A survey on the city of Albany’s COVID-19 response in minority communities includes some harsh findings.
The survey is highly critical of the city's response to COVID, finding that the pandemic disproportionately impacted people of color, both medically and economically.
The survey found community leaders view the current COVID-19 response in Albany as being fragmented and reactive, that the city lacks information from communities of color on their needs during the pandemic, that people of color have difficulty accessing COVID-19 testing, and children of color are at higher risk of falling behind their peers during the pandemic. Chief City Auditor Dorcey Applyrs oversaw the survey:
"We walked into this knowing that there would be some limitations. What I think decision makers should and could focus on, is the fact that regardless of the demographics of the population who completed the survey, there was a consistent theme in terms of communication. And this didn't just come from people who completed the survey, but also the 20 plus community leaders who were interviewed. So we pulled from survey results, but also one-on-one key informant interviews that we did with community leaders who also add voice to the constituencies that they serve."
Applyrs says "specifically Black" survey respondents said they were likely to tune into the news on radio and television when looking for COVID information. 445 individuals participated in the survey, conducted online from July to September. The highest number of respondents live in neighborhoods in the 12208 zip code including Pine Hills, New Scotland and Buckingham Lake.
"And so if decision makers are focusing efforts on getting the word out on social media, because that's what I and others have been led to believe, that is a primary source of getting key information out, then we miss the opportunity to reach a population of people who are really focusing on the news. And so more consistent communication, on the news about testing sites, PPE distribution, food distribution would be beneficial, especially for those who are who are suspected to be at greatest disadvantage when it comes to COVID-19. And that’s, people of color, Black people, Latinx communities."
Among long-term recommendations, the survey calls on the city to invest in more staff to support equity and expand internet access to low-income communities. Mayor Kathy Sheehan says she was "stunned to see that there were actually recommendations that came out" of the survey:
"It was an unscientific sampling, it was not representative of the city. It was done solely via social media. And so, you know, I think that the takeaway is that we can always communicate more. But, you know, just because people didn't know that we were doing things like distributing masks, working with community based organizations, getting millions of dollars out into the community based on an assessment that we did that involved actually calling and meeting with the heads of community based organizations, putting out a survey, which we had 371 responses, to understand what the needs were in the community, and then getting that out there. I think, you know, those are the types of things that we did in response to COVID. And that, that those are the types of things that we need to continue to do, because we're still in the midst of it."