Coronavirus Highlights Racial Disparities In Health
The US is no stranger to partisanship and disagreement. While some may have hoped that the coronavirus outbreak would be a time for the nation to come together, it has only underscored more divisions.
Although COVID-19 is a threat that has affected all people to some degree, the impact has been especially hard-felt by minorities residing in the most heavily populated areas of the country’s largest cities.
In a White House conference held last Friday, the US surgeon general Dr. Jerome Adams said, “People of color are more likely to live in densely packed areas and in multigenerational housing situations, which create higher risk for spread of highly contagious disease like COVID-19.”
Adams said that biological and genetic factors do not increase people of color’s chances of contracting the coronavirus. Instead, these groups are “socially disposed.”
Adams’s statements come after authorities in New York City reported that the virus kills twice as many African American and Latino people compared to whites. And in Chicago, 70% of COVID-19 deaths were black residents — a disproportionate number compared to the population.
When addressing the imbalance in a conference last Tuesday, President Trump acknowledged that the disparity was “terrible.” The president said, “It doesn’t make sense, and I don’t like it…We are doing everything in our power to address this challenge.”
This Disproportionality Caused By A History Of Discrimination
For most of the country’s modern history, marginalized groups have lived in the densest parts of urban areas. While this was due in part to economic circumstances, intentional actions from lawmakers and businesses were a huge factor.
For the most part, these at-risk populations are confined to crowded housing, hold jobs that cannot be done remotely or are considered essential, and rely on public transportation. Additionally, many have underlying health problems that are frequently linked to surroundings, making the coronavirus more deadly.
And while officials minimize the connection between the minority death rate and social circumstances, those living elsewhere may see the disease as somebody else’s dilemma.
This mindset is where the problem of racial disparity in fatalities emphasizes the overarching distinction in how the country is undergoing to outbreak.
As COVID-19 sweeps through large cities and disproportionately claiming the lives of people of color, the gap between urban and rural areas is widening.
The worst-hit parts of the country have primarily been cities, and many in less densely populated places do not have to give up as much as those in urban areas.
This sentiment resonates in White House conferences, when President Trump turns down ideas that the whole country should go into lockdown since states like Iowa, Idaho, and Nebraska “are very lightly affected.”
However, more information collected by health experts reveals that the coronavirus is accelerating in rural areas, and many officials worry that the health care systems in these places will not be able to cope.
But even though division is as prevalent as ever, the underlying message of “we’re in this together” remains. Although not every level of the government or every person in the US shares this sentiment, it’s something that the country would be apt to keep in mind as it continues its battle with the coronavirus.
- Elving, Ron. “What Coronavirus Exposes About America’s Political Divide.” NPR, NPR, 12 Apr. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/04/12/832455226/what-coronavirus-exposes-about-americas-political-divide.