As Connecticut attempts to expand COVID-19 response efforts, with aims for a soft reopening towards the end of the month, I am concerned the needs of Black and Latino communities are being glossed over and initiatives such as contact tracing are favoring quantity over effective impact.
The data shows us that people of color and particularly African-Americans are contracting COVID-19 and dying at higher rates in Connecticut and across the country. I am a pastor serving the Blackwell AME Zion Church. Among my congregation, we have had four deaths in the past week, and those are just the ones that have been directly reported to me. We are in a racialized crisis. If we want to impact numbers, we need to start with relationships.
We are in a racialized crisis. If we want to impact numbers, we need to start with relationships.
I work with a community substance-use disorder recovery program employing peer support workers. They are currently engaged in relief efforts by distributing food, masks, and providing economic support to members in need. Because peer support workers and other professions like community health workers are trusted and known members of their communities, they have greater success with outreach. This translates to effective contact tracing interactions that can simultaneously track disease while addressing social determinants of health.
I am writing because I want the state to ask for our participation and input in Connecticut’s contact tracing strategy. I want the state to figure out a mechanism to subcontract with community and faith-based organizations. Many of us are here and already doing parallel work. I fear that if we are left out of contact tracing efforts, more of our community members will die.
The Rev. Robyn Anderson is Founder and Director of the Ministerial Health Fellowship.