So far, March 2022 has brought about a series of stomach-churning, rollercoaster-esque moments. Geopolitical happenings aside, locally it has felt as if we’re collectively moving slowly, as if not to make sudden moves that would bring on the wrath of 2022. To be honest, this has not been the easiest start to any decade.
That said, it is encouraging to see a two-year-old global pandemic finally trending in a better direction. My concern, of course, is in how we transition. The brunt of the last two years has disproportionately fallen on folks who have been historically excluded and marginalized from power to begin with. This really came to mind with the recent discord between Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Education Association over changes in mask use prior to spring break, which may bring an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
In ideal conditions, this would make sense. However, it does seem that to return to a pre-pandemic reality, there is little emphasis on intentionally addressing structural impediments to meeting the material needs of folks who struggled before the pandemic started. In truth, folks may fare worse after the pandemic if this central question continues to go unaddressed.
In sticking with the educational theme, I was reminded of a policy brief that was recently published out of University of Washington (UW) in mid-March. The short research summary, part of the UW Latino Center for Health’s COVID-19 Policy Brief Series, presented results from the “Understanding Washington Latinos’ Experiences Around COVID-19 survey,” which surveyed Latinos from throughout the state. Initial findings note that for families with new childcare and teaching responsibilities, 77 percent reported reduced income, 52 percent reported reduced hours and 83 percent reported not being able to work from home. Likewise, although an estimated 86 percent of respondents reported having internet, only 44 percent reported having access to high-speed internet and only 58 percent reported owning a computer or tablet. The majority — an estimated 76 percent — accessed internet via cellphones.
In sum, the report illustrates challenges with having equitable access to educational resources, on top of also having to make do with fewer monetary resources. As such, the effect of the pandemic will have an impact that will reverberate long after COVID-19 restrictions lapse. This is notable given that 1 in 5 children in Washington state are of Latinx ancestry. It is safe to assume that this dynamic will also impact other communities that encounter similar economic and technological challenges.
We must be intentional about collectively addressing this byproduct of the pandemic. This also goes beyond the educational arena. Housing and food insecurity will also have a deleterious impact on our communities. Let’s ensure that all are provided immediate material relief.
Read more of the Mar. 23-29, 2022 issue.