The coronavirus, or COVID-19, is ravage United States. At this point no one is safe from disease. However, black people die from the virus at a alarming rate than other races and ethnicities. For example, in Illinois, blacks make up only 14% of the population, yet they make up 38% of the state’s COVID-19 cases. Some people may wonder why, and the answer is incredibly simple: institutionalized and systemic racism.
To some, viewing the problem this way may not seem important. And others will accuse those who talk about it of “doing everything about race”, but here is the thing that is vital to remember: Racism is omnipresent in this country. In a way to do not to speak of race when it comes to a national pandemic is impossible.
Whether we like it or not, the main reason black people are dying from COVID-19 in greater numbers is because they are black. The two main factors are access to health care and pre-existing conditions. Chronic diseases that seem to affect black people in greater numbers such as hypertension, asthma, diabetes and heart disease leave many immunocompromised. And because many black people do not have the same level of access to reliable health care, they are basically playing Russian Roulette to catch / survive the virus.
“COVID only reveals the deep disinvestment in our communities, historical injustices and the impact of residential segregation”, Dr Camara Jones, family physician and epidemiologist says ProPublica. Jones, who is also a visiting scholar at Howard University, worked at the CDC for 13 years, focusing on identifying, measuring and addressing racial bias in the medical system. “Now is the time to name racism as the cause of all these things. The overrepresentation of people of color in poverty and whites in wealth is no accident. … It is because we are not valued.
the The CDC typically tracks and publishes data on age, race, and location people affected by a specific viral epidemic. But, when it comes to our current pandemic, the CDC hasn’t released any data on race. The only data that has been released, so far, relates to location and age.
Even though the CDC does not publish the data (if it exists), there are places that publish their own data related to COVID-19 and race. Illinois is one of those places. According to WBEZ, as of Saturday, April 4, 107 of Cook County’s 183 COVID deaths were black. In addition, 70%, or 61 of the 86 deaths reported in Chicago, are black. Blacks make up only 26% of Chicago’s population.
It’s a similar situation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. According to ProPublica, Milwaukee’s COVID cases originated from an affluent white suburb. Once it reached the black community, it spread like wildfire. As of Friday, April 3, nearly half of Milwaukee County’s 945 COVID cases were black. Additionally, blacks make up 81% of the county’s 27 deaths, but blacks make up only 26% of the city’s population.
“It will soon be unimaginable,” Dr. Celia J. Maxwell, infectious disease physician and associate dean of Howard University School of Medicine, told ProPublica. “And anything that comes along will be worse in our patients. Period. A lot of our patients have so many problems, but it’s like the nail in the coffin.
As writer Michael Harriot points out in a Twitter thread on Saturday, April 4, many health issues that make COVID-19 worse are diseases that disproportionately affect black people. Things like asthma or other breathing problems, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, severe obesity, and diabetes exacerbate symptoms of COVID-19. In Cook County, 81% of black people who died had high blood pressure or diabetes. Some have suffered from both.
“It’s disturbing and upsetting, but not surprising” Dr Linda Murray, professor of health policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told WBEZ. “This is just a reflection of the facts we already know about these pandemics. Vulnerable people will die faster and will not have as many resources.
Black people often receive poor health care – doctors are less likely to believe that they are actually feeling the pain and the symptoms they describe. Given how difficult it is to get a COVID-19 test, it is very likely that many black people will not make it to the hospital or seek medical attention until it is too late. When we talk about the same country where black women face a higher likelihood of dying in childbirth, it’s not shocking that this pandemic is disproportionately killing our community.
“[So] if you know that these disparities exist in terms of health outcomes, you can imagine that the layering of a new disease will only exacerbate the inequalities that already exist ”, adds Dr Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
A 2012 study from Johns Hopkins University shows that blacks are more likely to live in a “health desert.” Researchers looked at the United States and American Medical Association census dates from 2000 to 2006 to determine which zip codes in metropolitan areas were experiencing a shortage of primary care physicians. Areas could include rural neighborhoods. The shortage was defined as one physician per 3,500 people, or no PCP at all. The study found that 25.6% of blacks live in areas with few or no primary care doctors. Due to this shortage of doctors, there could be many more deaths from COVID-19 than we will ever know.
Another thing to consider is how many black people are likely to leave home on a regular basis, and not because they intentionally defy shelter-in-place orders. There is a lot of the blacks occupying these jobs considered “essential,“Like grocery store workers, fast food restaurant workers, warehouse workers, and those in the medical field like nurses. Many blacks living in large cities are likely to take public transportation to and from these jobs. When you factor this in, it only magnifies the problem that the black community is facing.
COVID-19 hits black communities hardest, and black people will continue to die at an alarming rate from this virus. When you can look at statistics from places like Illinois or Milwaukee and do not look at the glaring problems, this is willful ignorance. Recognizing that a disproportionate number of blacks die is not “playing the race card”. Black people don’t deserve to die at a higher rate because the system is stacked against us.