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A black teacher has died after being denied a Coronavirus test twice: 'Representation matters'

Black people are disproportionately dying of the novel virus. Sadly, Brookly teacher Rana Zoe Mungin's experience is not an outlier during the ongoing pandemic.

A black teacher has died after being denied a Coronavirus test twice: 'Representation matters'
Image Source: Hispanolistic / Getty Images

The novel Coronavirus has been touted as the "great equalizer." This moniker, however, could not be further from the truth. The ongoing pandemic has only brought to light and exacerbated the grave inequalities that plague American communities. While we always knew that communities of color were vastly underfunded and underserviced, this fact has proven deadly during the public health crisis. Though black populations constitute a small minority of the total population, they are dying disproportionately. In many instances, black people simply do not have access to Coronavirus testing kits. Such was the case with Rana Zoe Mungin, a beloved teacher from Brooklyn, New York. She passed away as a result of the virus on Monday afternoon. She was denied a test on two separate occasions, ABC News reports.




Mungin battled the disease for a month, all the while clinging to life at Brooklyn's Brookdale Hospital. Over this span of time, she was denied a test for Coronavirus - twice. The 30-year-old middle school social studies teacher had exhibited various symptoms and had pleaded for help several times. Her condition was reportedly dismissed as a "panic attack" by an EMT at the hospital, her friend shared. Her sister Mia Mungin, a registered New York City nurse, chronicled her month-long battle against the illness on Twitter. Following her sister's death, she posted, "It is with [a] heavy heart that I have to inform you all that my sister Rana Zoe has passed away today at 12:25 pm due to a [Coronavirus] complication. She fought a long fight but her body was too weak."




Brookdale Hospital is where Mungin's older sister died of an asthma attack 15 years earlier. Evidently, the racial disparities in healthcare continue to plague the medical facility. Her sister Mia affirmed in a post uploaded to Facebook, "Racism and health disparities still continue... [and] the zip code in which we live still predetermines the type of care we receive." Mungin's experiences reflect the overall data of Coronavirus infection and death rates we have seen over the past few months. As per data released by the Centers for Disease Control, African Americans account for about 30 percent of all positive cases of Coronavirus in the United States. However, they only comprise approximately 13 percent of the country's total population.



Mungin's friend of over 10 years, Nohemi Maciel, shared her thoughts in an interview with ABC News. "She died not only because of [Coronavirus] but because we live in a world that is racist and anti-black," she said. "We know that black people are dying at disproportionate rates. This cannot be left out of the conversation...  I'm heartbroken and don't know how to live in a world without Zoe. But I'm also angry. I'm angry that her students lost a wonderful and committed teacher, because representation matters... Zoe was my rock. I cheered her on through grad school and she did the same for me years later. Every accomplishment and setback, Zoe was one of the first to know. She was a fierce and loyal friend."



The late teacher's friend Lauren Calihman, whom she met during her freshman year at Wellesley College, added, "Imagine if Zoe had received treatment consistent with the severity of her symptoms, rather than receiving treatment consistent with her origins. She was the kind of person so captivating and sincere in her dealings with others and her writing that she naturally attracted a following, and scores of friends and admirers recently fought tooth and nail for her without ever having met her." She believes that folks who live in areas where healthcare facilities are underfunded are implicitly being told: "Their lives don't matter, that they don't matter."



Mungin was also recognized by the president of her alma mater, Dr. Paula Johnson. Johnson is the first black woman to serve as Wellesley College's president and is both the founder and former executive director of the Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology and the chief of the Division of Women's Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital. She stated, "Rana touched the lives of so many members of our community during her time here at Wellesley and beyond. As a social studies educator in Brooklyn, Rana and her love of teaching exemplified Wellesley's mission to make a difference in the world, and our motto of Non-Ministrari sed Ministrare, 'not to be ministered unto, but to minister.'"



The teacher's death is rather untimely; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced that the city would open five additional medical sites in order to "prioritize the needs of low-income communities of color." This is part of the local government's efforts to recognize and correct the racial disparities in Coronavirus cases. "For Zoe, Mayor de Blasio's efforts are too little and too late, but they may not be for someone else like her," friend Calihman said. "I can only hope her story ignites sweeping change."



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