The statistics are deeply disturbing. In Milwaukee county, African-Americans have accounted for 81 percent of the city’s COVID-19 deaths. In Chicago, 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths even though blacks make up only 30 percent of the city’s population. And in Michigan, 41 percent of COVID-19 victims have been Black, even though Blacks make up less than 14 percent of the state’s residents.
These statistics confirm a grim reality: COVID-19 is killing Blacks at a rate that far exceeds its impact on non-minorities. The question is why. And according to public health officials, it boils down to the same vexing problem that has haunted this nation for decades; namely, the vast educational, economic and access to healthcare inequities that still exist in this county.
For example, the spread of COVID-19 has compelled state leaders to require that all that can work remotely from home do so. However, Blacks and other minorities are more likely to have jobs that can’t be done from home, making it more difficult for them to practice social distancing. In addition, not only are Blacks less likely to have access to private testing for COVID-19, they are also less likely to have access to the appropriate medical care that is needed to fight the virus. Finally, yet perhaps most critically, the underlying conditions that exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms – diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular diseases – are all conditions that have disproportionately plagued the Black community for decades. Statistics bear out that Blacks are almost twice as likely as white adults to have diabetes, 40 % more likely to have high blood pressure, and as a group have a much higher incidence of obesity and asthma than other racial groups.
Why do Blacks disproportionately suffer from these conditions? For many reasons, but the chief one being that Blacks are consistently denied the benefits that most enjoy under our health care system. Poverty and other economic barriers make it challenging for Blacks to have regular access to medical care. And even when access is provided, research has shown that Blacks are less likely to trust their doctors because of racist policies and programs of the past like the Tuskegee study done in the 1930’s which resulted in hundreds of Black men being left untreated with syphilis for decades. Moreover, systemic and institutional racism has forced a majority of Blacks to live in neighborhoods where they don’t have access to markets selling fresh nutritious foods.
When you add up these factors, it becomes clear why, when a public health crisis attacks this country, it is certain to have a disparate and devastating impact on the Black community.
What is just as distressing, however, is that these already catastrophic death statistics could be far worse than what we know as most states have not released any racial or ethnic data regarding their COVID-19 victims. To date, only 11 states have divulged the racial make up of their COVID-19 victims: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
There is also growing concern that while COVID-19 is killing Blacks at an alarming rate, black communities are not being given the medical resources they need – such as increased access to COVID-19 testing – to effectively combat the COVID-19 problem. We can’t know this for sure because again, the vast majority of states are not releasing the data that is needed to answer this question definitively but there is a gnawing fear. As citizens, we should all be urging our local government leaders to release the racial data that will ensure that minority groups hardest hit by this pandemic are being provided the medical resources that they need to preserve life in their communities.
The Magna Law Firm is committed to using the legal system to eradicate the racial disparities that exist in our health care system. If you or someone you know has been injured or suffered death because of discrimination that you believe resulted in medical malpractice, please contact our law office at 763-438-3032.