I was casually chatting with a friend Monday when the subject of the coronavirus came up and he said, “I don’t think Black folks get it.”
I was, like, “What?!”
Needless to say, my jaw was hanging as he went on to explain how he had heard that it had something to do with the melanin in darker skin tones. Now, normally, I would have just politely disabused him of that fallacy and kept it moving, as they say.
But earlier, I had been poking around online and stumbled across a few comments on social media in which other African Americans appeared equally as skeptical about the respiratory disease spreading around the globe and its possible impact on them.
On a whim, I reached out to Dr. Jen Caudle, a family physician, who has been all over the airwaves teaching viewers about COVID-19 since the pandemic began. At first, I felt a little sheepish even bringing it up to her since she’s a medical doctor who deals with life-and-death issues while also juggling media appearances.
But it turns out that Caudle, also an associate professor at Rowan University, had heard the exact same thing recently at a beauty salon while getting her hair done. She has since created a Facebook video to debunk the claim along with some other silly myths that are being spread about the virus.
Anyone can get it
“I literally was in the beauty shop just yesterday. I’m not even kidding, and I overheard this woman talking to another woman and she said something like, ‘Did you hear? I heard Black people can’t get coronavirus,” Caudle says on the video.
“She was literally having a conversation with another woman about this. Guys, I’m Black. Many of you might be Black. There is no evidence to say that Black people cannot get coronavirus. This is a myth. Anyone can get coronavirus,” she says.
I also asked a random sampling of some of my most vocal Facebook friends about the coronavirus and most of them had heard the same thing.
Frankly, I find it troubling that at a time when the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus is escalating across the country and universities are closing and conferences being canceled, that even one person believes this.
Will get worse
According to the Center for Disease Control, the virus reportedly started spreading in Wuhan, China, but cases have been identified in a growing number of other locations internationally, including the United States.
Although there hasn’t been a lot of reporting on who exactly is contracting it, please be assured that the coronavirus does not discriminate. Italy is on a virtual shutdown because of this virus.
The U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams warns the situation will get “worse before it gets better.”
So, to the father of my friend who pointed out on Monday that we haven’t heard a lot about cases in Africa, the virus has made it to the Motherland.
So far, it appears that Egypt is the worst hit African nation, with 59 cases, according to CNN. The World Health Organization also reports cases in Algeria, Senegal and Nigeria.
There’s nothing new about African Americans distrust of the medical establishment. The reasons for that run deep.
But this threat is real and could have deadly implications. So, keep washing your hands and taking other steps to reduce your risk.
Jenice Armstrong is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.