Oprah Winfrey is speaking out about the urgency of addressing the impact of coronavirus on the African American community and revealed her own recent health scare to underscore how important pre-existing conditions are when it comes to the disease.
The media executive is examining just how extremely African Americans have been affected by the pandemic, which has disproportionately hit Black people in cities like Chicago, New Orleans, Milwaukee and others. As many as 70 percent of diagnoses in those towns are among African Americans, although their Black populations are at around 30 percent or lower.
"It's not only ravaging our community, but people who have preexisting conditions, which I think people didn't hear that," Winfrey said during a Tuesday morning appearance on NBC’s TODAY show. "So if you are taking medication for your diabetes, if you're taking medication because of hypertension, if you need an asthma inhaler for asthma, if you have any kind of lung disorder..."
Winfrey said that aspect in particular concerned her because she had been hospitalized with pneumonia in September and said her lungs “never really cleared” from it, which spurred her to be as safe as she could when news began to spread about coronavirus.
"So, the moment I heard preexisting conditions, I'm like, 'Lock the door, nobody coming in here,'”she said.
Health disparities like asthma, heart conditions, diabetes and other ailments disproportionately prevalent among African Americans have been a concern because people with them have fewer defenses against the virus and can be immunocompromised.
Winfrey is exploring that topic in her latest presentation of "Oprah Talks COVID-19,” which streams beginning Tuesday on AppleTV+
In an earlier episode, she spoke with actor Idris Elba, who was diagnosed last month, along with his wife Sabrina Dhowre. The two of them have since been recovering.
He addressed the rumor that Black people could not be affected by the virus, which had been spreading at the time, likely because of a lack of testing and thus a lack of reporting about diagnoses among Blacks. "I just felt compelled to tell people that this is very real,'' he told her.
"Obviously he was dispelling the rumor, but I didn't even take the rumor seriously,'' Winfrey said on TODAY. "This was three weeks ago. Because I thought, 'Who's gonna believe that?'
"Not only is it serious, but people that you don't know, but probably will know, are losing their loved ones."
For the latest on the coronavirus, check out BET’s blog on the virus, and contact your local health department or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.