Sunita Sohrabji, Ethnic Media Studies

Essential workers, who must continue to work even as COVID rates spike and shelter in place orders are reissued, largely lack health insurance coverage despite the Affordable Care Act, and thus would not be able to access treatment if they become ill from an infection.

David Hayes-Bautista, Director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at UCLA Health released a study a day earlier which highlighted that just a single $3,120 dose of Remdesivir, a therapeutic approved earlier this month for treatment of hospitalized COVID patients, would amount to two months of a farmworker’s salary.

“To pay for just that one item, you would basically have to forgo all food, all housing, all clothing, and all transportation for two months,” he said.

Patients using the drug must receive daily infusions for 10 days for a total cost of more than $31,000.

Simply getting a COVID test can cost upwards of $100 to $2,000 if you’re uninsured, he said, adding that for a family, testing costs can add up pretty quickly.

At the briefing, the scholar said President Donald Trump’s fourday sojourn at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital after he tested positive for COVID cost the nation $320,000.

Federally Qualified Health Centers — FQHCs — do offer health care to low-income people, regardless of immigration status, but Hayes-Bautista said this was an imperfect solution to the crisis of access to health care, as such facilities are chronically underfunded and often overwhelmed by large numbers of patients.

A conservative Supreme Court could well do away with the Affordable Care Act, which offers subsidized health coverage to 22 million people. If it is repealed, 55 million people in the U.S. would lack any form of health coverage. “In the midst of a pandemic, this is a recipe for absolute disaster,” said Hayes-Bautista.

Denise Octavia-Smith, Executive Director of the National Association of Community Health Workers (CHW), said that health workers are providing services such as contact tracing, testing and education in under-served communities, but largely without financial help from federal or state resources.

CHWs are overwhelmingly women of color and the most underpaid among frontline health care workers. Many of them live in homes without basic facilities, Smith said. In the first wave of the pandemic, many were furloughed, even though they were badly needed in their communities, because of a lack of funding.

“It is my hope that some of the tens of millions or even billions of dollars coming through the federal government will be invested in community health workers’ centers and lead organizations so that we can come through and out of this pandemic with enhanced capacity, not reduced capacity,” stated Octavia Smith.

When a vaccine becomes available, Octavia Smith said CHWs, who are trusted messengers within a community, can help to dispel myths and fears about getting vaccinated, ensuring that more people of color and low-income people are inoculated against COVID.