Numerous agencies around Niagara Falls have been having conversations regarding health outcomes for people of color during the the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal numbers have shown that people of color have accounted for a large amount of coronavirus-related deaths. The Niagara Falls Health Equity Task Force has made sure that people of color have a voice in the fight against this fast-spreading disease.

“As community leaders, we publicly acknowledge that this data is alarming and deserves immediate attention,” the coalition said in a statement. “No one should be at greater risk for death from complications of COVID-19 because of racial categories, economic status, and/or health conditions. Everyone’s health is of the utmost importance in our community.”

Dr. Rolanda Ward, was a major factor in getting the task force together. Meeting every Monday morning, more than 20 people dial in to the call each week.

Ward said the group has gone canvasing throughout Niagara Falls with leaflets, lawn signs, and door tags that are promoting COVID health. She said the task force has remained proactive with training churches how they should be operating and opening. Considering a recent outbreak of COVID-19 stemming from a Buffalo church, Ward is hoping people are extremely cautious about attending large gatherings.

The task force is partnering with the city and county as well as several area agencies, including: Catholic Health Mount St. Mary’s Hospital; Community Health Center of Niagara; Community Missions; Heart, Love & Soul; Niagara Ministerial Council; Niagara Falls School District; Niagara Falls Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative; Niagara Falls Housing Authority; Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope (NOAH); Niagara University; Pinnacle Community Services; True Bethel Baptist Church; 211WNY; and YWCA of the Niagara Frontier.

One of the major focuses of the group has been getting testing sites set up at churches and area non-profits, to make it easier for those without cars or with other travel difficulties.

Examining data provided from local medical institutions is also an important part of the process.

“This past week we did a 90-day look back,” Ward said. “This was the time to take a breather and say, ‘We’ve been meeting for 12 weeks, what have we accomplished?’ Over 3,000 tests have been performed between Niagara Falls Memorial (Medical Center) and the Community Health Center on Highland (Avenue), because they have a mobile unit and they have been going around to churches. They’re actually picking up the testing that the hospital is no longer able to do because the hospital’s resources have dried up.”

Unfortunately, this lack of testing has slowed down results. Instead of waiting two or three days, people are now waiting two or three weeks. People could unknowingly be spreading COVID-19 while they’re results are being tested. In the coming weeks, the task force will be going around to convenience stores to have them keep educational material regarding COVID-19.

With food insecurity on the rise, the task force has been looking at the number of people going to food pantries and they have found there are plenty of people with ranging health issues unable to keep themselves eating healthy food. Homelessness is on the rise as well since the are people unable to pay rent or their mortgage, leaving them with housing court as their final option despite recently passed rental assistance legislation.

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