When the world first heard about the novel Coronavirus, it was seemingly running rampant in mostly white and affluent communities, leading to the running but dangerous joke that Africans and African Americans are somehow immune–a joke that has now left many Black communities being hit hardest by the pandemic.
According to published reports, 70 percent of people who died from COVID-19 are black — even though the city’s population is just 30 percent black and in Milwaukee County, which is 27 percent black, the figure is 81 percent. Resulting in the largest disparity in modern history but how did this happen?
On Tuesday (Apr 7), during the Presidential briefing regarding the pandemic, Dr. Fauci addressed the disproportionate data noting that underlying health issues that are known to run rampant in the Black community like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity in addition to limited access to quality health care, plays a large role in the number of Black patients succumbing to COVID-19.
“Unfortunately [the high mortality rate in African Americans] that’s not surprising and the reason is there is a health disparity as we call it,” Dr. Fauci said. “[The fact] that African Americans disproportionately suffer from diseases like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and even some cancers like prostate cancer in African American men. One of the problems is that many of these conditions are the underlying conditions, which no matter what your race or ethnicity gives you a greater chance of getting a complication with coronavirus disease. So if you’re a white person like me and you have hypertension, you’re at high risk, but the chances of my having hypertension or diabetes are much less than the general African American population. And that’s the reason why they’re suffering disproportionately. They have the underlying conditions that seem to make coronavirus worse. In addition, often their access to good healthcare is not as good as the general population.”
Lack of adequate healthcare is a huge issue and very illegal, however, it’s reported that African Americans still face discrimination when going to non-Black physicians, including lower dosage for pain medication, the ignoring of pain indication and even being sent home despite having life-threatening issues by some urgent care facilities.
But just how widespread the disparities might be across the country is difficult to know, as NBC News points out, because most states and the federal government haven’t released demographic data on the race or ethnicity of people who’ve tested positive for the virus. That’s created an information gap that could aggravate existing health disparities, prevent cities and states from equitably distributing medical resources and potentially violate the law, advocates say.
“Civil rights laws prohibit federally funded health care providers from administering services in a discriminatory manner,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which joined with medical professionals Monday to call for the immediate release of racial and ethnic data on coronavirus infections, testing, and deaths. “Our ability to fully understand and confront this pandemic requires and demands that we obtain racial data now.”
The death toll in African Americans is so alarming that Donald Trump noted that government officials are also looking into the underlying issues as well, before adding that national data on race and coronavirus cases should be available later this week.
“We want to find the reason to it,” Trump said.
In the meantime, Dr. Fauci states that although city, state and government officials can’t address the issues head-on at this time due to the pandemic, they have made a commitment to ensuring that Black communities receive quality healthcare to help those affected recover and get better.
“So we are very concerned about that. It is very sad. There is nothing we can do about it right now except to give them the best possible care to avoid complications,” Fauci said.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams also weighed in on the topic with his own personal experience noting that he himself suffers from hypertension, asthma and is a pre-diabetic, making him highly susceptible to contract the virus.
“I have high blood pressure … I have heart disease and spent a week in the (intensive care unit) due to a heart condition,” Adams said. “I actually have asthma and I’m pre-diabetic, and so I represent that legacy of growing up poor and black. I and many black Americans are at higher risk for COVID. It’s why we need everyone to do their part to slow the spread.”
Check out the facts from Dr. Fauci below.