Injustice by Zip Code

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Photo by Mateusz Dach on

This evening I am frustrated.

Every week during the school closure (and every other week during the summer) our school has distributed food and supply boxes to support our families on the margins. This is truly a community endeavor. We receive donations from staff members, our own families, district employees, local residents, area businesses, and churches. We have a phenomenal parent liaison who goes above and beyond to communicate with each of our families, assess needs, and arrange a specific time for pick-up. Staff and community members show up, even in one-hundred-plus degree weather, to help hand out supplies.

Tonight was a designated night for box distribution. There are always a few families who need their materials delivered, so tonight I took a few boxes to one particular family. I chose to take the boxes because when our parent liaison called to arrange a pick-up, a family member indicated that there were three likely cases of COVID in the household — a parent, a grandparent, and one of our students. The parent and grandparent were really struggling with viral symptoms. In addition to the food boxes, the family needed disinfectant, hand sanitizer, Tylenol, Gatorade for hydration, and cough drops.

As I drove through the neighborhood I passed by very crowded low-income housing and I was struck by how easily the virus would spread in such close quarters. As with the family on my delivery route, I know that MANY of these families struggle for adequate access to the food, medicine, supplies, and health care needed for prevention or care if COVID is contracted.

I immediately thought of this tweet from Garrett Archer, who analyzes data for ABC 15, Arizona.

At the time (June 10), I checked our school’s zip code and calculated that we were number fifteen on the list. I recently followed up with Garrett to see if he had updated information and to ask about our zip code. Here was his response (received on Monday): “Hi, I haven’t checked in a bit, but I don’t think there has been much movement in the top ten. 8#### (our zip code) has 513 cases. Growth rate of 204% since April.”

None of this is necessarily surprising, but it is shameful. Add COVID to the litany of things we can predict based on zip code. There are many reasons for this, but there is no excuse. It does not have to be this way. It should not be this way.

This is also why we have to watch out for one another. Many of the family members in our neighborhood work in essential services. They come into contact with others daily because they don’t have a choice. If we are cavalier with our decisions and fail to take appropriate precautions we potentially expose them to the virus. Many will go home to multi-generational families, where they may spread it to someone who is high-risk. Again, this is predictable.

This virus is bigger than any one individual. We are in this together, and in my opinion, the only way out is together. It is going to require sacrifice for the collective good. Most of us would say we care about our neighbors — our fellow human beings — but are we willing to walk the talk. Time will tell.

There is no ‘them’ and ‘us.’ There is only us. – Father Greg Boyle

P.S. Thanks to our community the family received the supplies, medicine, and food needed, and it was delivered safely — placed at the front door, without contact. I am grateful for the care and support our school has received. We are blessed.