Black people are getting sick and dying from COVID-19 at disproportionately high rates, due, in part, to their social behavior, according to U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams.
So far, there have been 493,426 cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., according to Worldometers. Health disparities in Black communities and the fact that African-Americans are more likely to perform at-risk jobs has made them more vulnerable to the pandemic, health experts have said.
At a recent coronavirus briefing, Adams said there were several factors at play. “The chronic burden of medical ills is likely to make people of color, especially, less resilient to the ravages of COVID-19. And it is possibly, in fact, likely that the burden of social ills is likely contributing,” Adams said. Many African Americans and Hispanics have the types of jobs that do not allow them to work from home, although the government is encouraging social distancing.
However, Adams blamed the social behavior of Black people for the disparity. There is no scientific basis to believe that people of color are “biologically or genetically predisposed to get COVID-19,” Adams said. But he added that they are “socially predisposed to coronavirus exposure, and have a higher incidence of the very diseases that put you at risk for severe complications of coronavirus.”
He went on to urge Black people and people of color to change their behavior, NPR reported.
“Avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs,” Adams added. “We need to understand, especially in communities of color, we need you to step up and help stop the spread so that we can protect those who are most vulnerable.”
“Speaking of mothers, we need you to do this, if not for yourself, then for your abuela. Do it for your granddaddy, do it for your Big Mama, do it for your pop-pop,” he said.
He gave this advice despite the fact that whites and Native Americans have a greater risk for alcohol use disorders relative to other ethnic groups, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Princeton University researchers reported in 2015 that the overall death rate of white adults in midlife has risen sharply over the past 15 years, largely because of drug and alcohol overdoses, suicide, chronic liver disease, and cirrhosis of the liver, WebMD reported.
During the briefing, Adams did not acknowledge structural racism as a contributing factor in the disproportionately high rate of infection and COVID-19 deaths of African Americans.
However, he did push blame.
“It’s alarming but it’s not surprising that people of color have a greater burden of chronic health conditions,” Adams said. “The chronic burden of medical ills is likely to make people of color especially less resilient to the ravages of COVID-19 and it’s possible — in fact, likely — the burden of social ills is also contributing.”
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.
People sounded off on Twitter about Adams’ remarks.
PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor tweeted: “Many found this language highly offensive.”
Alcindor pressed Adams later about his remarks and, according to a later tweet, said, “he meant no offense, used his family’s language & that all Americans should be avoiding substances.”
“What in the absolute f**k?! Why is this brother up here feeding into stereotypes? ‘Big Mama’? Dude, that was a movie,” another person tweeted.
“ALL should find this language highly offensive,” Toby Williams tweeted.
“I really would like to say I’m surprised but of course I’m not,” Blaine Hardaway tweeted. “Trump sent the only black guy on his team out to chastise black and Latino people for smoking and drinking, as if that’s the reason our communities are predisposed to this virus. Just disgusting.”
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