Black Essential Workers Share Their Experiences Of Living Through Pandemic

On Tuesday (February 23), Black people who’ve been working in the forefront of COVID-19 pandemic spoke with President Joe Biden and Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, sharing their experiences in the years-long battle. 

The virtual panel event included a diverse group of essential workers spanning several industries, as reported by The Huffington Post

Carmen Palmer, a child worker who lives in Columbus, Ohio stated that for essential workers like her, going to work is a must. “I’ve worked every single day during the pandemic, Palmer said. “If I was to get COVID, or my kids, I’d have no other options.” Palmer’s facility takes care of children of essential workers.

The financial situation from the pandemic has left many Black American households devastated. Labor data also indicates more Black and Latino mothers and women are leaving the workforce, in part because of the growing child care crisis sweeping the nation. 

Jeff Carter, a grocery store manager from Iowa who was on the call shared his story. 

“Our employees are on the front lines,” Carter said. “For many of us, it was not a question of if we were going to catch the virus but when.” Carter said that he knew of several employees who’d contracted COVID-19, and said that safety measures like plexiglass barriers and in-store mask mandates weren’t enough.

On Wednesday (February 24), the White House announced its plan to send 25 million masks to community centers and food banks around the country in an effort to bring protection from the virus to individuals who may be without access to free or affordable masks. 

This week, the US marked over half a million COVID-19-related deaths since the pandemic began. For Black Americans, the disproportionate amount of death and increased likelihood of contracting the virus has put a strain on families and communities over the past year. 

President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package is currently being negotiated on Capitol Hill. 

Melanie Owens, a Chicago-area pharmacist, shared during the vent she’d contracted the virus last year and had originally been “more reluctant” to get vaccinated, but did so to protect the elderly people she worked with. She also said more staff members got vaccinated after she got her dose. 

“You can be fearful and have questions, but do your due diligence,” Owens said, adding that vaccinating people and communities is “a major key to help move past this.” 

Vaccine rollout has ramped up in recent weeks, however early data shows disparities across race. The Biden administration’s COVID-19 Task Force has acknowledged the findings and are reportedly working to address inadequate access to communities most at risk.  

The president praised the workers’ efforts stating, “You all are basically holding the country together. You’re carrying it on your back. So thank you for what you’ve done.” Biden added a promise to provide more support once his plan is approved in Congress. 

The COVID-19 vaccines are starting to become available across the country, and the Black Information Network wants to know if you plan to get vaccinated. Have you already gotten the vaccine? And what are your thoughts on the vaccine? Let us know! ClickHEREto take our survey. You can also take the survey on your cell phone by dialing #250 and saying the keyword RADIO SURVEY. You’ll have the option to receive a one-time auto-dialed text message from iHeartMedia.

Photos: Getty Images 

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