This year, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have disproportionately impacted communities of color in New Haven, as has been the case throughout the nation. In the Elm City, officials and community organizations have taken steps to combat these disparities.
In April, the city released preliminary COVID-19 data that showed a heightened proportion of positive cases and fatalities in Black and Latinx communities. More specifically, heat maps of coronavirus cases across New Haven displayed the highest case concentrations in the Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods — which both have a majority Black population. In response, the Elm City launched initiatives to flatten the curve in communities of color, including increased access to testing and educational public health campaigns. Similarly, New Haven organizations have stepped up to provide funding for basic necessities such as food and medication for the Newhallville and Dixwell communities.
“Really you can see that the entire city was impacted and the hot spots weren’t just Newhallville and Dixwell Avenue, it was the Hill, Fair Haven, and Newhallville and Dixwell Avenue,” New Haven Health Director Maritza Bond said. “It was all the major, higher-populated communities of color [that] were impacted significantly.”
To date, there have been 3,122 COVID-19 cases in New Haven, with 95 cases pending verification. Out of these cases, 31 percent of individuals identified as Black, 32 percent as Hispanic/Latinx, 14 percent as white, 2 percent as other and 20–21 percent as unknown. However, according to Bond, this data is provisional, and the rolling average number of cases for the last few weeks has been relatively low.
Bond said that the city’s strategy for flattening the curve was to identify positive cases, isolate those cases and then identify close contacts. In the long term, Bond said the city looked to increase access to testing in hot spot areas where community members had transportation barriers. She pointed to the reopening of the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center on Dixwell Avenue, which expanded New Haven’s COVID-19 testing capacity in collaboration with the city. Bond also mentioned planned partnerships with residential homes for group testing.
Ward 29 Alder Brian Wingate, who tested positive for the coronavirus in March, said that he participated in group testing with the Constance Baker Motley senior home. Wingate also mentioned providing food and other resources to communities of color, which he noted were particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
“Preexisting conditions really land on Black and brown people, and health care is disproportionate in America,” Wingate told the News.
According to the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement, 17 percent of residents in the Newhallville and Dixwell neighborhoods report suffering from asthma –– a preexisting health condition that the CDC warned may lead to an increased risk of serious cases of COVID-19.
Both Bond and Wingate pointed to the upcoming flu season as a challenge in light of the ongoing pandemic. Bond said that the city is launching flu clinics and working with community agencies to provide access to free flu vaccines.
ConnCAT: Organizational support
The Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology is an organization that has been supporting communities of color since the onset of the pandemic. ConnCAT, which typically provides youth programming services and free job training for adults in New Haven, had to temporarily halt its regular operations during the initial onset of COVID-19. The center has since found new ways to serve the city and, more specifically, communities of color like those in Dixwell and Newhallville.
“When COVID hit, we realized, we are in this neighborhood, and the Newhallville-Dixwell area has the highest poverty rate in New Haven, the lowest homeownership rate, probably the highest amount of people living below the poverty line,” said Anna Blanding ’03, the chief investment officer of ConnCAT.
Through its crisis relief fund, ConnCAT has raised over $600,000 to donate to families in need of basic necessities like food and housing payments. ConnCAT is also working with neighborhood management team leaders from Dixwell and Newhallville to help distribute food and PPE. The organization is also working with the city to run community learning hubs –– where New Haven public school students affected by school closures can access technology and services like tutoring and WiFi.
Previously ConnCAT received the majority of its funding from a small pool of private donors. However, since the pandemic hit, the organization has received donations from a variety of New Haven community members and national organizations. Yale University has also donated $50,000 from its Yale Community for New Haven Fund.
“Since Tuesday, April 7, the Yale Community for New Haven Fund has received and reviewed applications for support to provide assistance to the New Haven community,” Associate Vice President for New Haven Affairs and University Properties Lauren Zucker told the News in an email. “Additionally, through Community Management Team meetings, outreach to local churches and local mailings, we have worked to drive awareness of the fund throughout New Haven.”
According to Bond, there are currently 21 active COVID-19 cases in New Haven.
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