As the cases of coronavirus exponentially grow, scientists are starting to gather more data about which populations it’s affecting the most. While technically the virus can affect anyone, at any time, new data shows that Black people have been most affected.
A new report from ProPublica concludes that, as COVID-19 spread, it spiked in Black communities in various cities across the country.
What’s more, chronic conditions like asthma, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes that exist in higher numbers in Black populations mean Black people are especially vulnerable to the virus’ more serious complications.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for example, being Black already means your life expectancy is 14 years shorter, on average, than being white. Half of Milwaukee County’s 945 cases of COVID-19 reported as of Friday morning (April 3) and 81 percent of its 27 deaths were African American. The county’s population is only 26 percent Black.
In Michigan, a state where the population is 14 percent Black, African Americans have made up 35 percent of coronavirus cases and 40 percent of deaths as of Friday morning.
ProPublica also points out that Illinois and North Carolina reveal that their data shows a disproportionate number of African Americans have been infected. Some states, like Louisiana, have not presented racial data related to COVID-19 cases and deaths.
“It will be unimaginable pretty soon,” Dr. Celia J. Maxwell, an infectious disease physician and associate dean at Howard University College of Medicine, said. “And anything that comes around is going to be worse in our patients. Period. Many of our patients have so many problems, but this is kind of like the nail in the coffin.”
Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks age, location of people affected and race, however while location and age data have been released, the agency has been silent about race.
Experts say that the nation’s reluctance to publicly track the virus by race doesn’t change a stark reality: a disproportionate number of those who die of coronavirus will be Black.
“COVID is just unmasking the deep disinvestment in our communities, the historical injustices and the impact of residential segregation,” Dr. Camara Jones, a family physician, epidemiologist and visiting fellow at Harvard University who spent 13 years at the CDC focusing on identifying, measuring and addressing racial bias within the medical system, said. “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.”
Read the full ProPublica article here.
Photo: Robin Gentry