Public Health Experts Say Black America Is At HIGH Risk Of COVID-19 Body Bags

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
COVID-19
Public health experts have said Black America is at greater risk of dying from the COVID-19 coronavirus and ending up in body bags. Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009, before House joint Health subcommittee and Oversight and Investigations subcommittee hearing on “H1N1 Preparedness: An Overview of Vaccine Production and Distribution. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Public health experts have said Black America is at greater risk of dying from the COVID-19 coronavirus. It’s a threat that should be taken seriously, American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin told The Undefeated.

“I think the biggest challenge is the fact that people of color, African Americans, start out with health outcomes that are disproportionately poor when compared to white Americans,” Benjamin said in an interview. “The highest risk, if you get this disease, is to someone 60 or older with chronic disease. With African Americans, you start with a population that is disproportionately sicker, and if it gets exposed, it will have a higher death rate,”

His words were echoed by Dr. Ashwin Vasan, an assistant professor at Columbia University when he spoke with USA Today.

“The virus is an equal-opportunity crisis …  but the impact and the burden of it is not going to be shared equally,’’ Vasan, who is also a public health expert, said. “Like most things in society, it’s going to be regressive. It’s going to be felt disproportionately by the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized, and obviously that falls down in this country on communities of color.’’

With more chronic illnesses like asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc., cases in cities heavily with Black Americans (and other people of color) have been rising at a rapid rate.

“The reasons for the health inequities include access to health care, and differences in the quality of care African Americans receive,” Benjamin added. “A lot of what makes you healthy happens outside the doctor’s office, so all the social determinants – including racism and discrimination, housing, access to transportation and education – are a factor. And I’ll say differences in individual behaviors that we all have based on our life experiences.”

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 70: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin goes solo to discuss the COVID-19 crisis. He talks about the failed leadership of Trump, Andrew Cuomo, CDC Director Robert Redfield, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and New York Mayor de Blasio.

As states are overwhelmed trying to test and treat COVID-19 cases without proper resources or equipment, the death toll is climbing.

Native Americans are also at a very high risk, according to experts.

“There’s no surprise when you see these health disparities that are off the charts, then when you get something like COVID-19 that rolls into these neighborhoods, these reservation communities, it can be really bad,’’ Kevin Allis, CEO of the National Congress of American Indians, told USA Today.

Since many Black and Native Americans and other people of color have jobs that they are unable to do form home, lots of them risked further exposure to the virus by still going to work if their business had not been shut down.

“I can’t worry and focus on that [coronavirus],” food service worker Bettie Douglas told Vice. “I can’t afford to. I have a family that I have to take care of. I have to focus on my electric not getting cut off. My water not getting cut off. Having food to feed my child and having toiletries that we need.”

Lawmakers, community leaders and advocates across the country have called on the federal government to aid Black and low-income communities that are being hit hard by the virus. They also said the pandemic highlights how badly sweeping structural change needs to happen.

 “Following the crisis, it’s important to take on structural changes to US economic policies to ensure that the necessary health and economic infrastructure is in place the next time the country faces a pandemic or looming disaster stemming from climate insecurity,” the Center for American Progress wrote. “Closing the unjust racial wealth gap should be a top priority to ensure more equitable, just, and resilient communities.”