NEW YORK (WETM) — A Cornell law professor has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of New York state guidelines to prioritize “non-white” people for the COVID-19 antiviral pill.
In late December, the New York State Department of Health announced the distribution of the new COVID-19 antiviral pill, but due to a limited supply, distribution guidance called for prioritization to people at high risk. Included in the prioritization were those who are not white.
This week, on behalf of those who are not “unwhite,” Cornell law professor William A. Jacobson filed a lawsuit in Southern Tier District Court against the health department commissioner. of New York State, asserting that “New York’s use of racially discriminatory preferences in the distribution of COVID-19 treatments is unconstitutional.
“The fact that on the basis of race you made it harder for one race to get it than another is a constitutional violation,” Professor Jacobson said.
The New York State Department of Health cites “longstanding systemic health and social inequalities” contributing to an increased risk of serious illness and death for non-whites. CDC studies show that black and Hispanic communities are at higher risk of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths, compared to white communities.
But, Professor Jacobson, says studies of those studies by the CDC are not relevant to his case.
“These studies are really not applicable, because they are groups … Every individual in this country and in this state is individually entitled to equal protection of the laws,” Jacobson said.
In the complaint, Jacobson accuses NYDOH of violating the 14th Amendment, by “discriminating on the basis of race in determining eligibility for oral COVID-19 antiviral treatments.” The lawsuit seeks to prohibit the state from enforcing these guidelines.
“This lawsuit is about this health directive, by this state health department. He’s not trying to prove a bigger societal point,” Jacobson said.
18 News reached out to New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett for comment, but she did not respond.
18 News will continue to follow this litigation as it unfolds and will provide updates as information becomes available.