ANOTHER BURDEN TO BEAR

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Data is showing that Blacks are dying at higher rates from COVID-19.

A church member wears a mask and gloves while following social distancing guidelines during the Palm Sunday praise and worship service at Union Springs Baptist Church on April 5 in Rutledge, Georgia. S

CURTIS COMPTON/ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION/TNS

COMPILED FROM WIRE REPORTS

In Michigan, Blacks have died at more than eight times the rate of White people. In Illinois, they have died at nearly six times the rate. In Louisiana, the difference is fivefold.

On April 3, Pro Publica reported that in Milwaukee County, where the population is 26 percent Black, African Americans currently comprise “almost half of the county’s 941 cases and 81 percent of its 27 deaths.

The report states that Milwaukee is one of the few places in the U.S. that’s tracking the racial breakdown of people who have been infected by coronavirus, offering a glimpse at the disproportionate destruction it is inflicting on Black communities nationwide.

Citing inequalities

Public health experts say the numbers reflect social and economic inequalities.

Not only are Black Americans less likely to be insured and able to afford testing, but they are more likely to have underlying medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease that could put them at higher risk for severe illness.

They are 60% more likely than White Americans to be diagnosed with diabetes and 40% more likely to have high blood pressure, according to the U.S. government.

“This virus is treading a glide path that unfortunately our society has paved through structural racism and poverty,” said Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former director of the Detroit Health Department. “It is finding its way into our most vulnerable communities, who in our country tend to be disproportionately Black and Brown.”

Asking for data

The problem is compounded by the fact that many of the most vulnerable people work in service jobs that increase their risk of being exposed to the virus.

Fewer than 20% of Black workers are able to work from home compared with about one-third of their White counterparts, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the Florida Department of Health, 17 percent of the Florida residents who have died are listed as Black. The U.S. Census Bureau says 17 percent of the Florida population is Black.

On Monday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and hundreds of doctors called on the federal government to begin reporting the racial and ethnic demographic data on COVID-19 immediately.

“Systemic racism and bias in the health care system have resulted in chronically poor health outcomes for Black Americans,” Kristen Clarke, president of the committee, wrote in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“These co-morbidities render Black Americans more susceptible to severe respiratory complications and death resulting from COVID-19.”

Shining light on it

The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said at a White House briefing Tuesday that health disparities had always existed for the African American community, but the pandemic was “shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is.”

“It’s not that they’re getting infected more often,” he said. “It’s that when they do get infected, their underlying medical conditions … wind them up in the ICU and ultimately give them a higher death rate.”

Reports by ProPublica, Trice Edney NewsWire and the Los Angeles Times were used in compiling this story.

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