Dear Governor Scott and Commissioner Levine,
We, the undersigned, are relieved that additional free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests will be coming to Vermont in the weeks ahead. Governor Scott, we agree with your statement that the rapid tests are “an important tool, but Americans need to be able to get them easily, quickly and far more affordably.” This is especially true for marginalized Vermonters, including people experiencing homelessness, individuals with disabilities, and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities. Please see the Op Ed of our colleague, Shabnam Nolan, on health inequities faced by BIPOC Vermonters, particularly in the children in the 5-11 age group who span our early childhood and education systems (Op Ed).
We are concerned because a system of distribution that will require people to order these tests online and share sensitive information is neither equitable nor practical for marginalized Vermonters, who in addition to facing systemic discrimination and oppression, often face technology and language barriers when accessing services. Rather, as a network of organizations, we hope to work with you to provide tests where people live, work, and go to school. Technical assistance and support are needed to have rapid tests distributed equitably and used effectively. Community based organizations should be supported and funded, if needed, as primary distribution sites.
As your Administration has acknowledged several times these past two years, The COVID-19 pandemic has brought social and racial injustice and inequity to the forefront of public health. We know that people from marginalized communities are more at risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/health-equity/racial-ethnic-disparities/disparities-illness.html). And, according to the Vermont Department of Health, BIPOC Vermonters are vaccinated against COVID-19 at lower rates than their white counterparts.
Health disparities are systemic and reflect social and economic marginalization but are avoidable with intention. Knowing this, we must ensure that the State of Vermont does everything in its power to get rapid test kits to the people who have the greatest barriers to access but are the most likely to experience negative outcomes from this pandemic. This is a matter of racial, social, and economic justice.
The most important role of government is to dismantle health, social, and economic barriers and create a sense of belonging for people to thrive. We look forward to hearing from you and partnering with you to provide easy access to these test kits and further promote health, social, and racial justice.
Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity
King Street Center
Boys and Girls Club of Burlington
Burlington Housing Authority
Capstone Community Action
Champlain Housing Trust
Community Health Centers of Burlington
Granite United Way
Greater Burlington YMCA
Green Mountain United Way
Let's Grow Kids
Northeast Kingdom Community Action
Sara H. Holbrook Community Center
Spectrum Youth & Family Services
The Committee on Temporary Shelter
The Janet S. Munt Family Room
United Way of Lamoille County
United Way of Northwest Vermont
United Way of Rutland County
United Way of Windham County
United Ways of Vermont/211
Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition
Vermont Health Equity Initiative
Vermont New American Advisory Council