Local restrictions in Shelby County got a favorable response, while Gov. Bill Lee's order to reopen restaurants and retail in rural areas largely got a subpar rating, according to the latest Memphis Power Poll results released Thursday.
The Power Poll is a monthly survey sent to more than 425 influential business, political, nonprofit and cultural leaders in the Bluff City, presented by The Commercial Appeal.
The April Power Poll, conducted the last week of the month, focused on decisions made at the local level regarding COVID-19, including testing availability, education and business restrictions.
While the opinion on testing availability seems moderate to low, the view on business restrictions was voted high with over 80 percent of the respondents saying it was "very good" or "good."
Health Disparities and COVID-19
By Dr. Andrea Willis
Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
When compared to white Americans, racial and ethnic minorities often face higher rates of illness and worse health outcomes. This is true for common ailments such as diabetes as well as for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The disproportionate impact is evident right here in Tennessee. Despite comprising only 17 percent of the population, African Americans represent 21 percent of COVID-19 cases and roughly 33 percent of deaths across the state, according to the latest data available.
Why Coronavirus Impacts African Americans at High Rates
1. African Americans have higher rates of pre-existing conditions.
COVID-19 is known to have a greater impact on those with underlying health conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes, heart disease and long-term lung problems are the most common health conditions among Americans hospitalized with COVID-19. African Americans suffer from those health conditions at a higher rate than other groups, making them more vulnerable to the more severe impacts of this respiratory illness.
2. African Americans and other minorities are less likely to be able to work from home.
African Americans and Hispanics hold a disproportionately higher rate of essential roles that require in-person interaction. They’re often more exposed to others who may be infected, or who are not practicing infection prevention recommendations. Many African Americans hold hourly positions and may not have health benefits or paid sick leave, making it more challenging to seek health care when sick or suffering from chronic conditions.
3. African Americans’ housing challenges may contribute as well.
African Americans and other racial minorities are more likely to live in densely populated areas, and people living in high population cities and in multi-residence properties may find it harder to practice social distancing. African Americans are also more likely to have multiple generations living together in one home. Younger members of the family who are working among the public in essential jobs may unintentionally bring the virus home and expose more vulnerable elderly relatives.
What BlueCross is doing to help lessen the burden in vulnerable communities
We’ve offered enhanced support to vulnerable communities by:
- Educating community members on cost-effective COVID-19 testing available through local health departments
- Providing funds through the BlueCross Foundation and working with local governments to support free testing for uninsured residents in Memphis and Chattanooga
- Texting online resources from the CDC to BlueCross insured people who are high-risk and face social or health care disparities
- Proactively calling BlueCross members who fall into certain high-risk categories to discuss safety precaution
We believe the best approach to maintaining health is an active one — we encourage everyone to build a relationship with a primary care physician (PCP) even before one is facing a health problem. For those who may not have an established PCP relationship, there will soon be additional options available to help make primary care more accessible and convenient. BlueCross has entered a joint venture with Sanitas to open eight medical centers in Middle and West Tennessee this fall with extended hours, to foster an environment for consistent care.
What Everyone can do to Protect Their health
- Focus on your chronic conditions, even during this pandemic. Continue to maintain preventive care routines and follow-up appointments with health care professionals, even if it’s through telehealth. These virtual services are covered by insurance plans such as BlueCross and provide quality care from a certified physician from the comfort and safety of your home, 24/7. And regular follow-ups are one tool to fight against worsening uncontrolled conditions like hypertension and diabetes, the “silent killers.”
- Be intentional about getting or staying physically active.
- Eat a diet that includes fruits and vegetables.
- Get plenty of rest or sleep.
- Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
- Even with businesses starting to reopen, continue to practice physical distancing and wear masks and gloves in public places.
- Disinfect surfaces in the home frequently.
- Go to CDC.gov and use the symptom checker if you think you may have COVID-19 symptoms. The symptom list has now been expanded by the CDC to include fever, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chills, shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell.
For ongoing updates about the BlueCross response to COVID-19, visit BCBSTupdates.com.
The state response from Gov. Bill Lee got a tepid response, with nearly 50 percent saying it is a "poor" decision to let some businesses reopen as early as next week.