Alarming disparities

COVID 19 Impacting Blacks
Senior citizens use social distancing while in line for the early opening of a Publix supermarket in Cocoa, Florida. at 7 a.m. meant for seniors 65 and over only. The U.S. government has called for social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. Some are wearing surgical masks. – Photo by iStockphoto/NNPA

 

Signs that COVID’s impact on Blacks may be growing

By LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE

 

(NNPA) – Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., sent a letter dated Feb. 4 to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar stating that a comprehensive demographic data on people tested or treated for the virus that causes COVID-19 did not exist.

Cities with large Black populations have now emerged as new hot spots for the spread of the virus. They include Houston, New York, Detroit and New Orleans. Nearly 70% of the COVID-19 deaths in New Orleans have been African American.

“Any attempt to contain COVID-19 in the United States will have to address its potential spread in low-income communities of color, first and foremost to protect the lives of people in those communities, but also to slow the spread of the virus in the country as a whole,” the lawmakers wrote.

“States must start tracking and reporting race data in connection with #Covid_19. As of Friday morning,” attorney Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law wrote.

An April 3 report in ProPublica analysis stated, “Early data shows African Americans have contracted and died of coronavirus at an alarming rate.”

The publication documented the following:

  • Blacks make up 26% of Milwaukee County’s population, but almost 50% of the COVID-19 945 cases and 81% of the 27 deaths. Milwaukee is tracking cases by race – one of few cities that does so.
  • Blacks make up 14% of Michigan’s population, but 35% of cases and 40% of deaths.
  • Blacks make up a majority of Detroit’s population, which has become a hot spot with a high death toll.
  • Illinois and North Carolina have published statistics by race, showing a disproportionate number of African Americans with the virus.
  • Blacks make up a majority of the population in Orleans Parish, Louisiana, which has reported 40% of the state’s cases, but has not published case breakdowns by race.

Ninety-three House members introduced a resolution to recognize this month as National Minority Health Month and to urge immediate action to address the harmful health disparities faced by communities of color during the coronavirus pandemic. Led by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, TX-30, and Congressman J. Luis Correa, CA-46, the group emphasized that minorities have historically suffered from high rates of chronic disease and inadequate access to health care services, which has resulted in worsened health outcomes associated with this novel coronavirus.

“During this coronavirus pandemic, our minority communities are confronted with alarming statistics – higher rates of comorbidities, more barriers in accessing health care and higher reported rates of death. These vulnerabilities warrant our society’s undivided attention,” Johnson said. “I am proud to lead this resolution with my colleague Congressman Correa calling for immediate action on the harmful health disparities faced by communities of color during this pandemic.”

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