Elvia Díaz, Arizona Republic
Published 4:00 a.m. ET April 9, 2020
People of color and minority groups are particularly at risk during the pandemic. Here’s what should be done to better address these communities.
Opinion: Why is COVID-19 killing more African Americans? Because too many have been left behind economically in the richest country in the world.
That COVID-19 is disproportionally killing African Americans is horrific and deplorable.
But it is only shocking to those who’ve historically turned a blind eye to the plight of communities of color in this country.
Data out of Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey and North Carolina show COVID-19 is killing black people at higher a rate compared with white people.
The rest of the country either doesn’t have coronavirus data by ethnicity or hasn’t released it. In any case, expect similar bleak results.
COVID-19 hits the poor hardest
This disease doesn’t discriminate. Nobody is immune from it. However, people of color are less likely to be insured, less likely to access medical care and thus at greater risk of suffering from diabetes, high-blood pressure and asthma.
Another fact is that African Americans and other minorities are disproportionally holding jobs that don’t allow them to work or stay home, like most others are doing to ride out the pandemic.
Who’s really shocked that black people are dying at higher rates from COVID-19?
Mainstream America, of course. The same folks who have not only ignored the deep-rooted economic disparity of people of color but who have fostered it with racial bias.
“These communities, structurally, they’re breeding grounds for the transmission of the disease,” Sharrelle Barber, an assistant research professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University, told The New York Times. “It’s not biological. It’s really these existing structural inequalities that are going to shape the racial inequalities in this pandemic.”
Communities have long been marginalized
Barber argues that policies dating back to the 1930s have left many neighborhoods with black residents lacking job opportunities, stable housing and lack of grocery stores with healthy food. That leaves African Americans, she told The Times, with disproportionate rates of asthma and diabetes.
Nobody should be shocked that blacks are dying are a higher rate than everyone else.
Everyone, though, should be outraged.
President Donald Trump this week acknowledged the economic disparity of black people. But what is he going to do about it? What is the rest of America going to do about it – other than being shocked?
Communities of color have long been economically marginalized. But instead of lifting them, too many government and business leaders have simply dismissed them as lazy and unwilling to pull themselves by their own bootstraps.
It’s always been known that African Americans, Latinos and other communities of color are disproportionately poor with little or no access to health care. With that comes underlying health conditions that COVID-19 severely attacks, such as high-blood pressure, asthma and diabetes.
How did nobody notice this until now?
Just consider the data from these states, as reported by USA TODAY:
- In Illinois, 42% of the 307 people who have died of coronavirus were black, while 37.1% were white. Roughly 15% of the state’s population is black, while whites make up 77% of the state, according to the Census.
- In Michigan, African Americans accounted for just 14% of the state’s population but 33% of COVID-19 cases and 41% of deaths.
- In Louisiana, 70% of the deaths related to coronavirus were African American and 29% were white.
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the center is collecting racial data provided by states. But when is not clear.
That kind of data is essential to “inform an effective response to the pandemic,’’ Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a non-profit based in Washington, D.C., told USA TODAY.
Advocates worry that people of color aren’t getting adequate information about the coronavirus pandemic and aren’t accessing testing, which has been a huge problem across the country due to insufficient test kits.
It’s clear that too many Americans have been left behind economically in the richest country in the world, and now they’re paying with their lives.
But what is America going to do about it? Data out of Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey and North Carolina is enough to show the disparity.
Waiting for other states to collect data on ethnicity will be too late. Federal and local officials must act now to help communities of color. At minimum, they can ensure these communities have access to free COVID-19 tests, assist them with filing unemployment benefits, and help secure business grants and other financial assistance.
Otherwise, the indignation is meaningless.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/04/09/why-coronavirus-killing-more-black-americans-because-they-poor-column/2973649001/
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