A Note from NRDC on COVID-19

Our thoughts are with you, and our work protecting the environment continues.
Health workers putting on protective equipment prior to a COVID-19 drive-up testing demonstration in Fridley, Minnesota, March 10th, 2020

Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via Getty Images


Our thoughts are with you, and our work protecting the environment continues.

I wanted to let you know how NRDC is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. As an organization rooted in science, we are closely following the findings and guidance of the medical community. To start, we have quickly changed our way of working to help limit the spread of the coronavirus and protect the health of our communities:

  • As of last week, we have closed all NRDC U.S. offices through March 31 in the interest of social distancing and flattening the curve of the spread of COVID-19.
  • NRDC’s Beijing office is also closed. It has been closed since January, but I’m glad to say our staff’s spirits remain strong.
  • We have also suspended all staff business travel and postponed or canceled upcoming NRDC events.

As someone who has dedicated her career to public health issues, I also want to share how I’ve been thinking about the ways this is impacting different communities. This crisis is not simply a public health issue. It is directly related to social equity and environmental justice and our fight for clean air, clean water, a healthy environment, and healthy communities.

Indeed, COVID-19 is affecting all of us—our health and our way of life, but low-income communities and communities of color may face added risk. Consider this:

As critical as it is that people follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines like washing their hands, I can’t help but think of the people living in communities with unsafe, unreliable, or unaffordable water coming out of their taps.

As we all fear this virus that can spread when infected individuals cough or sneeze contaminated droplets into the air, I can’t help but think of the many communities where residents breathe polluted air that can lead to chronic respiratory problems, cancer, and disease, which could make them more vulnerable to the worst impacts of COVID-19.

As many of us stock our pantries with food and supplies, I can’t help but think of the many people who live in communities that lack even a single grocery store to find fresh, healthy food for their families and may struggle financially to support their families during this difficult time.

And as we move into a deeper public health crisis, we must remember that these social and environmental injustices were here before—they are exacerbated by COVID-19 and must be addressed within the response to this pandemic and thereafter.

And all of this—the inadequate response to this COVID-19 pandemic and the many environmental threats we’re facing—is made worse by the Trump administration’s blatant disregard for science, as shown through its dangerous and irresponsible defunding of programs in critically important science-based agencies, including the CDC, National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that are designed to protect our public health and safety.

Robust public health investment is critical. And we need honest, accurate data and communication. Especially in a health emergency, what we all deserve is concrete, consistent, science-based information. My colleague Dr. David Wallinga, senior health officer in NRDC’s Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program, drafted a very important blog post earlier in the month. While the pandemic situation has changed significantly since it was posted, the hard-earned public health lessons that Congress and the White House should be paying attention to have not—it is worth a read.

In these unprecedented times, please know that your health and well-being is on the minds of the entire NRDC family—and we are not going to stop fighting for you.

NRDC has been fighting for and protecting the health of people and the planet for 50 years, and we’ll keep fighting as long as it takes. Toxic pollution, industrial contamination, and climate change have not paused in the face of this virus, and neither has NRDC. We remain vigilant, our work goes on, and our shared advocacy is as important as ever.

Please take precautions to keep yourself, your family and community safe. I encourage you to consult the CDC and the World Health Organization websites for information on how to take precautions against the COVID-19 threat. Thank you and be well.

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