Child Health

Youth Voices: Reopening Georgia is a Dangerous Health Risk

May 14, 2020 | National

This blog was written by Zara Porter, an intern with the Children’s Defense Fund for the Spring 2020 semester.

Across the country, states are beginning the process of reopening their economies and lifting the restrictions on businesses. My home state of Georgia is among one of these states leading the charge. As a Georgia resident, I believe the health concerns of children and families, especially families of color, should be prioritized when deciding to restart the economy. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the number of new cases has been steadily rising. Currently, there are over 31,000+ confirmed cases of coronavirus cases in the state and over 1,300 deaths. With new hot spots emerging around the state, this indicates that Georgia is still in the thick of the pandemic. Reopening could be especially devastating for Black communities. Since the Georgia Department of Public Health began collecting race data, it has become clear that Black communities are being disproportionately harmed by this pandemic. Although African Americans make up about 32 percent of the population in the state, we account for approximately 54 percent of known coronavirus deaths. Moreover, with almost 25% percent of Black Americans working in the service industry, the reopening of these businesses increases their risk of exposure. Last month, Georgia’s governor announced that businesses, including gyms, bowling alleys, and barbershops, could start resuming operations on Friday, April 24th followed by theaters and restaurant dine-in services on Monday, April 27. Though all these businesses have to comply with “minimum basic operations” standards, such as screening employees for fever and separating workstations by six feet, these standards are difficult to follow in businesses where close contact is necessary.This is why the expansion of free testing sites in communities of color is essential. Less than 1 percent of Georgians have been tested, one of the lowest testing rates in the nation. The establishment of additional sites by the Georgia National Guard around the state must include these communities.Likewise, children are at a greater risk of exposure to the virus as a factor of restarting the economy. As businesses reopen and parents return to work, parents will begin seeking out childcare arrangements for their children. Though public schools in the state are closed for the rest of the academic year, the governor named childcare facilities as essential businesses, and they have remained open during this outbreak. Even with limiting 20 or fewer people in each daycare classroom, reopening the economy increases the risk of exposure for children in these facilities. The safety of children must be considered when deciding to reopen.

Policymakers should consider all factors that accompany the decision to reopen their states, including racial disparities and the implications for children. The maintenance of strong social distance measures is crucial to protect the lives of children and families of color. Remember, we are all in this together.