Friday Facts and Figures

Friday Facts and Figures: May 22, 2020

New Jersey and the rest of the nation must center racial equity in the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Published on May 22, 2020

Friday Facts and Figures is a brief digital newsletter focusing on data points from NJPP reports, research, and policy debates in New Jersey and beyond.
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COVID-19 Cases: 152,719 | Deaths: 10,985
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]

20 Percent

Communities of color and low-paid residents are disproportionately impacted by the health and economic harms of COVID-19. In this must-read article in The Record, Abbott Koloff and Monsy Alvarado highlight how people of color in New Jersey are experiencing a higher rate of COVID-19 infections due to historical discrimination in hiring, pay, and housing policies that leave people of color more likely to live in poverty, lack access to health care, and have poor insurance coverage. This is exemplified by the per capita fatality rate for Black New Jerseyans, which is about 20% higher than for the state population at large. Dr. Chris Pernell, the chief strategic integration and health equity officer at University Hospital in Newark, explains how the pandemic is showing the cracks that exist in our society, and helping us “examine those structural inequities, those social determinants of health that have compounded through the years.” [ / Abbott Koloff and Monsy Alvarado]


With blueberry picking season around the corner, more than 400 seasonal farm workers in South Jersey have tested positive for COVID-19. This poses a big health risk, not only to the state’s agricultural workforce — more than 20,000 seasonal workers come to South Jersey every year to harvest fruits and vegetables — but also to their home communities when they return. Earlier this week, the state issued safety guidelines for farms who employ migrant workers, but they are merely advisory, not mandatory, and they still allow infected, asymptomatic workers to return to work if they practice social distancing. New Jersey’s agricultural workforce, a majority of whom are workers color, serves as a striking example of how communities of color are at the greatest risk of being harmed by the pandemic. It’s also worth pointing out that New Jersey farmworkers were carved out of the $15 minimum wage legislation passed last year and can be paid a subminimum wage. [NJ Spotlight / Ian Shearn]


To ensure an equitable state response that leaves no one behind, lawmakers must break down barriers to opportunity and relief in pandemic response efforts. A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) outlines three guiding principles to do just that. By targeting aid to those most in need, passing anti-racist policies that boost incomes and protect and expand the safety net, and avoiding damaging budget cuts, states can advance racial equity and ensure a stronger recovery for all. This report was co-authored by CBPP’s Erica Williams, who joined NJPP last night for our first Progress 2020 virtual event: Pursuing Racial Equity During a Crisis. More on that below in the ICYMI section. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities / Erica Williams and Cortney Sanders]


New Jersey is taking big steps to expand universal COVID-19 testing for residents across the state — regardless of whether or not they have symptoms or have come in contact with someone known to have the coronavirus. Working with local governments and private companies — including all licensed pharmacists along with retailers like Walmart, CVS, and RiteAid — the state is increasing access to drive-by testing centers and self-test kits. “Certainly a strong testing program is one of the foundational principles for our state’s road back to restart and recovery,” said Governor Murphy at a COVID-19 briefing earlier this week. “More testing means more people will know their health status, which creates peace of mind. More testing means more data and more data allows us to take more steps forward.” [NJ Spotlight / Lilo Stainton]


Last night, NJPP President Brandon McKoy moderated a discussion on racial equity as part of NJPP’s Progress 2020 virtual speaker series. The event, Pursuing Racial Equity During a Crisis, featured Olugbenga Ajilore of the Center for American Progress and Erica Williams of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and highlighted the many ways that communities of color are being disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic — and what state and local governments can do to provide critical relief. Click the link to tune in — you don’t want to miss this! [Facebook Live / NJPP]

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