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‘Death by structural poverty’: US south struggles against Covid-19 []


Monica McCasklill, left, and her daughter Kena Johnson, at their home in Greenwood, Missisppi. They respectively lost their grandmother and great grandmother, Ethel Huntley, to Covid-19. Huntley lived in a nearby nursing home and the family allege failings in her primary care. Photograph: Rory Doyle/The Guardian. 

By Oliver Laughland, The Guardian, August 5, 2020 Poor access to healthcare, failed political leadership and the endurance of segregation and racism have contributed to a surge in deaths.

Lowndes county, Alabama

It was only two years ago that Pamela Rush travelled from Lowndes county, Alabama, to Washington DC to testify in front of a panel of US lawmakers, describing the conditions of crippling poverty and predatory lending in an area still blighted by generations of racial inequality.

“They charged me over $114,000 on a mobile home that’s falling apart,” she said. “I got raw sewage. I don’t have no money, I’m poor.”

And it was only last month that she died of Covid-19.

Her death from the virus, wrote the civil rights and moral movement campaigner the Rev William Barber, was “a death caused by structural poverty”.

The same could be said of many deaths in black belt counties in the deep south, where a combination of poor access to healthcare, failed political leadership and the endurance of segregation and generational racism has contributed to a surge in Covid-19 deaths in recent months.

As the rain pounded her raised front porch, Sandy Oliver, one of Rush’s best friends from high school, took a moment to reflect on those she had lost to Covid-19. Sitting in her rocking chair, she counted them in her head, gazing to the roof where an old ceiling fan whirred gently. “At least 10,” she said. “All within the last month and a half.”

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