and employment that protects them not just today, but every day.

Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, cochair of the Poor People’s Campaign and president/founder of Repairers of the Breach, read most of the statement live as part of a Livestream on Coronavirus with Bernie Sanders on March 30. Watch the video.

Photo is a still from video by Repairers of the Breach.