COVID affecting communities of color at a higher rate


Roya Mohammad, Staff Writer

Throughout the United States, communities of color, mostly black communities, are being affected and dying because of COVID-19 at disproportionate rates, even though the virus does not exclusively target one race and race does not play a factor in the transmission of COVID-19.

In Illinois, 43% of African Americans died from COVID-19 and 28% of those who have tested positive are African-Americans, yet African Americans make up only 15% of the state’s population. 

In Michigan, 33% of the people who tested positive for COVID-19 are African-Americans and make up 40 % of deaths yet they make up only 14% of the population. 

In Louisiana, African Americans are also overrepresented among those infected. According to Louisiana’s Governor John Bel Edwards, Edward claims that about 70% of the people who have died from COVID-19 are black, yet they make up a third of Louisiana’s population. 

In Wisconsin, African Americans make up 26 percent of the population, yet African-Americans are positive for almost half of the coronavirus cases and 80% of the deaths.

So, why are we seeing communities of color being affected at higher rates if COVID is not biological? Because these communities are more heavily affected by the structural inequalities of America.

According to a public health expert and assistant professor at Columbia University Dr. Ashwin Vasan, “the virus is an equal-opportunity crisis … but the impact and the burden of it is not going to be shared equally.’”

 The history of this country’s inequity has created health disparities and built greater hurdles for minorities that include racism, poverty, and lack of access to quality care. 

Congresswoman Robin Kelly believes that communities of color are more likely to be hit the hardest by health crises due to the fact they tend to have limited resources available.

For example, black and brown communities tend to have less access to healthcare services and even when they do get care, the quality is often worse than what wealthier parts of the country receive. Workers in these communities often have lower rates of health insurance too. 

Minority communities are also less likely to be able to work from home. Because of this, they are continually exposed to the virus at work, creating a greater chance of infection. Furthermore, they are more likely to have substandard housing, with several families living together, which increases the spread of COVID. 

“It makes me angry that communities of color are being affected more by the virus because I know that is due to discrimination already in today’s society,” said Los Medanos College student Ayo Ayiloge. “COVID-19 does not discriminate itself so the pandemic further reveals the effects of racism. This is especially true in the healthcare field. Black and Latino patients especially are not getting adequate treatment and attention at hospitals.” 

In Nashville, three drive-through testing centers in minority communities such as Meharry Medical College, a historically black institution, were empty for several weeks due to the city not getting the necessary testing equipment and protective gear like gloves and masks. Ebony Hilton, a doctor of Cardiology at the University of Virginia, explained “Experience has taught all of us that if you’re poor, if you’re of color, you’re going to get services second.” 

When asked about this incident, Ayiloge said, “The incident in Nashville simply reflects how supplies are not being allocated for and provided to minority communities. These communities are often overlooked while predominantly white communities are given attention.”

People of color face racial bias that prevents them from getting proper treatment. According to data from Boston biotech firm, Rubix Life Sciences, doctors are less likely to refer African Americans to testing when they show symptoms, such as a cough or fever. By delaying tests and treatment, minority populations were shown to have higher rates of certain diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high blood pressure and kidney disease. And being that minority residents mostly live in segregated neighborhoods that lack job opportunities, stable housing and healthy food options, it ends up fueling higher infections and fatalities within these communities today.