Those on margins will bear brunt of virus toll

While the coronavirus pandemic seems certain to extend its reach to all corners of the globe, its impact will not be felt evenly. Those on society’s margins and lower economic rungs will bear a much greater burden of the toll taken by COVID-19. That’s the urgent message from Dr. Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, and guest on this week’s Codcast.

Galea, who trained as an emergency medicine physician, has focused his career on the social determinants of health — the ways health status is closely linked to economic status and other social factors — and the coronavirus crisis is casting that relationship into stark relief.

“We cannot have a conversation about coronavirus without talking about those who are bearing most of the brunt of its consequences,” he says.

“We have a country that is best described as having health haves and health have-nots, and the health have-nots, which are, depending on how you count, the poorest 50 percent or the poorest 80 percent of the population, are going to also suffer most of the consequences of this, of the coronavirus and the approaches to mitigate it,” says Galea.

Galea is co-chair of The Emergency Task Force on Coronavirus and Equity, a coalition of nearly 100 organizations across Massachusetts that issued a call last Friday for state leaders to address four urgent recommendations: ensuring access to coronavirus testing for all, including immigrants; a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures; plans to provide access to quarantine lodging for those who need it; and emergency provision of 15 additional sick days for all workers in the state.

“Half the American population has essentially no savings at all,” says Galea. “Now that same half of the population has a much, much greater chance of being employed in a job with no paid sick leave. So essentially half the population has no savings, is now going to lose a job and not have paid sick leave.”

“I think the mistake that we make is that we think, well, this is a small group … and it’s regrettable that there are challenges, but it’s their problem, not our problem. Well, them is us.”

While throughout history those who are better off have always enjoyed better health, Galea says the pandemic is also exposing the ways that everyone’s well-being is connected. “I have been trying to make the case for years that there is no such thing as health for some, that health ultimately is a shared good and that we need to treat health as a public good, and if any group is suffering poor health, it’s going to affect all of us.”

“We know that your risk of dying in a car accident is affected not so much by your driving as much as by the driving of others,” he says. “It’s always been there in front of our eyes. And this pandemic is inevitably elevating it and putting it front and center in our consciousness. It’s hard to think of silver linings when you’re going through a pandemic, but just to think together, this is elevating issues that we should just not forget once we get over this pandemic — and by the grace of God, we will. We need to keep thinking about these issues and say, what are the choices we want to make to create a healthier world?”



Worcester is pursuing a very interesting approach to COVID-19 and homelessness, says Joe Finn of the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance. (CommonWealth) Worcester is eyeing the DCU center and other facilities as a potential health care site if hospitals become overwhelmed. (Telegram & Gazette)

Those affected by the Merrimack Valley gas explosions feel a sense of deja vu dealing with the pandemic. (The Salem News)

Two cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Provincetown, and the town has issued a shelter-in-place order, closing all nonessential services, retailers, and businesses as of 5 p.m. Monday. (Cape Cod Times)


Congressional leaders are at an impasse over a stimulus bill to deal with the economic calamity caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with Democrats maintaining that the proposal tilts too far toward aiding big corporations. (Washington Post)

Dr. Anthony Fauci shares his exasperation with President Trump’s often misleading comments on the crisis, but says he can only do so much to try to set him straight. (Science) Columnist Michael Cohen says the cable television networks should stop airing the daily White House briefings because Trump so consistently spreads misinformation at them. (Boston Globe)

US Sen. Ed Markey writes in an op-ed that it is time for a “wartime manufacturing mobilization” for personal protective equipment for hospital workers. (Gloucester Daily Times)

US Rep. Jim McGovern explains why remote voting in Congress is not so simple. (Telegram & Gazette)


A poll indicates more than half of Massachusetts residents think the coronavirus disruption will last two months or longer. (CommonWealth)

Social distancing is particularly hard for people with disabilities. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Toilet paper isn’t the only item selling briskly at stores — consumers are also buying lots and lots of guns. (The Enterprise) But in New Bedford, you can still find toilet paper with take-out. (Standard-Times)


Economists are saying we’ve put the economy into a “medically-induced coma” to save ourselves from an even worse outcome from the coronavirus. We talk to Michael Goodman of UMass Dartmouth. (CommonWealth)

Construction has come to halt in Boston but in other communities the work goes on as the industry faces a patchwork of varying local orders. (Boston Globe)

Eviction fears among tenants are mounting as landlords begin warning that there will be no grace period for rent payments because of coronavirus-dislocations. (Boston Globe)

Some major grocery store chains are giving workers temporary wage hikes. (AP)

The real estate market is beginning to tank due to coronavirus. (Telegram & Gazette)


MassLive has an explainer on how emergency day care is working.

Officials are asking all Wollaston Elementary School fifth graders to isolate until the end of the week after a teacher tested positive for coronavirus. (Patriot Ledger)


Hospitals are crowdsourcing protective equipment. (CommonWealth) Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School donates personal protective equipment to Cooley Dickinson Hospital. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Carlene Pavlos, Cheryl Bartlett, and Sandro Galea call for slowing the spread of COVID-19 the right way. (CommonWealth)

Experts say there is little risk of contracting coronavirus from getting takeout food deliveries. (Boston Herald)

A resident at Holyoke Soldiers Home tests positive for COVID-19. (MassLive)


Arts and culture institutions across New England have established emergency relief funds to provide workers in the arts sector with financial support. (WGBH)


A federal study surveys spawning of Atlantic Cod as part of an environment assessment of wind farm impact. (Cape Cod Times)


MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren steps down and is replaced by longtime MGM executive Bill Hornbuckle. (MassLive)


Three inmates and a corrections officer at the Massachusetts Treatment Center, a state prison facility in Bridgewater, have tested positive for COVID-19. (MetroWest Daily News)

Advocates say state corrections officials are putting inmates and others who deal with them at risk for coronavirus by dragging their feet on medical parole action. (Boston Globe) ICE detainees at the Bristol County Jail released a letter last week saying they felt their lives were in danger. (CommonWealth) Anthony Benedetti of the state’s public defender office says the court shutdowns imperil defendants’ rights, particularly those seeking speedly release on bail. (Boston Globe)

Meanwhile, two additional inmates and a correction officer at a Bridgewater prison have tested positive for COVID-19.. (Brockton Enterprise)


Ben Smith writes that Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of Fox Corporation, sat back idly while Fox News personalities spent two crucial weeks in late February and early March downplaying the threat of the new coronavirus. (New York Times)

The Boston Globe has put some coronavirus coverage outside its paywall, but is keeping lots of its key coverage available only to subscribers, a move drawing sympathy and criticism. (Boston Magazine)

Gannett papers are asking readers to share life adjustments they’re making because of coronavirus. (Herald News)


Larry Rasky, a prominent Boston PR honcho and longtime confidante to Joe Biden, died unexpectedly yesterday morning at age 69. (Boston Globe)