Recklessly Reopening States Will Have Deadly Consequences for People of Color

Reopening now won’t save the economy. It will cost lives.

April 23, 2020

Rachel Waters


(Washington, DC) — Statement by Kimberly Inez McGuire, Executive Director of URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity regarding the danger posed to young people and communities of color by reopening state economies in the South and Midwest as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. 

“This week, governors in Georgia, Ohio, and other states rejected the advice of health experts and ignored the concerns of their own constituents by announcing plans to reopen nail salons, bowling alleys, and other non-essential businesses on or before May 1. The announcements come amid reports of mounting COVID-19 infections and woefully inadequate testing in these states, making it increasingly clear that reopening now will do nothing but accelerate death and suffering among communities of color already ravaged by the virus.”

“In Georgia, Ohio, and other states, the businesses that are slated to open in the coming weeks are overwhelmingly staffed by young Black, Latinx, and Asian-American people. When they are forced to return to work, they will be exposed to COVID-19 as they commute — often on public transportation — and come into direct contact with customers. This is especially disturbing in light of the fact that people of color are getting sick and dying of COVID at a far higher rate than white people. Not just that, but furloughed staff who choose to stay home out of concern for their own safety may be unable to draw unemployment if their place of work reopens, leaving many to face a damning choice between their lives and their livelihoods.”   

“As for claims from governors and other politicians that reopening will ‘save the economy,’ let’s be clear: it won’t. Although businesses may open their doors, they are unlikely to see many patrons walk through them, as the majority of Americans say they plan to continue to restrict spending and maintain social distance until infections decline and effective measures are put in place to reduce the spread of the virus. Governors in Georgia, Ohio, and other states don’t care if these businesses thrive or fail, or if their employees are safe. Reopening isn’t about helping the economy. It’s about valuing White money over Black and Brown lives while setting young people up to take blame for the inevitable spike in infections by forcing them to go back to work.”

“No one should have to jeopardize their health to put food on the table. These governors have a duty to protect the lives of all their constituents — that includes people most harmed by this crisis. Only after aggressively flattening the curve of the virus and implementing widespread testing, contact tracing, and free COVID-19 treatment, can these states reasonably ensure the safety of our communities. Until that happens, these reckless reopenings will undoubtedly cost lives as callous governors clamor for re-election.”