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Boston, Mass. (May 12, 2022) – The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is today honoring the 1 million Americans who have died due to COVID-19. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020 and this week, the White House estimated that more than 1 million Americans have contracted and died from the virus.
“We mourn for all who have died from COVID-19, and we grieve with the millions more who have been impacted by it,” said Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, the UUA’s president. “From the beginning of the pandemic, the country failed to center our response on supporting the well-being of the most vulnerable in our communities, which led to BIPOC and disabled people bearing the brunt of both illness and death. As a religious community, we know that no one is outside the circle of love, that every person has worth and dignity, and that love and compassion are the foundation for the world we need.”
Research shows that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on Black, Hispanic and Latino, and Indigenous communities in the U.S. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, data show “Hispanic, Black, and AIAN (American Indian and Alaska Native) people are about twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as their White counterparts and… Hispanic and AIAN people are at one and a half times greater risk of COVID-19 infection than White people.” Additionally, a 2021 report from the National Council on Disability “found that COVID-19 exacted a steep toll on…people with disabilities”, and that the response to the virus, including mitigation methods, created unique challenges to disabled individuals across all areas they examined. Even with the data we have available detailing systemic disparities that led to greater risk of illness or death, there remains concern that as a society, we have yet to capture the full scope of COVID-19’s impact on vulnerable communities.
At the same time, the response to the dangers of COVID-19 have often been rooted in xenophobia, which has endangered the health and safety of Asian and Asian American communities across the nation. The most recent Hate Crimes data released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation saw a 77 percent increase of violent crimes directed towards Asian individuals.
“Suffering thrives where the bonds of relationships are defined by exploitation and inequality. In the U.S., the coronavirus thrived along the historic and systemic fissures of disparity, poverty, racism, and ableism that have long defiled our social bonds,” said Rev. Frederick-Gray. “The impacts of these choices caused so much isolation, despair and hardship for everyone, but especially for those already impacted by systemic oppression. Even in our own religious community, we experienced this disparity - both the pandemic and the stress of these times have disproportionately impacted and taken the lives of Black UUs, UUs of color, and disabled UUs. The UUA is committed to working to dismantle the systemic injustices that drive these disparities.”
The UUA also remains concerned that a societal desire to “quickly return to normal” is further isolating disabled and immunocompromised people who feel less safe now than they have in previous months. For instance, the repeal of mask ordinances and social distancing measures across the country, even as highly contagious variants spread in the United States, is rightly leading to concern among populations whose health is threatened by the virus. This follows years of comments and actions by some government officials at the local, state, and national levels that imply that the lives of disabled people are expendable.
Throughout the pandemic, the UUA has consulted with health officials and others to offer clear instruction to UU churches across the nation about in-person gatherings and safe and accessible ways of worship. The Association offered its most recent guidance in January 2022.
The UUA believes that it matters that we continue to ask how to support those who are most vulnerable within and beyond UU congregations, including those at higher risk for severe disease. The UUA will continue to work to create safe and inclusive spaces among our own workplace and congregations for those seeking comfort and spiritual connection during these difficult times.
About the UUA
The UUA is the central organization for the Unitarian Universalist (UU) religious movement in the United States. Our faith is diverse and inclusive and the UUA’s 1000+ member congregations are committed to Seven Principles that hold closely the worth and dignity of each person as sacred, the need for justice and compassion, and the right to choose one’s own beliefs.