With social distancing guidelines in effect through the end of April and states extending stay-at-home orders, COVID-19 promises to be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future. Thus far, the virus has infected nearly 400,000 U.S. residents. As we learn more about the virus, we continue to uncover more about who is most vulnerable to be affected by COVID-19.
Black communities are being disproportionately affected by this virus at an alarming rate. As of Tuesday, Black Michiganders made up 33% of confirmed cases and 40% of deaths in the state. However, Black Michiganders make up just under 15% of the state’s population. Similar discrepancies exist within other state’s and major cities across the country.
In Louisiana, Black residents make up 70% of the state’s deaths and only 33% of the population. Meanwhile, Black residents in Milwaukee County make up 26% of the population and as of Tuesday, they made up 81% of the county’s deaths. In Chicago, Black residents made up 50% of deaths and 68% of the city’s deaths as of Tuesday. However, Black residents only make up 30% of the city’s population.
Black communities disproportionately suffer from pre-existing conditions, increasing coronavirus risk.
20% more likely to have asthma.
40% more likely to have high blood pressure.
Black women are 3x more likely to have lupus.
Racial justice is at the forefront of this crisis.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 7, 2020
Many of these frightening statistics can be tied to structural issues that have existed long before the pandemic began. In a pandemic, the most vulnerable are usually those with preexisting conditions without access to reliable healthcare. The US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health reports that the death rate for Black citizens is typically higher when it comes to “heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes [and] HIV/AIDS.” Black citizens are typically impacted by these viruses for a variety of reasons.
“It’s almost like structural racism has made black people sick,” Emergency Medicine Physician Uché Blackstock told Vox.
Issues such as toxic dumping and environmental discrimination have long impacted communities of color. In addition, acts such as gentrification tend to have a disproportionately negative impact on Black communities, which lead to higher stress levels and chronic illnesses.
COVID-19 is no different than any other widespread outbreak. The 1918 flu and H1N1 had disproportionately negative impacts on Black communities as well.