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Cuyahoga Medical Director Hearing Discrimination Against COVID-19 Patients

“Viruses do not discriminate,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton at a Thursday press briefing. [Horth Rasur / Shutterstock]
Gloved hands hold a vial and a cotton swab.

On top of battling the virus, those who test positive for COVID-19 say they're battling discrimination.

"We know that people (who) have had this infection have been told to not come back to work," said Cuyahoga County Board of Health Medical Director Dr. Heidi Gullett who recounted hearing stories of discrimination against people with coronavirus and their families.

In some instances, she said, families who own businesses reported social media posts telling people to not patronize the business because of their relationship to a person with coronavirus.

At the same time, people who aren't sick are also being discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity, said Gullett.

Earlier in the coronavirus epidemic, Asian Services in Action, Inc. (ASIA), a local Asian health and social services organization reported hearing of discrimination against Chinese Americans.

Many people assume Asian Americans could have the disease, even if they haven’t traveled internationally or been in contact with someone with the virus, said ASIA CEO Elaine Tso.

“Being Asian-American or Chinese-American is not equivalent to being the coronavirus,” said Tso.

“Viruses do not discriminate,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton at a Thursday press briefing. “They love us all equally.” 

Rather than creating divisions through stigma, Gullett said, the community should come together.

At a press briefing Friday, Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan said if anyone has any questions about the virus, a helpline run by the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and United Way is available: 1-855-711-3035.

On the first day, the line received 470 calls.

Allan also urged Ohioans to be wary of potential scams. He said no health official is going door-to-door with COVID-19 tests.

lisa.ryan@ideastream.org | 216-916-6158