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Cuomo, other leaders say federal vaccine plan shortchanges minority areas

The federal plan to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine is woefully inadequate and will shortchange communities of color, said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General Letitia James and leaders of two prominent national civil rights organizations Sunday.

“COVID has revealed from the very beginning the underlying injustice and inequity in this society,” Cuomo said during a teleconference with reporters where he also gave an update on the state’s ongoing effort to tamp down the coronavirus.

The governor was joined by on the call by James, National Urban League President and Chief Executive Officer Marc Morial and NAACP President and Chief Executive Officer Derrick Johnson.

James pointed out that while the federal government has given pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars to help develop vaccines for COVID-19, very little has been set aside to help states administer the vaccine when it becomes available.

Statistics show COVID-19 infection and death rates have been higher among communities of color for a myriad reasons, including poor access to health care, according the leaders on the call.

The federal plan to distribute vaccine relies on chain pharmacies and other sites where flu shots are currently available.

“You might see big chain pharmacies … every other block in communities in Manhattan but let’s be clear,” James said, “the neighborhoods where more of our communities of color live do not have this type of access and that’s the core of the federal plan.”

Morial and Johnson both said the federal government needs to explore the use of other sites for vaccinations, such as schools and community centers.

There were 2,255 new COVID-19 cases reported statewide Saturday including 141 in Nassau and 142 in Suffolk, according to statistics released by the state.

“Despite this week being the worst on record for new COVID-19 cases nationwide, Nassau continues to hold the line below 2% positivity — 1.4% today,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement on Sunday. ” It won’t be easy to keep this position, so we need to continue using the common sense that got us here.”

Curran also encouraged residents to be aware of new guidelines announced Saturday by Cuomo requiring COVID-19 tests for out-of-state travelers.

New York’s overall COVID-19 positivity rate is 1.5%, Cuomo said. In the red zones, neighborhoods with high infection rates, the positivity rate is 3.1%.

Across the state, 17 people died from COVID-19, including one person in Nassau and another in Suffolk, Cuomo said. There are 1,125 COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide including 125 in intensive care units.

Cuomo said only less-densely populated Maine and Vermont have lower COVID-19 rates than New York.

“New Yorkers should be very proud of that,” he said. “We expect an increase in the fall but it’s managing the increase which is what this is all about.”

Both Cuomo and Curran said they were concerned COVID-19 cases will spike after the Thanksgiving holiday.

“If you have family or friends coming from a high-risk state for Thanksgiving, make sure plans are in place for COVID-19 tests

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Magic Johnson And Cigna Team Up To Improve Minority Healthcare

LOS ANGELES, CA — Magic Johnson and health insurance giant Cigna have teamed up to fight health disparities in POC communities within Los Angeles. The pair launched an initiative to support minority and female-owned businesses, by providing customized health care plans for issues that disproportionately affect people of color.

The initiative will focus on health issues such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes and high-risk pregnancies. Cigna will also invest $3 million in local charities working to improve health equity in Los Angeles.

“Minority and women entrepreneurs and business owners are vital to creating a strong economy and vibrant communities — and we need to do even more to support them right now,” Johnson said. “It’s important for these businesses to survive and be able to employ Black, Hispanic and other employees of color, while offering benefits to combat the health disparities that have taken a toll on our communities. Together with Cigna, we are providing the tools and information needed to improve the health and productivity of their workforce.”

Numerous studies have shown how the coronavirus pandemic has hit Black and Brown communities much harder than others. According to the California Department of Public Health, 48% of people who died from coronavirus were Latino, despite the community being only 38% of the state’s population.

“Today’s intersection of health, economic and racial crises motivated us to take definitive action to partner with these small and mid-size businesses by improving the health and productivity of their workforce — many of whom are from underserved communities,” said Mike Triplett, president of Cigna’s U.S. Commercial business. ‘We are excited to team up with the legendary Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson to bring our new initiative to the market.”

Specialized plans include access to local providers who excel in treating underserved communities, virtual care options and home delivery, and whole-person health services.

City News Service and Kenan Draughorne contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on the Los Angeles Patch

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