Several cities with large numbers of African Americans are reporting disproportionate rates of coronavirus infections. Now, officials in Kansas City, Missouri say Black residents make up 50 percent of cases there, despite only comprising 30 percent of the city’s population, according to the local health department.
The Kansas City Star reports that despite the disproportionate rate of reported infections, there is a broad lack of testing and possibly only 10 percent of cases are known by officials. But, like in other cities, health disparities also tell the story behind the COVID-19 spread here as well.
“African Americans are overrepresented in low-wage, front-line jobs,” Gwen Grant, CEO and president of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City told the KC Star. “Our people are disproportionately struggling with chronic illnesses that place them at greater risk of contracting, and dying from, the coronavirus.”
Kansas City’s mayor Quinton Lucas believes what is happening is a culmination of things that all contributed to the disparities.
“What we are seeing is a representation of every inequality that we have in our community,” Lucas said. “In this situation I fear that as time goes on this crisis seems to have impacted a number of communities including communities of color and we wouldn’t have the health infrastructure to support them.”
But denial of how bad the virus could get was also a factor in the community. Rev. Emanuel Cleaver III, pastor of St. James United Methodist Church, thinks that could have made the problem worse. Some, he said, thought Black people could not get the virus. This theory was quickly debunked when Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert was diagnosed, spurring the suspension of the NBA season.
People now see the pandemic for what it is, he says, but there are still obstacles. “Many African Americans are slow to go to a doctor because of the out-of-pocket cost and then a lot of distrust,” said Rev. Cleaver.
Kansas City is just one of several cities nationwide that are reporting a disproportionate number of cases among African Americans. In places like Chicago, New Orleans and Milwaukee, COVID-19 cases account for 70 percent of cases, although African Americans make up 30 percent or less of their populations.
Other cities like Washington D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia are being watched as the next potential hotspots. Detroit, one of the most badly hit per capita cities, which is 78 percent Black has 6,811 coronavirus cases and 323 deaths.
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.
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