While the number of people who have perished as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in the city of St. Louis has been relatively small, the fact that all of them have been Black tells a different story.
Dr. Fredrick Echols is the director of the City of St. Louis Department of Health and wrote in an article published by The St. Louis American on Wednesday (April 8) contradicting the rumor that Black people were more resistant to contracting COVID-19 stating, “as of April 8, all 12 COVID-19 deaths in the City of St. Louis were African Americans."
The most recent data regarding Missouri’s largest city indicates that there are 514 confirmed positive cases of coronavirus in St. Louis while St. Louis County reported 1,337 positive cases, the highest in the state.
"We are learning more about the coronavirus every day, but let me tell you this in no uncertain terms: It doesn't care if you are Black, brown, white, red, yellow or some other shade," Echols wrote. "The idea that African Americans are somehow resistant to it is both untrue and dangerous to the health of our community."
Pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and heart conditions "disproportionately affect the Black community," according to Echols, which he says could place African Americans at a much greater risk for contracting the virus.
"We are very sensitive to this situation," Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Communications Director Lisa Cox said in a statement sent to Newsweek on Thursday. "This week, we have begun reporting out race-related case and death information, and we have reinforced the fact that reporting race to us is mandated by law."
"We need this information because it is vital as we develop strategies to provide assistance to where it is most needed by increasing testing accessibility to identify cases and predict areas where we need to ramp up social distancing messaging," the statement continued. "It also helps us to ensure we are seeking early intervention where it is needed to help decrease morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19."
The Centers for Disease Control revealed data on Wednesday that shows that during the month of March, 33 percent of people requiring hospitalization for coronavirus were African American, even though only 13 percent of the United States population is Black. It’s a trend infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci relayed during Tuesday’s White House COVID-19 task force briefing.
"Diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma are disproportionately afflicting the minority populations, particularly the African Americans," he said. "Unfortunately, when you look at the predisposing conditions that lead to a bad outcome with coronavirus, the things that get people into ICUs that require intubation and often lead to death, they are just those very comorbidities that are unfortunately disproportionately prevalent in the African American community. So we're very concerned about that, it's very sad. There's nothing we can do about it right now except try and give them the best possible care."
For the latest on the coronavirus, check out BET’s blog on the virus and contact your local health department and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.