Demands from Grassroots Organizers Concerning COVID-19
By: Kelly Hayes <> March 8, 2020

*Greetings friends, I spent about 48 hours working on this resource because
I believe it is needed. I hope that you will find it useful in your work
and advocacy.  – Kelly*

The Trump administration has botched its response to COVID-19. Due to
incompetence and an unwillingness to acknowledge mistakes, the
administration has worsened an already serious situation. COVID-19 is a
deadly public health threat that must be taken seriously. We are a group of
organizers whose work addresses a variety of issues, and we recognize that
there is no organizing community or area of our work that will not be
touched by this crisis. We hope this list of demands will serve as a tool
for organizers and activists who are crafting their own responses to
COVID-19. Panic is dangerous and often accompanied by violence against
marginalized people. We believe responsible, productive dialogues about the
needs of our communities must be initiated throughout the country.

According to the World Health Organization, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19
cases <> have proven
fatal. By comparison, seasonal flu usually kills far fewer than 1% of those
infected. Over 3,000 people in China have died of COVID-19. China’s
containment efforts gave the US precious time to prepare for this crisis,
but rather than developing a nationwide testing system, Trump scapegoated
Asian people, and later, migrants at the southern border.

Given the failure of the federal government and the obvious lack of
preparedness in some municipalities, we have drafted a list of demands for
people and groups to uplift and utilize for advocacy purposes. In addition
to learning what safety practices to adopt in our own lives
we must also make demands for the greater good. These demands were drafted
by grassroots organizers in collaboration with doctors, scientists and

Officials at the city and state level will likely tell you that the federal
government is responsible for services that you will be requesting from
them. Under Donald Trump, the federal government has chosen not to be
responsible, so we have to seize the narrative and demand action at all
levels of government.

When reviewing the first list below, which includes demands that should be
made of city and state government, you may find that your municipality has
already covered some of these bases. In that case, share what information
you learn with others, if it’s useful, and focus on the demands that have
not been met in your area. When calling public officials, such as city
councilors or your governor’s office, be sure to ask for specifics.
“There’s a plan” is not a satisfactory answer.

When calling public health offices to request information, please be kind
to the people you speak to. They are most likely doing their best with
limited resources. We want to improve their situation by getting resources
allocated where they belong so that providers can do their work.

Some demands may fit your community’s needs, others may not. One may jump
out at you as your area of focus. To figure out what you should be
demanding locally, you will want to find out if your city and state are in
compliance with the following demands:

1) Your city should have a plan for housing the sick, including people
experiencing homelessness. Where will your city be housing people who
become ill if hospitals become oversaturated? Will modular units be built?
Are there properties your municipality plans to purchase?

2) Local reporting mechanisms are essential. Some states already have 24/7
hotline numbers for people to report a suspected case of COVID-19 or ask
questions. If your state is not providing this service, it should be pushed
to do so. Calls to the hotline must remain anonymous, and must not under
any circumstances lead to any involvement of law enforcement, ICE, or
detention of callers against their will as a result of using the hotline,
and this must be made clear to public health authorities, law enforcement,
and callers. In the absence of state action, large cities should be able to
arrange hotlines of this nature.

3) Cities and states should have protocols for shelters and outreach
workers to implement around screening for illness and what to do after
someone has been screened. This information should be WIDELY available.

4) Shelters and outreach workers should have stashes of surgical masks to
give out only to those who are sick or who have symptoms.

5) Shelters and outreach centers must be able to remain open. Cities should
provide added support to ensure baseline services for people experiencing
homelessness are maintained or exceeded.

6) Recent events have highlighted the need for strict discharge planning
protocols for people who were sick and received housing through the end of
the quarantine period.

7) Assistance should be extended to help people enroll in Medicaid or local
health plans, such as NYC Care, so that more people will have access to

8) City and state governments must take measures to ensure adequate
protective measures for health care workers. All hospitals and care
facilities must brief workers on what measures are being taken to mitigate
the risks they face when providing care.

9) State governments should offer a safety hotline (which is not routed to
law enforcement) that people who experience racist or xenophobic violence
related to COVID-19 can call for assistance.

10) Medical teams must be dispatched to jails, prisons, halfway houses, and
other locked facilities to assess and treat patients. Most facilities
already have inadequate medical staffing and an outbreak will likely lead
to many people failing to come to work. Physicians on-site must have the
authority to dictate necessary changes in facility conditions in order to
treat the sick and stem the spread of the illness. Iran has temporarily
released 54,000 imprisoned people
<> to prevent COVID-19
from spreading like wildfire through the country’s prison system, creating
new outbreaks and new geographic concentrations of the disease. We believe
this tactic must also be considered in the United States given the
overcrowded state and torturous conditions of U.S. jails and prisons.

11) There must be aggressive public education about the illness, how it
spreads, and best safety practices. These educational efforts must also
actively dispel racist, xenophobic assumptions about the disease, such as
racist characterizations of Asian people representing a public health

12) Each city’s COVID-19 plan should include transportation assistance and
accessible care for patients with disabilities. These guidelines should be
developed in collaboration with disabled people and public health officials
and must respect the rights and autonomy of people with disabilities.

13) Cities with high-density public housing buildings should dispatch
teams, or create “clinic hours” on site to ensure that elderly and disabled
residents who may have difficulty seeking medical care have access to it.
If this is not possible, at a minimum, make sure public housing authorities
are coordinating with local health providers to get important information
to residents.

14) A commitment from public health authorities, law enforcement,
prosecutors, and immigration authorities that disclosure or failure to
disclose COVID-19 symptoms will not under any circumstances lead to
criminalization, family court involvement or involvement of immigration

We make the following demands of the federal government and invite you to
join us in doing the same:

1) We demand free testing for anyone who is being told by a clinician that
they should be tested. Tests have been in short supply in the US. We find
this inexcusable, given that other countries have managed to mobilize mass
testing. The government’s failure to provide and administer tests means
that, at this point, we have no idea how many cases actually exist in the
US or how far the illness may have spread. Doctors in affected areas have
complained that they have no tests to administer or that health officials
have not allowed them to administer tests for COVID-19. This is a
disastrous failure on the part of the Trump administration and must be
addressed immediately. We need reliable tests that are readily available to
clinicians and administered at no charge.

2) We demand free care for those who test positive to ensure that those who
are uninsured receive care and participate in measures that help slow the
spread of the virus.

3)  We demand transparency. We demand that the Trump administration allow
CDC officials and other government scientists to speak publicly, without
clearing their remarks with Pence, Trump or anyone in the administration.
We demand the restoration of the page of the CDC’s website that tracked how
many people had been tested. We also demand full transparency about this
government’s handling of the crisis, and the release of all emails and
documentation related to the federal government’s handling of this outbreak.

4)  We demand financial and material assistance plans for people who are
expected to refrain from working. It is not realistic to tell people not to
leave their homes if failing to do so means they will lose their homes or
go without food or medicine. Containment must be made accessible.

5) We demand that the federal government transparently address supply
issues, including shortages in protective gear, testing kits and
ventilators. If COVID-19 spreads nationwide, it is likely that our country
will face a critical shortage of ventilators to care for patients who
become critically ill. We demand a transparent plan to address and navigate
these shortfalls.

6) We demand a moratorium on ICE deportations to ensure that undocumented
people are not discouraged from seeking treatment or testing.

7) We demand a safety plan that addresses the needs of disabled people in
the U.S. who may be affected by the virus. Disabled people have often been
left behind in times of crisis. We consider that outcome unacceptable.
Disabled people must also have a voice in determining what measures will be
taken to help ensure their survival.

8) We demand an end to the Trump administration’s dangerous rhetoric that
has been directed at migrants attempting to cross the southern border. We
will act in solidarity with our undocumented friends, family and community
members to protect them in this time of crisis. Trump’s racist
fearmongering and provocation will lead to escalations of state violence
and violence perpetrated by civilian groups and individuals around the
country. This rhetoric and violence must be opposed.

9) The federal government must honor its legal obligations to Native people
by providing necessary medical personnel on reservations in order to combat
this crisis. Indigenous people have suffered terribly during previous
pandemics because they have been treated as disposable by government
officials and the public at large. We must not allow those histories to
repeat themselves.

These demands are not all-inclusive, but it is our hope that they will
offer a solid jumping-off point for people and groups who are fed up with
the administration’s inept and disastrous response to this crisis. The
current media narrative is confused and unhelpful, while the
administration’s narrative is both incoherent and actively harmful. We also
recognize that this illness poses unique challenges to those of us
organizing for change in our communities, and we intend to rise to those
challenges, but first and foremost, we demand a just and appropriate
response to this crisis. We will not be spectators as the president makes a
deadly situation even more catastrophic for our communities.


Kelly Hayes, Lifted Voices

Sekile M. Nzinga

Kristina Tendilla, AFIRE Chicago

Chicago Action Medical

Emily Casselbury, Chicago Action Medical

Maya Schenwar, Organizer

Alexis Goldstein, Organizer

Noor Mir, Organizer

Alicia Garza, Organizer

Rabbi Brant Rosen, Tzedek Chicago

Christine Geovanis, Chicago Teachers Union

Emily Ehley

Carly Guerriero, Food Not Bombs

Xian Franzinger Barrett

Audrey Todd, Food Not Bombs

Babur Balos, Organizer

Chrissy Stonebraker-Martinez, Co-Director, InterReligious Task Force on
Central America & Colombia (IRTF Cleveland)

Phirany Lim

Chessey Henry

David Kaib

Rina Li, Journalist

Andrea Ritchie, Organizer

Morning Star Gali, Project Director of Restoring Justice for Indigenous

Diana Parker, Midwest Access Coalition

Megan Groves, Organizer

Chicago Ald. Rossana Rodríguez Sánchez 33rd Ward

Jim Sullivan, Culinary Workers Union

T. Kebo Drew, CFRE, Managing Director, Queer Women of Color Media Arts
Project – QWOCMAP

Kim Wilson, Organizer and Co-host, Beyond Prisons

Families in Action & Resistance Together

Aaron Goggans, FOR

Rev. Jamie O’Duibhir, Minister/Organizer

Nazly Sobhi Damasio

Jazmín Martínez

Heather Redding, Hillsborough Progressives Taking Action

Erica Chu, Visiting Instructor in Gender and Women’s Studies and English at

Angela Turnbow-Williams

Jeanette Martín

Ari Belathar, Jewish Voice for Peace Chicago

Lisa Lucas

Ronak K. Kapadia

Rogers Park Solidarity Network

Karen Morrison

Ashlie Taylor, RN

Eric Virzi

Rina Li, Journalist

Bresha Meadows, Organizer

Lifted Voices

Chiara Francesca Galimberti, Licensed Acupuncturist, Chicago Healing
Justice Collective

Richard Machado, Mutual-Aid Disaster Relief

*Image: Mugsie Pike*

Reposted from *Transformative Spaces