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COVID-19’s disproportionate effects on minority communities

COVID-19’s disproportionate effects on minority communities

COVID-19’s disproportionate effects on minority communities
August 07
12:30 2020

Progressing into the sixth month of coronavirus, the U.S. death toll reaches nearly 160,000, with a total of over four million cases, and with significant racial differences in poverty, healthcare and housing thousands of Americans have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

The USA Today says that the “lopsided outcomes are largely due to the higher likelihood that racial minority populations will fall into groups considered at risk of serious COVID-19 cases. For example, incarcerated populations, essential workers, people with disabilities and people with underlying chronic health conditions comprise relatively larger shares of people of color compared to white Americans.”

When broken down by groups most affected, nearly every state besides Oklahoma and Rhode Island, minorities are in the lead, though their population ratio does not match. The most drastic numbers come from Maine, with a 1.3 percent Black or African American population that makeups 26.9 percent of all Maine’s COVID-19 infections. They are considered to have the worst disparity in COVID-19 infections among racial lines than any other state.

In an NPR article breaking down coronavirus by the numbers, African-American deaths are two times greater than as expected based on population percentage. In 21 states it is substantially higher and four states, the rate is three or four times higher.  Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, director of the Equity Research and Innovation Center at Yale School of Medicine says the most likely factors at cause are the disproportionately represented essential workers on the frontline that cannot work from home, which has allowed thousands to safely social distance as ordered by the government. Though not everyone is deemed this need for protection.

The rates for Hispanic and Latino populations are the next highest affected, with disproportionate ratios of infections. “The rates are two times higher in 30 states, and over four times higher in eight states. For example, in Virginia, more than 12,000 cases — 49 percent of all cases with known ethnicity — come from the Hispanic and Latino community, which makes up only 10 percent of the population.”

To grasp how these numbers exist, we need to understand more than the physical risks an essential worker faces, we need to look at the barriers. Starting with testing centers and the cost to obtain a test. With or without insurance, the test can range from $20 to nearly $900, depending on where you go. An AARP article written in May analyzes the unrealistic conditions for social distancing in minority communities, for the sake of needing to work at a job one cannot do from home to still provide for a family. “Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that fewer than 20 percent of black workers and roughly 16 percent of Hispanic ones can telecommute. About two-thirds of employed Hispanic adults say they would not get paid if the coronavirus caused them to miss work for two weeks or more.”

Then you dive into pre-existing chronic conditions. These play a major role, like heart disease and diabetes are more common in Black, Hispanic and Native Americans, and are linked to being the “leading risk factors for severe illness from the coronavirus.” Along with a higher likelihood of catching the virus, these factors also are at risk for a more difficult time in recovery, if they do. “Researchers at Boston University found that 11 percent of black adults and 18 percent of Native Americans had multiple risk factors putting them at high risk for a severe case of COVID-19, whereas this was true of only 8 percent of white subjects.”

The efforts to protect all Americans have fallen short. From time off, testing availability, reopening of the majority of the business all over the country and requiring essential workers to be put at higher risk. Every day there are increasing dangers putting innocent Americans on the frontlines of a virus. With a divide so strong about mask requirements, it is far too late to be letting so many stay at risk for trying to live as safely as they can, without a word from their government.

Featured Illustration: Olivia Varnell

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Lindsey Donovan

Lindsey Donovan

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