We’re always being told that information is power. Information is power.
That usually refers to someone using information to control or manipulate someone else.
But in the case of the coronavirus and sharing information with the public — particularly vulnerable communities like African-Americans and other ethnic groups and races — information is the power to save lives.
And it’s vital to our collective health that as many people as possible have as much access to that information as they can get.
We’ve been embroiled in this mess for about two-and-a-half months now. Yet some government officials, health care providers, and hospital and nursing home administrators are still not being fully forthcoming with information that could help reduce the spread of the disease or potentially save lives.
That includes data about how and where the disease is being detected and how the disease is affecting specific groups of individuals.
Representatives of the Schenectady NAACP earlier this week expressed particular concern that Schenectady County officials weren’t being fully forthcoming with information about the disparities between ethnic and racial groups with regard to the spread of the virus.
While the coronavirus has proven to affect all populations and age groups, older citizens and those with diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease and pulmonary issues are particularly vulnerable to its most serious effects.
And as a group, African-Americans show a propensity to several of those particular health issues. The disease also disproportionately affects poor, inner-city populations that might have less access to treatment, insurance and preventative health care, and essential workers, who also tend to be poor and minorities.
Without information, those in the community who serve these vulnerable populations can’t answer questions from those individuals about how the virus is affecting them and how they can protect themselves better.
And without that information, it’s difficult to impress upon them the sense of urgency needed to fully respond and thwart the spread.
Sharing more information with these populations requires more than just posting it on a website or telling the newspaper about it or holding regular updates on social media.
Widely distributing this information to those who need it most must involve county officials actively reaching out regularly to community representatives, such as members of the NAACP, Clergy Against Hate, religious leaders and other community activists, who can then share that information directly with their constituents.
When officials meet to discuss the public response to the virus, these community leaders need to be in the room, not only to receive information, but to offer insight and advice to county and health leaders on how best to reach and assist the communities in need.
The outcome of better communication with community groups will be a population that fully understands the impact of this outbreak and has the tools to discourage its spread.
In order for us to all be in this together, we all must have the information we need to protect ourselves and one another from the ravages of coronavirus.
Without that information, we are powerless to fight it.