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New York’s controversial new racial guidelines relating to Covid-19 medications and rationing are causing some to cry foul.
The new guidelines, announced on New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) website on December 20th, reveal that when deciding how to ration potentially life-saving Covid-19 treatments, the city must “consider race and ethnicity when assessing individual risk,” the New York Post reported.
The guidelines go on to state that “longstanding systemic health and social inequities” may contribute to an increased lethality rate for non-white patients afflicted with Covid-19.
In an op-ed run by the Post, Dr. Joel Zinberg, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and an associate clinical professor of surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Manhattan, blasted the city’s use of race-based risk factors.
“New York City’s and state’s departments of health have reached a divisive and destructive low. In new guidelines rationing scarce, lifesaving oral antiviral medications and the one monoclonal antibody preparation that is effective against the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, they instruct providers to ‘consider race and ethnicity’ and give preference to those who are ‘Black, Indigenous, and People of Color,'” Zinberg wrote. “These directives are immoral, illegal and bear no relation to the science.”
He continued, “The problem with the state’s guidance is the instruction that ‘nonwhite race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity should be considered a risk factor, as longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.’ Hence, all other risk factors such as age, immune, and vaccination status being equal, ‘nonwhite’ and ‘Hispanic/Latino’ patients will be granted superior treatment access compared with whites.”
Zinberg noted that “the most significant factor associated with severe COVID-19 disease and death is age,” before adding that minority populations are younger than the white population and suffer more of the underlying medical conditions that are associated with severe COVID-19 illness, But “race and minority status do not, on their own, lead to more severe COVID-19 disease,” he stated.
Stressing that “discrimination on the basis of race must meet the legal standard of strict scrutiny,” Zinberg concluded: “This sort of discriminatory, politically correct decision-making should not be tolerated. New York health-department bureaucrats should revise these guidelines immediately or risk having them struck down in court.”
Some of the treatments and distributions affected by the guidelines are monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals, which the city said in October has averted “at least 1,100 hospitalizations and at least 500 deaths among people treated in New York City.”
The guidelines are more than just fine print. Patients are already being affected by the new policy, as one doctor in Staten Island told the Post that two prescriptions for Paxlovid were held up by the pharmacist asking him to disclose the race of the patients before the pharmacist would authorize releasing the medication.
The patients were white, and did ultimately receive their medication. This time. Yet the doctor, who requested to be quoted anonymously by the Post, expressed grave misgivings about the implications of such a policy:
“In my 30 years of being a physician I have never been asked that question when I have prescribed any treatment. The mere fact of having to ask this question is a slippery slope.”
In spite of what appears to many to be a racially biased guideline that begs for abuse and subjective interpretations, the DOHMH insisted that the agency is committed to “racial equality.” The very same statement, however, clearly spells out that race is a factor in determining priority for medication:
“The … DOHMH is committed to improving health outcomes for all New Yorkers by explicitly advancing racial equity and social justice. Racial equity does not mean simply treating everyone equally [emphasis added], but rather, allocating resources and services in such a way that explicitly addresses barriers imposed by structural racism (i.e. policies and institutional practices that perpetuate racial inequity) and White privilege…”
Some have questioned whether there is substantial scientific basis for race as a biological risk factor regarding Covid-19. Harvard epidemiologist and professor Martin Kulldorff expressed his skepticism to the Post:
“I have not seen [race] as one of the risk factors for severe disease and death. The reason that a lot of African Americans have died in New York — which is true — is because the rich people and more affluent were working from home while the working class were exposed.”
At the time of this writing, there has not been any confirmed reports of people being excluded from Covid-19 treatments on the basis of race, but as many have pointed out in shock and indignation, there does appear to be a system being set up that will enable exactly that to happen.
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