by Upal Basu Roy, PhD, MPH
It has been literally just about two months since I developed that fateful cough and slight breathlessness barely a month since COVID-19 had entered public health vocabulary. COVID-19 (short for Coronavirus disease-19) is caused by SARS-CoV-2, a type of virus that belongs to the same family of viruses that cause SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, reinforcing the contagiousness of this viral disease (1). As public health practitioners, we understand the severity of a viral pandemic that can have devastating consequences on the population. As of today, COVID-19 cases have been detected in all continents except Antarctica.
I live in New York City, one of the first epicenters of the disease in the United States. One may automatically assume that NYC is adequately equipped to handle a pandemic the magnitude of COVID-19. I was incredibly lucky to have recuperated from COVID-19 without the need for hospitalization. But that does not stop me from reflecting on the glaring health disparities that COVID-19 has exposed in our community. While this is nothing new to public health practitioners such as myself, let us not underestimate the fact that COVID-19 has only amplified the many health inequities that already plague marginalized racial and ethnic communities in the United States. In other words, these inequities already existed! The pandemic merely exposed them.