Across the world, the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 has been carving a path of death and despair, infected more that 1.5 million people and killing close to 100,000 so far.
The world global superpower, The United States of America, with military might and financial power has not been spared. So far it has almost half a million confirmed cases and the death toll is racing towards 20,000.
Sadly, over-represented in those numbers are African-Americans
When the virus was first discovered, myths and other misinformation circulated freely among Black communities that people of African descent cannot contract the disease because of a variety of reasons including our body temperature,
Well, preliminary data showing that the virus is infecting and killing Blacks across the United States at a disproportionately high rate is putting to rest those misconceptions.
Although the available numbers are weakened by the fact that most states and cities are collecting data on infections and deaths mostly according to gender and age but not race, the initial evidence that are in place still paint a frightening picture for Black communities across the US.
So far, only a few states have released the racial information, including Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey and North Carolina. Data from these states shows blacks are dying at a disproportionately high rates compared to other races.
Of the 512 coronavirus-related deaths in Louisiana so far, about 360, or 70%, were African American patients, despite the fact that Blacks comprise less than a third of the state’s population
While in Illinois, there were 13,549 coronavirus cases in early April and 380 deaths, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. Of the confirmed cases, 28.4% were Black, 27.1% white, 10% Hispanic, 3.3% Asian and 25.7% were unknown. Of the deaths, 42.9% were black, 36.1% white, 8.4% Hispanic, 6.8% unknown and 3.7% Asian
In Michigan, the numbers were also bleak: African Americans account for 14% of the state’s population but 33% of COVID-19 cases and 40% of deaths.
In New York City, which has become the epicenter for the coronavirus in the US, more than 150,000 are already infected and going on 8,000 dead. COVID-19 is killing Hispanics and African Americans at an elevated number and pace compared with their representation in the city’s population. This has been confirmed by Mayor Bill de Blasio as he looks at preliminary data.
in Milwaukee County, which is the most segregated county in the United States reported that the first eight people who died of complications from COVID-19 have been African American. The reason for the racial disparity in coronavirus deaths in Wisconsin and especially Milwaukee also was not clear. But there were suspicions that not just the aforementioned segregation but also a lack of access to resources
Civil rights groups within these cities have called on federal health officials to release racial data to ensure resources and information reach every community affected by the outbreak.
Furthermore, community leaders and public health officials have stated that this could reflect both higher levels of underlying illnesses that make African-Americans more vulnerable as well as possibly lower levels of access to healthcare.
“It starts out with the disparity that has already existed in health care provision for people of color. We already started out with an unequal system of healthcare,” Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is quoted as saying. “It gets massively exacerbated when you bring on something like COVID-19.”
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, acknowledging the early data, was quoted as saying that Black Americans were more likely to have heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure which compromises their ability to fight of the disease.
President Trump was also forced to acknowledge the growing signs of disparity and said that federal authorities were working to provide statistics that might help examine the issue.
Hidden within these disparities is the fact that many African Americans constitute a big part of the work force that cannot work from home.
Holding jobs such as cleaners, drivers, janitors, many do not have the luxury of working from home. And in many instances are living from paycheck to paycheck.
As such, a large number of the Blacks cannot afford to miss out on a paycheck, which contributes to what some would say in secret a quasi fatalistic mode of thinking: “either corona will kill me or hunger will.”
Many seem willing to take their chances with Corona.