INSPIRE HEALTH AUTHORITIES TO BRING VOLUNTARY, CURBSIDE, FREE COVID TESTING TO PROTESTERS

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Health authorities should bring free, voluntary, curbside COVID-19 testing and mask distribution to protesters; crowds should be given space & time to assemble, and crowding peaceful protesters into wagons and jails should cease!  

The confluence of two of the greatest crises of our time is here. Marginalized communities, especially black and brown, have long suffered tremendous health disparities due to structural racism and other social injustices. COVID and racism have already killed too many people. Protestors are rightfully putting their lives on the line to show up for racial justice— local authorities should empower them to protest safer.  

Bringing testing directly to the people has precedent and works. New York City has the capacity: Mayor DiBlasio already announced that mobile testing is available to hardest-hit communities. Good, but not enough. The highest risk NYC community right now may be the protesters-- countless people are gathering and social distancing is often aspirational; masks are not freely available. Asymptomatic carriers would learn their status and be empowered to adjust their behavior — at the protests and to where they return. Testing at protest hubs like Barclays, Union Square, and across the city and country, gives people the opportunity to be tested easily and regularly as they would have repeated exposures with each protest.  Many protesters, including doctors, have been unable to get tested, even where it is locally otherwise available, but long testing lines and other barriers to testing, as well as other life responsibilities such as work, the desire to keep protesting, and parenting, are preventing them from getting the testing they want and need. Louisville, Kentucky, where Breonna Taylor was murdered, has started doing it.  NYC and other places across the country and globe can and should do it too.  Many health departments have a mask and sanitizer supply that is prioritized for healthcare workers, but states could allocate more. (This would not be an issue if the federal government would finally invoke the Defense Production Act).  Modern medicine and public health institutions have deeply racist (and xenophobic, sexist, queerphobic, classist, and corporate…) roots. Yet, people should have a choice to test. 

Leaders in New York and elsewhere should approach these mass gatherings as an opportunity for anti-racist public health support. Governor Cuomo and Mayor DiBlasio, among others, have repeatedly implored people to get tested and wear masks. The obvious thing is to bring testing and masks directly to the people. A functioning democracy should want people to be speaking out and showing up (and remaining healthy enough to vote). Enable them (and us) to show up safer!

Share the message widely in your networks. Modify this petition for your local health authorities. For more information, please read— https://thehill.com/opinion/civil-rights/502146-we-are-protesting-during-a-pandemic-local-authorities-should-act-like-it