Lifeline: COVID

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Lifeline COVID: How the telephone Answered Louisiana's call for help

When Louisiana’s lockdown began, the phones lit up. They dialed 211, 311, 911. They called friends, families, doctors and total strangers. They connected the scared, the confused, the unhoused, and the vulnerable to testing, to information, to shelter — in short, to help.

Coronavirus exposed a chasm in access to healthcare faced by the most vulnerable populations in one of the nation’s poorest states. The pandemic’s weight strained the bones of Louisiana’s brittle healthcare system, which took on one of the worst outbreaks in the country. We already knew the underlying disconnections — race, income, location, age — that have persisted even as hundreds of thousands more Louisianans now have health insurance through the state’s Medicaid Expansion, adopted in 2016. What we didn’t know, perhaps, is that a tool for bridging those well documented gaps was already in the pockets of millions: phones.