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"Not Letting Logic be Our Guide" by Lynne Algrant

As I was preparing for a presentation I am doing at the end of the month, called “Let’s Do Equity; We Can Talk Later,” I looked up an article that The Record wrote entitled “NJ still hasn’t bridged the racial gap in COVID vaccination. Here’s what’s going wrong.” It was written by Monsy Alvarado and published on April 5, 2021.

After I took a screen shot of the headline for my presentation, I clicked on the “View Comments” button. There were a couple of the usual type of trolling comments, suggesting that the issue was a pity party, that the paper was race baiting, and even that people of color were not getting vaccinated because of something Vice President Kamala Harris said during the campaign. But there was also this comment:

Compared to the others, it seemed thoughtful, reasoned, and logical. And yet, “they got the low-hanging fruit” hit me like a gut punch. The difference, after all, between getting one’s shot first and not having access to a shot, is continued exposure to illness and death.

Our commenter Paul E offers a P. L. E, a Perfectly Logical Explanation, to a situation in which the disparities of illness and death are huge.

Logic is not good enough in this situation.

Here is how one local community was impacted by Covid.

Bergenfield is a lovely town of about 27,000 people, living mainly in single-family homes with neat yards and sidewalks wide enough for hopscotch. It looks like “the suburbs” from central casting; the kind of town where trick or treating is a joy. It is also a beautiful mosaic of diverse cultures:

Whites make up 36% of the population;

LatinX residents are 28%;

Asian Americans, largely Filipinos are 27%;

and African Americans are 6% of the population.

Covid hit Bergenfield hard, especially in the early months of the pandemic. To date, 2878 residents, 11% of the population got Covid, including 70 children ages 0 to 4. And tragically 50 residents died, including 3 between the ages of 30 and 49 and 15 aged 50 to 64; people in the prime of their lives.

In a town like Bergenfield, where the median household income is $63,000 and only 3.5% of residents live in poverty, the cases of Covid-19 were dispersed throughout the community in numbers that mirror their demographics.

In effect, the virus did not discriminate; but the disease most certainly did.

Here are the demographics of those discharged from the hospital; those sick enough to be hospitalized, who survived.

And here are the demographics of those who died.

So, Paul E., there is absolutely something wrong with a vaccine roll out system, which we were promised would be equitable, that favored “those with computers, phones and a lot of patience.”

In fact, the people of Bergenfield were having such a difficult time accessing vaccine appointments, their elected officials approached New Bridge Medical Center, the one local hospital that has made it their mission to provide equitable access. New Bridge has set up a vaccination clinic in a community center, to bring comfort and peace of mind to the residents of Bergenfield.

Perfectly Logical Explanations are a lazy way of telling ourselves not to see what is right in front of us. They are a lazy way of saying that the status quo is good enough and that “1st come, 1st served” is fair.

At Greater Bergen Community Action we believe that “the low-hanging fruit” should be for everyone and in fact, that those who need it the most, should get it first. We are fighting for a just and equitable community that provides opportunity for everyone—no excuses, no explanations.

It might not be logical, and that is ok with us.

We hope you will join us and become part of the movement that is the power to transform individuals, families, neighborhoods, and towns.

Lives Changed Here.


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