In addition to masks and vaccines, we need affordable housing and workers’ rights to combat the pandemic.
Covid-19 continues to surge in successive waves as new variants emerge. In nearly all urban settings, the most vulnerable populations—low income workers, communities of color, the uninsured, and the unhoused—are bearing the brunt of these surges, even in the face of universally free vaccination.
A new dispatch from Pandemic Research for the People (PReP), a research collective that includes our own Tanya Kerssen, takes an in-depth look at how Covid-19 has affected Los Angeles County, one of the most populous and diverse counties in the United States. In particular, it examines how precarious housing plus precarious work—particularly for those who labor in the food industry and gig economy—creates a fertile ground for the spread (and emergence of deadlier variants) of the virus.
Viewed in this light, mask mandates and increased vaccination rates—while critical—are simply not enough: we need to address the underlying causes of vulnerability. Providing affordable, safe, and stable housing is “both a moral imperative and a public health necessity” in the context of Covid-19 and to build long-term community resilience as a mitigation measure against future shocks. In addition, strengthening food and farm workers’ rights and protections, as well as supporting their right to organize, are some of the most powerful bulwarks against vulnerability as the nation re-opens and transitions out of lockdown.
To truly defeat Covid-19, we need to shift to a treatment paradigm that encompasses the concept of “community immunity.” As Inflamed authors Rupa Marya and Raj Patel remind us: “immunity is not a problem that can be solved merely at the level of individual choice.” Housing instability, precarious work, poverty, and systemic racism (causes of chronic inflammation!) must be front and center if we are to truly emerge from this pandemic—and do so with stronger immunity and resilience.
In community and solidarity,
Tanya, Tiffani, Christina, and Anna