San Francisco's Fillmore District steps up to address COVID-19 racial disparities

New numbers released Friday validate wide-spread beliefs about the spread of COVID-19 in the African-American community. The statistics show it disproportionately impacts that community in particular.

In San Francisco’s Fillmore District, a grassroots effort to protect a vulnerable segment of the populous. Actor and activist Jamal Trulove stands on the 1800 block of Eddy Street yelling, “Free hand sanitizer and facemask” as a way of telling anyone and every one the freebies he’s handing out can save lives.
“A lot of the underserved communities are African-American communities being hit by the COVID-19,” he said.
According to national, state, and local statistics, the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the African-American community disproportionately.
“There seems to be something disproportionate in the treatment side or either disproportionate in the preventative side,” said Elina Kostyanovskaya, a University of California, San Francisco PhD candidate who helped hand out supplies in the Fillmore District.
The impact is most severe in Santa Clara County, where blacks make up less than 3% of the population, but account for 7% of the more than 1,800 cases.
“I think many African-Americans may be working in the caregiving fields, where they’re working in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted home health agencies. So they’re working in high-risk jobs,” said Dr. Charlene Harrington, RN, a UCSF professor. 
San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP President Rev. Jethroe Moore II said occupation and a mistrust of the healthcare industry as a whole are both contributing factors in the skewed percentages.
“Sometimes the same doctors that you’re asking us to go see and talk to are the same ones who told us there was nothing wrong with us in the first place. So the trust is already damaged,” said Moore. “Once you destroy that trust there’s a concern that comes up.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is forming a COVID-19 Racial Disparities Task Force, comprised of local and state leaders. The group will immediately address the racialized impacts of this virus, and create state legislation to reduce disparities for people of color.
Among the stated objectives, the task force will create a vulnerability index measure so that at-risk communities can be targeted with preventive treatments. Proactively collect demographic data to inform better target equity strategies, and provide proactive outreach in at-risk communities to promote healthier living.
Jamal Trulove is teaming with the Science Policy Group to produce the bottles of hand sanitizer that were distributed in the Fillmore Dist., along with face masks.
“It’s important that my community and all types of communities see somebody like myself, with my type of background coming from these communities doing the work and spreading the awareness of how severe COVID-19 really is,” he said.
It is a crucial message delivered again to a vulnerable segment of the community, that this time may be more at ease heeding these words of warning.