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Readout of the Fifth COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Meeting

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 2, 2021 Contact: ASH Media 202-205-0143

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Readout of the Fifth COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Meeting

On Friday, June 25, COVID-19 Health Equity Chair Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, held the fifth COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force meeting to consider interim recommendations addressing the inequities and the impact of long-COVID or Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), and access to personal protective equipment (PPE), testing and therapeutics.

Dr. Nunez-Smith opened the meeting by calling for a better understanding of the potential for inequities in the burden of long COVID--and access to PPE, testing and therapeutics. “We have been listening to and learning from community members about the long-term effects of COVID-19 on their lives. Many people with long-COVID symptoms have felt alone in their suffering, without recognition from the medical community or sufficient access to assistance programs. Updating clinical guidance to providers is critical.  And research is a must. Those who are under the chronic stress of poverty, who have already been severely affected by this pandemic, will continue to need proactive support to achieve wellness”.

Task Force members heard from two subject matter experts. Dr. Bruce Siegal, President & CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals, highlighted ways to improve the quality of care for marginalized populations. Dr. Margot Gage Witvliet, a social epidemiology professor living with long-COVID, advocated for more inclusive research, policies and treatments for people living with long-COVID.

Task Force Members discussed and voted favorably on interim recommendations. These included but were not limited to:

Creating more inclusive disability policies that recognize long-COVID as a health condition, irrespective of whether individuals receive a positive test for acute COVID infection, for which they were or were not hospitalized.
Creating a national coordination of research standards and a standardized method to disseminate research, diagnostic, and therapeutic practices related to long-COVID.
Executing a robust, national communication and education campaign to build awareness, educate, and solicit more data from the public on long-COVID.
Maintaining an adequate national stockpile and creating a rapid emergency production plan for PPE for healthcare providers and all essential workers.
Creating data transparency related to the demographics of those receiving therapeutics and providing public health intervention funding to address barriers to care.
Dr. Nunez-Smith closed the meeting with remarks on the importance of addressing COVID-19 and other health inequities at the structural level. “As we anchor our work as a Task Force, we are mindful of the scores of families and communities across the country who are grieving the loss of loved ones to this pandemic. For whom a return to an old normal isn’t possible. In order to honor the lives we have lost, we must continue to not only center equity in our response to and recovery from this pandemic, but also work to address the root causes of health disparities in this country”.

Part 1      Part 2      Part 3      The next COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force meeting is tentatively scheduled for Friday, July 30th. Stay up-to-date by subscribing to e-mail updates.

Content last reviewed July 2, 2021

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