When the world learnt of the novel coronavirus, black people had this huge misconception that for whatever reason, they were immune to the disease. Experts and research have, however, revealed that this notion is highly false.
A new study by ProBublica reveals that more blacks, especially those in typically black communities are contracting the virus and dying at a very disturbing rate.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and prevention in the US has been documenting judiciously statistics pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic and frequently releases detailed information pertaining to the virus.
They are highly regarded for usually releasing succinct information during outbreaks that cover the age, race and location of the outbreaks. Nonetheless, for the novel coronavirus, they have released location and age data but not so much on race. When probed by researchers, they haven’t come out to answer questions if they are even collecting data pertaining to race and the virus.
That notwithstanding, research from ProPublica reports that in Milwaukee county, out of the 945 cases African Americans make up half the numbers. Sadly, blacks also make up 81% of the 27 deaths reported in a county made up of 26% blacks.
These statistics came to bear because Milwaukee is one of the places in the US that has taken pains to track the effect of the virus and includes racial breakdown of infected people. This throws more light on “the disproportionate destruction it is inflicting on black communities nationwide.” The report further reveals that Michigan’s state population constitutes 14% blacks and African Americans make up 35% of the cases reported and 40% of deaths as of last Friday.
Detroit has a huge black population and it is regarded at the “hot spot” for COVID-19, recording the highest death toll. Although Louisiana hasn’t published its coronavirus cases and deaths according to race, 40% of its death rates originated from Orleans Parish which is home to many blacks.
North Carolina and Illinois are among the few places also publishing figures that include race. Their data for COVID-19 cases by race further reveals that “a disproportionate number of African Americans were infected.”
According to ProPublica, researchers and health professionals say that “the nation’s unwillingness to publicly track the virus by race could obscure a crucial underlying reality: It’s quite likely that a disproportionate number of those who die of coronavirus will be black.”
This is because people in black communities have limited access to test for coronavirus and many are also susceptible to unspoken biases, Buzzfeed reports.
This just exposes the fact that black people are deficient when it comes to healthcare in the US. Experts are now joining forces to call the attention of government to take an interest in the demographic data of COVID-19 patients.
“We know in the U.S. that there are great discrepancies in not only the diagnosis but the treatment that African Americans and other minorities are afforded,” Dr. Ebony Hilton, an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the University of Virginia, told Buzzfeed.
“So, I want to make sure that in this pandemic, that black and brown people are treated in the same way and that these tests are made available in the same pattern as for white people.”
There are certain pre-existing conditions that make people of color more vulnerable to COVID-19 such as weak immune systems, as a result of having chronic ailments, such as high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases.
It is also only a handful of African Americans who are privileged to get paid sick leave and can afford a comprehensive health insurance. Also, it is no surprise that maternal mortality is prevalent among black women.
Some members of Congress have decided not to sit on the fence anymore because they are fully aware of the unfair advantage already affecting people of color.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) have sent a petition to the Department of Health and Human Services to actively collect and distribute demographic data. This data is said to uncover the health disparities among the black and white communities.
It will also point health professionals straight to the less privileged communities that are being ‘starved’ of the COVID-19 tests and to put the onus on the healthcare industry to mete out equal services for all citizens.
Some believe the lack of concern for the healthcare of African Americans is entrenched in history. Dr. Camara Jones, a family physician, epidemiologist and visiting fellow at Harvard University said, “COVID is just unmasking the deep disinvestment in our communities, the historical injustices and the impact of residential segregation.”
With her background at CDC researching and addressing racial bias within the medical system, Dr. Jones speaks to this issue with much depth and experience.
“This is the time to name racism as the cause of all of those things. The overrepresentation of people of color in poverty and white people in wealth is not just a happenstance. … It’s because we’re not valued.”
Therefore, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik, stated the county and city made it a point last summer to be mindful about the decades of race-based inequality and declared racism as a public health issue.
It is only by being transparent with the data on who and where people are affected the most that something can truly be done about the spread of the virus. It is only until then can measures be put in place to save lives regardless of race and color because all lives matter.