COVID-19 Is Shaping Up to Be a Black and White Issue

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Created by Geoffrey Dean

COVID-19 has hit Wake County Public Schools. What happens next?

Geoffrey Dean, Chief Data Editor

All across the globe, with the exception of sixteen countries, COVID-19 has reshaped and disrupted daily life. For minority communities, however, the virus is taking an even greater toll. Across The United States, individuals of color have been losing their lives to COVID-19 at a far higher rate than their white counterparts. For instance, in the state of Michigan, which has the third-highest number of COVID-19 deaths, African-Americans make up approximately 13.6% of the population. However, blacks constitute 40% of the deaths related to COVID-19, almost three times the rate one might expect. 

The Wolverine State is not the only example of this tragedy. Right here in North Carolina, African-Americans have accounted for 39% of COVID-19 deaths, while comprising 21.46 percent of the population. New York City is 22% black and the state rest of the state is 12%, however, African American’s have made up 28% and 17% of the recorded deaths respectively. The District of Columbia, which has the highest African American population by percentage in the country at 47%, have seen that community account for 76% of the COVID-19 deaths in the city.

This could be attributed to a higher prevalence of health factors that compound the lethality of the virus. According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), African-Americans had the highest death rate for heart disease of any racial or ethnic group. Cardiovascular disease is the pre-existing condition with the highest mortality rate, at 13.2%. African-Americans also have the highest rate of hypertension and the second-highest rate of diabetes of any racial group. These three conditions, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes, have been associated with higher rates of mortality if COVID-19 is introduced to the body.

Another possible reason for the disproportionate number of deaths in black communities is a lack of financial security and access to medical resources. In the states that were previously highlighted, African-Americans are living in poverty at a higher rate than other racial and ethnic groups. Nationally, the black poverty rate is 22% second only to Native Americans at 24%. In New York, the black poverty rate is 20%, in North Carolina the poverty rate is 21%, in Washington, D.C. that number is closer to 27%, and in Louisiana, the black poverty rate is a whopping 30%. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 30% of respondents reported they were “very worried” about “Not being able to pay medical costs in the event of a serious illness or accident?” This number is likely exasperated in the circumstance of extreme poverty, which would lead to higher mortality rates of African-Americans in the wake of an epidemic.

Fortunately, in the wake of new data, measures are being taken to help communities of color recover from the effects of COVID-19. Prominent figures for change have helped raise awareness for the situation, and have helped to provide more testing to these communities. Through providing adequate, readily available testing and health care services, the hope is that cases and deaths will be mitigated in black America, as well as the rest of the country.