[act-ma] 6/21 Sunday, @ 830 pm-People's Response, AFSCME, Farmworkers, Re-open Schools?? & Build the People's Health Movement

Charlie Welch cwelch at tecschange.org
Sat Jun 20 19:50:57 PDT 2020

Howard Ehrman,<hehrman at uic.edu> write

Zoom invite below-

1. Build the People’s Health__Movement 
<movement-https://www.afscme.org/blog/urgent-investment-in-public-health-contact-tracers-workforce-is-needed> Now


2. Workers Infections & Deaths-Nursing Homes, Hospitals, Public Transit, 
Meat Packing Plants, Farmworkers, & more- https://www.immokaleecovid19.org/



3. Reopen Schools???- 


To stem the COVID-19 pandemic and restart the economy, robust, urgent 
investment in our public health system is needed. Specifically, a large 
workforce of contact tracers – public health professionals dedicated to 
mapping and curbing the spread of the coronavirus – must be assembled 
for our country to return to normalcy.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders laid out a framework for this effort 
during a press call on Thursday.

Saunders, and two AFSCME members who are doing this essential work, 
along with Emily Gee, a health economist with the Center for American 
Progress, chronicled both how vital the work of public health 
professionals is, and how, since the Great Recession, that work has been 
drastically underfunded. Now is the time to reverse-course with robust 
public health investment – at least $1 trillion – across states, cities 
and towns.

“What we need at this moment is to grow our public service army – and to 
build up our public health infrastructure in particular,” said Saunders. 
“Local health departments have actually /shrunk/ by 55,000 jobs since 
the Great Recession, leaving us badly unprepared for this pandemic. Only 
a robust permanent health force will allow us to control this virus and 
move past this crisis.”

“To ensure the highest standards of expertise and accountability, 
contact tracers should be public employees – and they need protections 
on the job, so that they can do their work free of political pressure 
and influence,” Saunders added.

While some holdouts in the Senate have balked at bold, far-reaching 
investment in public services, most Americans, as well as a diverse 
group of economists 
agree that immediate aid to states, cities and towns is needed to 
prevent a deeper economic crisis.

For Pat DeHart, an epidemiologist who works for Washington state and is 
a member of AFSCME Council 28 (WFSE <https://wfse.org/>), contact 
tracing has become the top priority both for her and her fellow public 
health professionals in the state Department of Health.

“The work that contact tracers do, and the data we collect, is vital to 
getting a grip on this disease and curtailing it,” said DeHart. “It’s a 
slow, careful and methodical process, but it’s absolutely essential to 
understanding how COVID-19 is spreading, where it’s spreading, and to 
create a plan of attack to stop it from spreading.”

Prior to the pandemic, DeHart’s work focused on immunizing Washington’s 
school-aged children and adults from communicable diseases. She 
continues to do that work, along with contact tracing.

DeHart also spotlighted the fact that many people don’t understand what 
– and how important – the work that public health professionals do is; 
how crucial their work is to maintaining a safe, healthy society.

“While a physician works to keep their patients healthy, we work to keep 
entire populations healthy,” said DeHart. “Public health involves not 
only preventing the spread of disease, but dealing with everything from 
mental health to maternal health, environmental safety and nutrition 
education, and much, much more.”

DeHart added that there are huge inequalities based on race and income 
in these areas. By investing in these services, we can also work to 
create a more equitable society for working people and communities of color.

In Columbus, Ohio, John Henry, Jr., an HIV Counselor in the sexual 
health division of the Columbus Health Department and vice president of 
AFSCME Local 2191 (Council 8 <http://afscmecouncil8.org/>), described 
the all-hands-on-deck situation he’s experienced in his department, as 
well as how COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the communities of 
color he serves.

“In the wake of COVID-19, I, along with many of my colleagues, have been 
reassigned to serve as contact tracers,” said Henry. “When I first 
started doing COVID-19 contact tracing, I had about a dozen people to 
call each day. That number is now up to an average of 15 people per day. 
But recently, I had 32 people to call. And the average daily number 
continues to multiply, especially within communities of color.”

Henry traces that disproportionate impact to generations of neglect 
toward communities of color, mistreatment by the institutions that are 
designed to protect those communicates, as well as the lack of basic 
access to essential health services. The result, he said, was a perfect 
storm for a pandemic.

Like DeHart, Henry will have to return to his previous role eventually. 
He said the country needs a permanent workforce of public sector workers 
who are meeting contact tracing needs.

Gee <https://www.americanprogress.org/about/staff/gee-emily/bio/>, with 
the Center for American Progress, said, “Unless we can solve the public 
health problem … the economy can’t get back to normal. We need to reach 
the point where people feel safe on the job, in stores and restaurants.”

She noted that bolstering the number of contact tracers is a key step in 
getting the country back on its feet. In addition, Gee said, we need, to 
“bring down the [number] of incidents, and testing capacity needs to be 
adequate to identify outbreaks.”

Gee also echoed what other speakers said: “The federal government needs 
to do more,” to support states, cities and towns to support ongoing 
efforts to fight the pandemic.

Zoom meeting

When: Sunday, June 21, 7:30 PM Central Time

Register in advance for this meeting:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing 
information about joining the meeting.

Howard Ehrman MD, MPH
University of Illinois Chicago
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
Mi Villita Community Organization

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