Health Experts: The Coronavirus has Disproportionately Impacted Black and Minority Communities

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, researchers have tried to find multiple ways to break down the demographics of those who have been infected by the coronavirus. With breakdowns from age to blood type, the biggest factor showing the most dramatic disparity of death and cases, is race.

Cities like Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, New York City, and Baltimore have been named as hot spots for the virus. All of these cities have large minority populations.

According to an analysis done by the Associated Press, where the race of victims was identified, African Americans account for more than one-third of COVID-19 deaths in the United States.

Many tests for COVID-19 are conducted via private labs, and some labs do not require patients to specify their race/ethnicity or zip code, causing a gap in data. The gap was a concern for governors like Maryland Governor Larry Hogan,  who used both zip code and provided race/ethnicity to figure out racial disparities. According to studies by states like Maryland, New York, and Michigan,  the two pieces of information have revealed a more accurate percentage of cases and deaths broken down by race/ethnicity. Since a significant amount of cases have specified this particular racial demographic, research done from state level up to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting the black community.

At a White House press conference, Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House Coronavirus Task Force member, compared the disparity to the AIDs epidemic:

“I see a similarity here because health disparities have always existed for the African American community,” Fauci said. “When all this is over and, as we said, it will end, we will get over coronavirus, but there will still be health disparities which we really do need to address in the African American community.”

According to the CDC, some of the reasons why this virus is attacking the black and minority community are because of dangerous essential jobs, multigenerational homes, and underlying health issues.

Temple University College of Public Health Assistant Professor and epidemiology expert Dr. Graciela Jaschek went into detail on why minority communities are hit harder during health crises.

“Because we don’t invest enough in social infrastructure or in health services that are there to support vulnerable populations or the poor and the minorities, what ends up happening is that we have increasing health disparities with COVID-19” said Jaschek.

Dr. Jaschek also discussed how language barriers within the LatinX community increases the number of cases in minority communities.

“There is anti-immigrant rhetoric that makes people very afraid to even go see someone at a healthcare facility,” said Jaschek. “It may be an immigration issue within themselves or it may be a family issue that they are afraid to go.”

Stephanie Shell, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Public Health Association (PPHA), says the two most critical factors within the racial disparity are social determinants of health and access to quality care.

“Very often people of color have less access to quality services and have greater numbers of comorbid disorders that often are related to things like substandard housing, working in low paying jobs and having less food choices than other populations,” said Shell.

According to Shell, with the social causes of health and lack of access to quality health care, the message of what this says about the health care system is clear.

“I think it says that we don’t have a health system that is equitable,” said Shell. “We have sort of these series of health systems, these layers of health systems that are really different depending on where you live, where you’re born and how much money you have.”

Shell says a better way to prevent the negative impact crises has on vulnerable communities, is to change the health care system.

“We have to start bringing this patchwork system of services together into one single system that is accessible to all,” said Shell.

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