April 19, 2020 at 9:18 p.m.

Nearing the peak?

Dear CSSW Community,

As always, I hope this note finds you and yours in good health. Many of us have been closely monitoring the data in New York City, the nation’s epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data provided by the NYC Department of Health, which focuses on people who are experiencing more severe illness (due to the limited availability of testing), the city has seen nearly 130,000 COVID cases thus far, with roughly 35,000 hospitalizations. The number of deaths is over 13,000, combining confirmed and probable COVID cases. Despite these staggering numbers, we’ve recently had some good news concerning COVID here in New York City – while the number of hospitalized patients remains high, the number of new cases is no longer increasing, thanks to the collective action of literally hundreds of thousands of people to stay at home and curtail the spread. It’s a potent reminder of what we can achieve when we act together for the greater good.

One of the most troubling developments of the past week is emerging data that reveal substantial differences in the severity of disease by race and ethnicity, with African-American and Latinx communities experiencing a far worse course of disease and higher mortality rates. There is a suggestion that similar health disparities are becoming apparent in our Indigenous communities. At the same time, we continue to see increasing acts of discrimination and racism against Asian-identified members of our communities. These developments are profoundly disturbing, and challenge the very heart of social work’s dedication to social justice.

In essence, COVID-19 shines an even brighter light on the ongoing issues of racism in our society, as well as the deficiencies of the social safety net here in the US. While we are tremendously disheartened, we cannot claim to be surprised. In last week’s New York Times, Jamelle Bouie summed it up perfectly when he said: “Today’s disparities of health flow directly from yesterday’s disparities of wealth and opportunity.” We had a chance to discuss these issues in-depth with a panel of social work and public health colleagues on Friday – if you’d like to learn more, I invite you to watch the video recording here. Clearly there is much work ahead of us to right these wrongs and improve health and opportunity for all.

As we look to a new week, let’s continue to support one another, despite the physical distance between us. Personally, I have seen an outpouring of kindness that far exceeds anything I’ve experienced ever before. It’s shown me that compassion is the hallmark of CSSW and the social work community. Let me close with a favorite quote from Cornel West: Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.

With best regards,