Dear More Inclusive Healthcare Family,
I’m taking COVID-19 personally. In 1968, my beautiful grandmother, Beatrice Sloane, passed away from a flu. She was in her late 40s. I have been thinking about her daily for the past couple of weeks. She was thought to have what was discriminately called the “Hong Kong flu,” or the H3N2 virus, which was a pandemic that severely impacted the United States. Like COVID-19, it was highly contagious and there was a shortage of test kits, so we never definitively knew her cause of death.
What we did know is that the rapid spread of the disease in the U.S. overwhelmed the health systems. There was a shortage of beds and ventilators, which meant that a healthy woman in her 40s—who could normally be treated and recover from her respiratory ailment—instead died. I had six years with her. My cousin Tasha never met her. Tasha was born a week after Grandmother Bea was called home.
The H3N2 flu pandemic caused 100,000 deaths in the U.S. and one million worldwide. Given our long and persistent history of health disparities, it is certain that the outbreak disproportionately impacted African Americans. In fact, the H3N2 virus continues to circulate worldwide as a seasonal influenza A virus, and we have evidence that pandemic influenza differentially harms the lives of our minority populations.
In the coming days, the MIH team will be focused on COVID-19 and its impact on vulnerable populations. We are developing a resource to help your teams and the public understand how we can mitigate the outbreak of COVID-19 and its physical, mental, and economic effects among those who are most susceptible. This may include both your staff and your patients. We look forward to sharing what we learn with you.
After speaking with several of our hospital and physician partners, we know that our health and public health professionals are working tirelessly to get ahead of this epidemic. We are encouraged by some of the bold steps state and regional health system and public health leaders are taking. The entire More Inclusive Healthcare team thanks everyone in the field for their efforts. We have a chance to slow the spread, but everyone must be willing to play their part. We hope to positively contribute to your efforts in the weeks ahead.
Lisa and the More Inclusive Healthcare Team