One of the nation’s wealthiest African-American communities is also one of the heaviest hit by coronavirus in the Washington-D.C. area.
Prince George’s County, long regarded as a symbol of Black wealth and excellence with a high population of highly educated Black professionals, entrepreneurs and government officials, where Black people and Latinos make up 70 percent of households, is seeing a high surge of COVID-19 cases. According to The Washington Post, there are 5,263 cases in the county, the most located in the Capital Beltway area, which consists of the District, and nearby counties in Virginia and Maryland where, thus far, 174 people have died.
“It served as a magnifying glass for challenges we knew we had,” said Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks. “We know that when this is over, we can’t return to business as usual.”
Poorer neighborhoods in the county have been afflicted along with the wealthy ones. In fact, both have suffered almost equally. For example, one ZIP code which includes Glenn Dale, Maryland (20769, 20720, 20706) and has a median income of $148,000 has one of the highest per capita infection rates, the Post reports. While at the same time, another ZIP code in Mt. Ranier, which is adjacent to the District, and has a median $54,000 income is about the same.
Among the deaths for which race was reported,130 were African American, 15 were Latino, and 19 were white, county data shows.
The disparities in coronavirus speak to the broader health care disparities that are often seen in minority communities, whether it has been hit by the virus or not. Health care can be less available in minority areas and also some mistrust of the health care system because of past experiences.
“It is a function of how society treats you — whether you need to go to the hospital, or the ICU or need a ventilator,” Stephen B. Thomas Director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity told the Post.
Despite its higher per capita incomes, Prince George’s County also spends less on health and human services than its neighbors. With $38.94 per capita in general fund investment, it falls behind others like Baltimore County, which spends $45.13; Anne Arundel, at $90.54; Howard County with $109.37; and Montgomery County with $224.25.
But Thomas also says that he hopes this opens some eyes about getting resources and funding into the county for better health care service. funding — if not for moral reasons, then for practical ones. “It’s about enlightened self-interest,” he said. “If the virus returns in Temple Hills or Capitol Heights, it won’t be long before it spreads.”
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.