Residents sue own state for giving 'non-whites' COVID-help priority

Two lifelong New Yorkers have filed a lawsuit against the city and state over the decision by officials to give priority to anyone who is “non-white” for proven treatments against the COVID-19 virus.

Officials with the Pacific Legal Foundation said the case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

It is being pursued on behalf of Jonathan Roberts and Charles Vavrusky, and names as defendants Mary Bassett, as commissioner for New York’s state Health Department, and the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Explained the foundation: “Two recently authorized oral antiviral treatments are up to 88% effective in reducing the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. One available monoclonal antibody treatment is effective against the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Faced with severe supply constraints for these treatments, the state and city health departments directed health care providers to prioritize patients after considering a host of risk factors, including age, vaccination status, and health conditions like cancer, diabetes, and a compromised immune system.”

But it said officials, “rather than limiting the criteria for administering medical treatment to scientific data concerning risk,” they added “a patient’s race as an additional consideration, granting priority status for individuals of ‘non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity.'”

That’s despite the fact the Mayo Clinic found nothing inherent about race that puts anyone at a higher risk based on that.

Roberts, a 61-year-old New York native, has worked in finance for 40 years.

“We eagerly await the day on which the supplies for these medical treatments can match demand,” said PLF attorney Wen Fa. “But until that time, treatments should be allocated on the basis of need and scientific criteria, not on the basis of arbitrary racial classifications.”

The complaint charges, “New York’s designation of race as an independent risk factor has no basis in science. … New York has cited no evidence that race – on its own – makes an individual more susceptible to suffering adverse effects from COVID-19.”

It continued, “Indeed, that evidence does not exist, because race does not connote any attribute inherent to any individual.”

The rule, then, “deprives deserving individuals of much-needed medical treatments solely due to their race.”

The health department had claimed that being “non-white … or Hispanic/Latino” was important because “longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.”

The filing pointed out that CDC studies show “in New York, the rate of deaths due to COVID-19 for white non-Hispanic individuals exceeds the death rate for any other group.”

The case seeks a ruling that the race-based discrimination is unconstitutional, and an injunction prohibiting officials from using it.

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