Philadelphia Officials Worried About African Americans Becoming More At Risk For Coronavirus

Philadelphia Officials Worried About African Americans Becoming More At Risk For Coronavirus

The city’s health commissioner cited health disparities in the Black community

Published April 10th

Written by Madison J. Gray

New data released by Philadelphia’s health commissioner shows that the city has joined other metropolitan areas in which African Americans are most at risk for coronavirus infections. The news comes as the White House said that the city is among those that could potentially become a new hotspot for the disease.

"This problem is affecting people who have disadvantages even more," said Dr. Thomas Farley at a press conference on Thursday.

Just like in other cities such as Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, and Milwaukee that have large Black populations, socioeconomic inequity shows up as a root cause of the health disparities that leave people more vulnerable to COVID-19.

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on COVID-19’s Disproportionate Impact on Black America

"Look at all the structural issues around, all these health care inequalities, all these lower income jobs, it tends to impact individuals and neighborhoods of color a lot more than it does other neighborhoods," Philadelphia Councilman Darrell Clarke told CBS News. “We have individuals that are working in these jobs in retail, in super markets and stores around that are still allowed to be open. Those people have to deal with the public on a consistent bases, right. They are more likely to come into contact with someone who may be infected than other people." 

Exact percentages of Blacks in Philadelphia afflicted with the virus are not yet available, but Pennsylvania’s health secretary Rachel Levine told the Philadelphia Inquirer that not enough regular data on race and coronavirus has been made available, but her office is working to change that.

RELATED: Black People Are Contracting And Dying From Coronavirus At An Alarming Rate, New Data Shows

She noted the “disparities are even more significant now that we have a global pandemic. We’ll be working to try to make sure those health disparities don’t influence someone’s ability to get the care they need.”

In Philadelphia, 4,777 people are infected with coronavirus and 73 have died, the Inquirer reports. Its Black population is 42.3 percent, according to U.S. Census data.

Meanwhile, the White House said that Philadelphia could become the new hot spot for the spread of the coronavirus. 

"An area of particular concern we were briefed on this morning is the City of Philadelphia," Vice President Mike Pence said during a Wednesday briefing. "I spoke today to Governor Tom Wolf and as we begin to see early trend lines in Philadelphia, I assured him that we were going to continue to flow resources and support to that community."

However, Farley pushed back against that assertion, noting task force member Dr. Deborah Birx’s comments, which were similar to Pence’s.

“I don’t know what numbers she’s looking at,” Farley said at a press conference. “I doubt she’s looking at numbers as updated as we are. So I’m glad that she’s concerned about Philadelphia. We have been hit hard so far, but at the moment, things are better.”

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.

Photo Credit: Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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