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New York’s Anti-White Triage Policy

A careful review of New York's triage guidance suggests Tucker Carlson fairly characterized the state's race-conscious policy and its effects.

COVID-19 related sign at the Target in Lansing, New York (Jpesch95 via Wikimedia Commons)

On Monday, Tucker Carlson ran a segment on the spate of new state-level triage policies that ration access to COVID-19 treatments based on race. First reported by the Washington Free Beacon‘s Aaron Sibarium, New York, Utah, and Minnesota each have triage policies that give racial minorities priority access to Covid therapeutics. From Sibarium’s report:

In New York, racial minorities are automatically eligible for scarce COVID-19 therapeutics, regardless of age or underlying conditions. In Utah, “Latinx ethnicity” counts for more points than “congestive heart failure” in a patient’s “COVID-19 risk score”—the state’s framework for allocating monoclonal antibodies. And in Minnesota, health officials have devised their own “ethical framework” that prioritizes black 18-year-olds over white 64-year-olds—even though the latter are at much higher risk of severe disease.

Carlson referenced Sibarium’s reporting and proposed the following hypothetical:

A young Haitian man could cross our border illegally today—many have. That person could show up at a clinic in New York tomorrow for COVID treatment and get preference over an elderly American citizen purely because of his appearance.

Journalists and activists were incensed—not at the state for having enacted the policy, but at Carlson for having drawn attention to it. The New York Times‘s Nikole Hannah-Jones said Carlson’s hypothetical was “nonsense” and a form of “white nationalism.” Huffington Post writer Christopher Mathias argued Carlson’s segment was “basically indistinguishable from the Daily Stormer, just straight-up white nationalist garbage.” Janai Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense & Educational Fund, called Carlson’s remarks “deeply dangerous and racist propaganda” and “intentional and blatant lies intended to incite and victimize white people and demonize people of color.”

Nelson and others accused Carlson of lying about the policy and its implications, but a careful review of New York’s triage guidance suggests he fairly characterized the state’s policy and its effects.

According to recent guidance from the New York Department of Public Health (DPH), oral antiviral Covid treatments are only available to patients who meet all the following criteria:

  • Age 12 years and older weighing at least 40 kg (88 pounds) for Paxlovid, or 18 years and older for molnupiravir
  • Test positive for SARS-CoV-2 on a nucleic acid amplification test or antigen test; results from an FDA-authorized home-test kit should be validated through video or photo but, if not possible, patient attestation is adequate
  • Have mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms [Patient cannot be hospitalized due to severe or critical COVID-19]
  • Able to start treatment within 5 days of symptom onset
  • Have a medical condition or other factors that increase their risk for severe illness.

After that last bullet, DPH adds:

  • Non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity should be considered a risk factor, as longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.

Any non-white, symptomatic Covid patient in New York who meets the minimum age requirement—regardless of income or medical history—is eligible to receive potentially lifesaving antiviral treatment solely on the basis of his race. As Carlson claimed, this would include an 18-year-old Haitian immigrant. But would the state deny the same care to “an elderly American citizen purely because of his appearance,” as Carlson suggested? Wouldn’t old-age be one of the “other factors that increase [a patient’s] risk for severe illness” from Covid?

In a statement to The American Conservative, the New York Department of Public Health confirmed that age is only considered a qualifying risk factor in New York for individuals aged 65 and older—meaning a white 64-year-old would not, on the basis of his age, be eligible to receive oral antiviral treatment for Covid, while an otherwise-healthy 18-year-old Haitian immigrant would.

“In accordance with CDC guidance, New York advises that age 65 and older be considered, among other underlying factors, when prescribing COVID-19 antiviral medication,” a NY DPH spokeswoman told The American Conservative.
The spokeswoman directed TAC to the state’s “prioritization table” and said clinicians make “decisions based upon the total knowledge of the patient as to the risks and the benefits of treatment choices.” The prioritization table, which outlines the state’s triage policies and the groups eligible for oral antiviral and monoclonal antibody treatment products, confirms that an otherwise-healthy 64-year-old white person would not be eligible, on the basis of his age, to receive scarce oral therapeutics, while the 18-year-old Haitian immigrant in Carlson’s hypothetical would be eligible because of his skin color.
According to CDC data, people aged 50-64 are four times more likely to be hospitalized with, and 25 times more likely to die from, Covid-19 than people aged 18-29. If Carlson’s critics believe people in the former group should be denied access to oral therapeutics solely on the basis of their race, they should say so. It is always good to know where people stand.

about the author

John Hirschauer is assistant editor of The American Conservative. He was previously a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at National Review and a staff writer at RealClear.

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