By Cindy Mann and Emily Stewart | March 24, 2020

Uncertainty and fear among the American public continues from coast to coast over the worsening impact of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

People are hurting. According to a new poll, one in five U.S. households has faced a layoff or cut in work hours because of the pandemic. For many, that means losing health coverage, too. Small businesses, bars and restaurants have closed. Child care workers, school staff and retail workers have been laid off. Millions of people are at great risk, particularly uninsured people and low-wage workers, who are disproportionately people of color, whether living in our cities or our rural communities. We’ve seen before that any health crisis is likely to have an outsized impact on those who already face unfair and discriminatory barriers to health and health care.

To stem the spread and impact of coronavirus, lawmakers must act quickly to expand access to affordable testing and treatment to take care of people for whom health care has long been out of reach. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed by the House and Senate, which increases federal funding for state Medicaid programs to cover virus testing and provides additional support for paid leave and food security, is a step in the right direction. But more can and should be done, with a focus on those who are likely to be hardest hit by both the health crisis and the related economic impact.

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