During the early stages of the Coronavirus breakout, various government leaders focused on immediate hospital needs and locking down the cities. Fortunately, leaders like Eric Adams, The Brooklyn Borough President, dealt with the pandemic in what he refers to as moving around "in real-time". In his interview on Radical Ones, Adams shares stories of his efforts in supplying people in his community directly with face coverings even before the CDC announced preventative measures.
Adams was in the epicenter of a global pandemic as a local leader in New York City, which led in COVID-19 cases throughout the beginning months of 2020. He attributes his background in law enforcement, computer programming, and as a squad commander who lived through 9/11 to his logical approach to the crisis. Adams shares with us how he promptly recognized the immediate need for attention to, not only in hospitals and ventilators but also in prevention. "This is a two-front battle," Adams explains, ".. the second is to prevent the feeder of the hospital crisis by making sure people don't actually catch coronavirus."
In March, Adams moved out of his apartment to temporarily take up residence in the borough hall, yep, he moved into his office! He slept, ate, and managed the ongoing epidemic daily by staying active in the middle of it. He told Spectrum News of his decision to move into the hall, "You can't really manage these crises removed in a conference room or somewhere outside of Ground Zero."
Click here and take a look at this video of Eric Adams' shelter in place inside the Borough Hall of Brooklyn to help manage the pandemic better.
So How Did The Pandemic Unfold In America?
The nation's first pandemic response divided working people into two categories; those told to shelter in place and work from home while those who had essential, hands-on jobs should show up to work as usual. 'Essential' was this new buzzword on the tips of mayors and health officials tongues in every press conference in the early stages of the virus. In a world that seemingly came to a sudden halt for some, these essential workers kept our economy and livelihood afloat.
Who Is Essential?
Initially, to spot an essential worker was clear; we needed healthcare workers, 9-1-1 operators, and EMT's. After all, this was a health crisis. Still, some didn't consider the many other people heading to work without pause. Transit operators and utility workers reported for duty along with pharmacies, grocery stores, and gas stations. As time went on, all things “essential” were just that; needed, vital, and encompassed a broader realm of the working-class than one would have thought initially.
Mail carriers, TSAs, and government employees continued to show up for work to overwhelmed offices that carried on as the woes of quarantine left the rest panicking indoors. The overall demand for essential workers was on the rise. What would people do without Amazon drivers to deliver the surge of impulse purchases? Food deliveries spiked, and your local liquor store clerk gained popularity with alcohol sales going up 50% in April.
Despite their call to duty, essential workers weren't given any protection or direction. It was as if the world told them, “Good luck out there” while the rest of the population increased Zoom usage and downloaded the Houseparty app.
This quick video breaks down the variety of essential workers
Eric Adams instinctively knew he would be most needed in the streets to help people in his community. He believes this lack of immediate procurement of PPEs by the state was avoidable as he was able to obtain supplies.
With his focus on prevention, Adams made YouTube tutorials on DIY masks and reached out to his international connections, which allowed him to collect supply donations from all over the globe. With masks in hand, he directly gave supplies to the public. To Adams, it was clear that if hospitals were experiencing shortages of beds and supplies, the answer would have to be to prevent people from needing hospitalization at the start.
"Let’s get on the ground and grab those vulnerable populations so we make sure they don't get coronavirus in the first place….and give them masks and give them information and tips."
Eric's Brooklyn community consists of a large black and brown population, a demographic that makes up 70% of all essential workers. Minorities, already facing health disparities, are now being attacked on both ends in this crisis. Blacks and Hispanics are three times more likely to contract COVID-19. According to the CDC, blacks and Latino made up 47% of all COVID-19 cases in mid-April. There are two significant reasons why COVID has affected blacks and Hispanics at a higher rate:
Watch this PSA below to see how Eric Adams and health officials are encouraging well-being during the pandemic
Fighting Essential Health
With little guidance, store owners and government officials had to interpret social distancing into working hour policies quickly. Soon markers were taped on the grounds of supermarkets and lines wrapped around the buildings. Masks were required, and sanitizers were offered upon entry replacing new product sampler trays at Trader Joes.
In March and April, employees from top companies like Instacart, Whole Foods, and Target boycotted for protections and pay. As acknowledgment for what being on the front lines means, essential workers are demanding hazard pay. Much-needed healthcare and sick-pay are changing the perception and opening eyes to the conditions people in these positions face.
Some employers have answered the call, offering temporary wage increases; others have provided hazard pay only through the pandemic, but people are critical of the longevity of these temporary bonuses as the fate of the pandemic remains unknown.
The Cares Act also attempted to help temporarily solve these issues. It included a $50,000 cash benefit to the spouse and dependents of any essential worker who dies from COVID-19 and offered health insurance enrollment to any essential worker, spouse, and dependents in the Medicare-COVID program. This act expired on July 31st, and extended coverage varies by state. The future of the health coverage is still undecided as congress debates the new Heals Act, which will not include the previous acts hazard paid.
The Future For Essential Workers
Traditionally, people aspire to go from management to CEO or I.T. to the next Bill Gates, but even the most established in their chosen paths ultimately were struck by furloughs and unemployment caused by the pandemic. Perspectives and aspirations towards jobs are now being looked at differently.
In an interview with CNBC, CEO of CareerBuilder.Com Irina Novoselsky, says, "Laid-off workers should look to industries in which the pandemic has placed increased demand for workers, like health care and delivery services. Also, the retailers that are open, like supermarkets and hardware stores, need more staff to manage long lines and to replace those who can't or won't work due to health concerns."
As of July 2020, the job site, Indeed.com's top 10 business's urgently hiring list was primarily essential-based jobs. The list included Amazon, Dollar General, Sprouts Market, and Advanced Auto Parts, having listings of up to 90,000 openings.
College majors will also see a significant shift in the future. According to Collegeconfidential.com, many colleges and universities predict an uptick in healthcare majors and essential-job-centered majors leading to careers in public safety, food service administration, animal welfare, and teaching. Teachers and professors now join the ranks of essential workers on the front lines as schools reopen amidst the pandemic with much debate.
Watch this short clip below to see how the pandemic is affecting future college students
Automation and working from home will continue to grow as companies lean towards online sales, contactless services, and closing down office spaces. These changes will affect the way we work in both good and bad ways. (We will talk more about that later this month in our sit down with Andrew Yang.)
Our most vulnerable population of minority essential workers can lead the way to restore our economy. How society supports these workers now is imperative to everyone's future.
Eric Adams wrote in the New York Daily News, of getting back to recovering the city financially.
This city has been through wars, depressions, and, yes, pandemics. But we adapted, survived, and thrived. Our derelict waterfront now has booming businesses and pristine parks. Our research institutions and cultural gems are a shining beacon for the world's best and brightest...The time for hand-wringing is over. Let's get to work on getting back to work."
To find out more about Eric Adams and his work go to; www.brooklyn-usa.org or https://www.facebook.com/BKBoroHall/
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