UPDATE: COVID-19 in the Black Community

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to greatly affect America, its effects on minority communities have yet to lessen in recent weeks, from both a literal and figurative perspective.

Let’s take Los Angeles County for instance.

This week, the LA County Department of Public Health reported the following statistics:

Latinx people were more than twice as likely to contract the virus and were also twice as likely to die from the virus than White people. African American and Black people were 27% more likely to contract the virus and almost twice as likely to die compared to White people, according to the health department.

Furthermore, the department said, communities with high levels of poverty continued to see almost three times more cases than communities with little to no poverty, and those experiencing high levels of poverty were four times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those living in communities with low levels of poverty.

With that said, naturally, we must revisit the idea of poverty in how it relates to the Black community and beyond.

In a Vox report this week, we learned that residential segregation, which greatly affects the living standards of minority individuals and families, plays a significant role in determining who is most likely to contract the coronavirus:

After speaking last month with half a dozen Black scholars, I came to believe the best place to start in understanding how structural racism breeds racial health disparities is residential segregation. Where a person lives has direct health effects and, maybe as importantly, it will situate them for economic success or failure for the rest of their lives — which we also know is an important determinant for health.

In short, through the process of “redlining,” which unfairly herds members of different ethnic backgrounds into single areas by denying those racial groups access to specific housing opportunities, the Black community is often driven into living environments that battle things such as air pollution, for example.

What comes along with that air pollution is greater rates of asthma and hypertension, for example, and both of those underlying conditions can then lead to Black people suffering greater consequences when facing a pandemic such as COVID-19.

In short, where minority communities live, the food they have access to, the healthcare they have access to, and a number of other factors continues to negatively affect minorities in the battle against COVID-19.

The Black community also continues to battle a false narrative about its approach to the coronavirus outbreak.

Last month, a GOP lawmaker and doctor in Ohio named Stephen A. Huffman was fired from his position as a physician after making racist comments during a Senate Health Committee hearing.

Said Huffman:

“Could it just be that African-Americans or the colored population do not wash their hands as well as other groups or wear a mask or do not socially distance themselves? Could that be the explanation of why the higher incidence?”

At the same time, due in large part to their distrust of the healthcare system as well as the government, the Black community often opts out of the clinical trials necessary to find a vaccine for diseases that affect the American population as a whole.

With that, the medical community is concerned that any coronavirus vaccine in the works might not have the same success on Black people if they are unwilling to participate in clinical trials.

According to a June NBC News story:

African American participation in the trial is critical, medical experts have said. Researchers of pharmacogenetics — the science that studies how genetic factors affect reactions to drugs — stress that medicine could produce different results based on race and genetic, socioeconomic and environmental dynamics.

Translation: A vaccine might not work in African Americans if African Americans do not participate in the clinical trials to create the drug.

Just this week, a new study found that while the coronavirus continues to disproportionately affect those ages 65 or older, Black and Hispanic people make up 67 percent of COVID-19-related deaths in America for individuals under 65 years of age.

new CDC report found that Black and Hispanic patients represented nearly two-thirds of coronavirus deaths among those younger than 65. The researchers looked at data from more than 10,000 coronavirus patients whose deaths were reported from February 12 to May 18, and found that more than one-third of deceased patients under 65 were Hispanic and another 30% were Black. 

White people, meanwhile, represented around 40% of US coronavirus deaths of all ages and 55% of coronavirus deaths among patients ages 85 and older. That’s more than any other race, but white people make up a far portion of the US population: around three-quarters. 

It is important that the Black community continue to remain diligent in practicing social distancing, frequently washing its hands, and wearing a mask when in public, if not to protect yourself but in order to protect those around you.