Advocates say COVID-19 revealed ongoing racial disparities in Maine

While Maine has had one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 in the nation, over the summer it had the largest racial disparity in cases.Black and African American Mainers were 20 times more likely to get the virus.“We have the highest impacted in the state of Maine,” said New Mainers Public Health Initiative Executive Director Abdulkarim Said.The latest data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that as of Thursday, Black or African American Mainers made up 18% of cumulative COVID-19 cases, while representing less than two percent of the population.That amounts to 980 of the of the 5,431 cases reported as of Thursday. The data showed 476 people did not disclose their race, which could impact the percentage.“COVID-19 revealed how Maine has not accepted people who are not from Maine, people of color, brown or Hispanic,” Said added.Mano en Mano Executive Director Ian Yaffe echoed Said’s comments on the racial disparity in Maine.When we think of COVID-19, often times what we think about is actually a symptom of a larger issue and that is systemic racism and anti-immigrant bias here in Maine and in the United States,” Yaffe said.Mano en Mano is a nonprofit organization that works with immigrants and farm workers.“About 5% of folks who were testing positive for COVID were LatinX, and that is compared to being 1 to 2% of the overall population in the state,” Yaffe said.Mano en Mano is one of 24 organizations to receive part of a $1 million initiative from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.Yaffe said that funding will go in many directions, like toward education efforts and supplies. However, he said people should have access to basic needs all of the time and not just during a pandemic.“The reason why communities of color are disproportionately affected by COVID is because they are disproportionately in the types of jobs where you have a lot of exposure, and they are disproportionately living in congregate housing due to gaps in income and wealth that are well documented on racial and ethnic lines,” Yaffe said.Said shared that one of his group’s many programs involves health outreach workers who have shared vital public health information.He would like the Maine CDC to allow for these workers who already know the community so well to be trained at contact tracers.“In Maine as you know it is hard to talk about the race we need to have the conversation on a traditional level in municipality level and every place that they have power to change things,” Said said.

While Maine has had one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 in the nation, over the summer it had the largest racial disparity in cases.

Black and African American Mainers were 20 times more likely to get the virus.

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“We have the highest impacted in the state of Maine,” said New Mainers Public Health Initiative Executive Director Abdulkarim Said.

The latest data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that as of Thursday, Black or African American Mainers made up 18% of cumulative COVID-19 cases, while representing less than two percent of the population.

That amounts to 980 of the of the 5,431 cases reported as of Thursday. The data showed 476 people did not disclose their race, which could impact the percentage.

“COVID-19 revealed how Maine has not accepted people who are not from Maine, people of color, brown or Hispanic,” Said added.

Mano en Mano Executive Director Ian Yaffe echoed Said’s comments on the racial disparity in Maine.

When we think of COVID-19, often times what we think about is actually a symptom of a larger issue and that is systemic racism and anti-immigrant bias here in Maine and in the United States,” Yaffe said.

Mano en Mano is a nonprofit organization that works with immigrants and farm workers.

“About 5% of folks who were testing positive for COVID were LatinX, and that is compared to being 1 to 2% of the overall population in the state,” Yaffe said.

Mano en Mano is one of 24 organizations to receive part of a $1 million initiative from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Yaffe said that funding will go in many directions, like toward education efforts and supplies.

However, he said people should have access to basic needs all of the time and not just during a pandemic.

“The reason why communities of color are disproportionately affected by COVID is because they are disproportionately in the types of jobs where you have a lot of exposure, and they are disproportionately living in congregate housing due to gaps in income and wealth that are well documented on racial and ethnic lines,” Yaffe said.

Said shared that one of his group’s many programs involves health outreach workers who have shared vital public health information.

He would like the Maine CDC to allow for these workers who already know the community so well to be trained at contact tracers.

“In Maine as you know it is hard to talk about the race we need to have the conversation on a traditional level in municipality level and every place that they have power to change things,” Said said.