The NAACP in Vermont is calling attention to the disparities people of color face as the delta variant prolongs the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Vermont Department of Health estimates, Black adult Vermonters have a rate of 937 positive cases per 10,000 people, compared to 359 cases per 10,000 people who are white and non-Hispanic.

“You could wash your hands a thousand times a day, but if you are in a situation where you are being on the frontlines and the people who are supposed to care about you professionally maybe don’t, then you are going to be exposed regardless,” said Steffen Gillom, president of the Windham County branch of the NAACP.

Mia Schultz, president of the Rutland area NAACP, said the Black, Indigenous and people of color population– BIPOC — is at higher risk of COVID-19 than the population overall. One reason, she said, is the state’s shortage of affordable housing.

“We are in a housing crisis for everyone but that is amplified if you are black,” she said. “You are living in housing that is often overcrowded. It amplifies once again how our systems are not there to protect us.”

At Tuesday’s weekly COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Mark Levine noted that career factors also put the BIPOC community at a higher risk. “They generally have more public facing positions,” Levine said. “They generally have to take public transportation to those positions, putting them at increased risk.” 

He said clinics that have targeted the BIPOC population have narrowed the racial disparity in vaccination status. The vaccination rate of the BIPOC population and the white non-Hispanic population was in 14-15 percent range early on, he said. Today, it just under 3 percent.

“Yes, it is still different but it has narrowed that gap,” Levin said. 

Children represent 23% of Vermont’s cases, and 15% of those are Black, Indigenous and children of color.

“This is a concern in my household as I have children getting back and the children have been affected this whole time in more profound ways than we even know,” Schultz said.