According to a Washington Post more in-depth analysis based on earlier CDC information, the coronavirus “appears to be infecting and killing black Americans at a disproportionately high rate.” As of April 9, 2020, 14,696 people have died from COVID-19 related infections. The Post reported that African Americans “have three times the rate of infections and almost six times the rate of deaths as counties where white residents are in the majority.” The coronavirus outbreak is an added public health threat for vulnerable black communities. Black people are overrepresented among people infected, who test positive and die from the virus.
The U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams shared his health conditions and that “the lack of health equity in America is more prevalent in the black community and is due to socioeconomic status and legacy of growing up poor and black.” This pandemic is a reminder of racism in America and a crippling of the African American communities during another crisis. The CDC collects information on hospitalizations, including location and age data, but not on the race of COVID victims; however, the Post shared preliminary data on some jurisdictions that reported on coronavirus cases and deaths by race.
Data from each jurisdiction show an overrepresentation of African American infections and deaths. For example, in Louisiana, black Americans make up only a third of the state’s population but are 70 percent of all COVID-19 deaths. Similarly, in Michigan, African Americans are 14 percent of the population, but a third have tested positive. In Illinois, African Americans are 15 percent of the population, but 28 percent of positive test results and 43 percent of fatalities. Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, the city’s first black woman elected as mayor, stated that “this is a call-to-action moment for all of us, those numbers take your breath away, they really do.”
The disparities are embedded in the fabric of America as the result of longstanding structural inequalities. Experts state that since black Americans disproportionately belong to the part of the workforce and do not have the luxury of working from home, they can’t stay home and self-isolate. This places them at high risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19 in transit or at work. Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen emphasized that “this current crisis lays out what we have known for a long time, which is that your ZIP code is often a determinant of your health outcome.
Former Los Angeles Lakers Legend Magic Johnson shared his thoughts about racial disparities with the coronavirus pandemic and remarked that “blacks thought they couldn’t get HIV and AIDS. It’s the same thing as the coronavirus. It reminds me going back 30 years, we were all wrong. That’s why we see these (coronavirus) numbers so high because people went out there spreading the word that blacks couldn’t get it, and now we see that not only can we get the coronavirus, but we can die from the coronavirus,” Johnson said. He recommended that every American get tested and that the black community let everyone know that they can get the virus and die from it. Others have suggested that the problem is that African Americans communities need more comprehensive access to medical care and the right information about the virus to see better results.