Coronavirus in the USA | Devastating impact of covid-19 among African Americans

The coronavirus may not distinguish between skin color and ethnicity, but data in the United States is beginning to show that there is a sector of society that is suffering the greatest impact from the pandemic.

The coronavirus may not distinguish between skin color and ethnicity, but data in the United States is beginning to show that there is a sector of society that is suffering the greatest impact from the pandemic. Many black Americans are at higher risk from covid-19, said US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, one of the government's spokespersons on public health issues in an interview with CBS.
Coronavirus in the USA | Devastating impact of covid-19 among African Americans
‘Many black Americans are at higher risk from covid-19,’ said US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, one of the government's spokespersons on public health issues in an interview with CBS.
‘It breaks my heart,’ said Adams, who identifies himself as African American.
Although the information is emerging in droplets, several states and cities in the US have begun to publish figures that reveal that the Afro population is more vulnerable to the outbreak of the coronavirus that causes the covid-19 disease.
Experts, however, are not surprised, explaining that this situation is a reflection of several factors that put African Americans at a disadvantage in the face of a public calamity.
Until April 8, USA had reported 401,166 covid-19 cases and 12,936 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

What does the data say?

In New York City, the epicenter of the US pandemic, as of April 8, 28% of the 4,009 deaths from covid-19 were Afro people, according to data revealed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In Chicago, the sixth most populous city in the country and one of the few that had published this type of data, until April 5 about half of the almost 5,000 infected were people of African origin.
There, 1,824 African Americans had died, compared to 847 whites, 478 Hispanics and 126 people of Asian origin.
That is, they represented 72% of the deaths, although they are only 30% of the population in a city of 2.7 million inhabitants.
‘It breaks my heart’; Surgeon General Jerome Adams said, referring to the situation of African-Americans facing the coronavirus.
‘Those figures leave you breathless,’ Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told The New York Times.
‘It's one of the most shocking things that I think I've seen as mayor.’
In other parts of the country the picture is also dire. In the state of Michigan, African Americans make up only 14% of the population, but they account for 33% of reported cases of covid-19 and 41% of deaths, according to data from state health authorities.
In the southern state of Lusiana, nearly 40% of deaths from covid-19 have occurred in New Orleans, where the majority of the inhabitants are of African origin. As of April 8, that city had reported 4,942 cases and 185 deaths.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was ‘out of breath’ when she saw the numbers of African Americans affected by covid-19 in her city.

The city of Milwaukee, in Wisconsin, is one of the most segregated in the country.
There, until Friday, April 3, there had been close to a thousand cases of covid-19, almost half of them were African-American, although they are only 26% of the city's population, according to a ProPublica study.
Of the 27 deaths that had been reported, 21 were from Afro people.

For what is this?

Authorities and experts agree that Afro people are in worse health than other sectors of the population to face the spread of the disease.
In the United States there is an ’exacerbation of the health disparity’, as Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has led the battle against the coronavirus in that country, called it at a press conference.
‘We have always known that diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and asthma disproportionately affect minority populations, particularly African Americans.’
Fauci added that these preconditions ‘lead to a bad outcome’ the moment a person must face the covid-19.
Several of these preconditions, according to experts, are related to the fact that the Afro population has historically had less access to health services.

Many African-Americans continue to work on the streets amid the pandemic.

It is not a genetic condition that makes African Americans more vulnerable to the virus, but a number of social factors that put them at a disadvantage.
‘In the US, we have a history of segregation and lack of investment in African-American communities,’ Steven Alvarado, a professor in the Department of Sociology at Cornell University and a specialist in health inequity, tells the BBC.
‘That is not something new, the new thing is that a pandemic is colliding with that story.’
Tyan Parker Dominguez, professor of social work at the University of Southern California and an expert on racism and health issues, shares that vision.
‘It is not a coincidence that the health of the population is a mirror of social inequities,’ says Parker Dominguez.
For Amitabh Chandra, director of health policy research at the Harvard University School of Government, in addition to health conditions, there are three other factors that help explain why the African population in the US is more vulnerable to the coronavirus:
  • They have less health insurance compared to other sectors of the population
  • They have less income and less savings
  • They are part of a population that continues to work on the streets during the pandemic, such as police, airport employees, warehouse workers, residents, etc.
‘They are part of the population that continues to do hard work, while the rest of us stay at home,’ Chandra tells BBC.
Experts and authorities agree that African-Americans are at a disadvantage in dealing with the coronavirus.
The expert also mentions the risk of the pandemic in prisons, where African-Americans are five times more likely to go to prison than white people, according to data from The Sentencing Project.

Information is missing

Data on how the Afro population is most affected by the coronavirus are only beginning to emerge.
‘The big question is the quality of the data,’ says Parker Dominguez.
‘Understanding who the highest risk groups are, sectors of society that are being disproportionately affected, should be crucial information to support our decisions about how to allocate the limited resources we have to combat the pandemic,’ says Parker Dominguez.

In the United States, the African American population has had less access to health services.

‘If there is no data, the problem multiplies,’ says Alvarado, but affirms that previous investigations already showed that something like this would happen.
Chandra agrees that ’more data is always better’, but adds that the lack of information should not be a reason not to take action.
‘You don't need a lot of data to figure out what's going on, you can see it with your eyes,’ says Chandra.
‘Giving people insurance, giving them unemployment benefits, food stamps, money, freeing them from prisons, those are all things that can be done without the data.’
Latinos at risk
Alvarado believes that the situation that is beginning to unfold with African-Americans may also be similar to what Latinos may be facing in the United States.
In the city of New York, for example, the figures show that 34% of muert and Hispanic, a percentage even higher than blacks.

Latinos in the US may also be at high risk for the coronavirus.

‘Everything is part of a historical chain that puts Latinos and African Americans at greater risk,’ says Alvarado.
‘There are many Latinos working in the fields, driving buses, working in the supermarkets, the risk they face in their neighborhoods multiplies with the risk they face in their jobs,’ says the sociologist.
Parker Dominguez adds the situation of undocumented migrants.
‘They are people who do not go to health services out of fear that not registered,’ he says.
‘They are concerned about how they are going to be treated or put at risk of being detained, they are the legitimate fears they have.’
‘Any vulnerable population can be disproportionately affected by covid-19,’ concludes Parker Dominguez.

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