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Coronavirus infecting African-Americans at ‘alarming rates’ in some US states: NYT report

According to data analysed by The New York Times, Covid-19 has led to disparate rates of infection and deaths of African-Americans as compared to their white counterparts.

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New Delhi: The novel coronavirus is infecting and killing African-Americans at a disproportionately higher rate than their white counterparts, data analysed by The New York Times has revealed.

According to the NYT report, preliminary statistics reveal that “disparate rates” of sickness and death have emerged from some places. In Chicago, more than half of those who tested positive for the virus and 72 per cent of the fatalities were African-Americans. In Illinois, African-Americans account for 43 per cent of those who have died from the virus and 28 per cent of the total cases. In Michigan and Louisiana as well, they account for 40 per cent and 70 per cent of the total fatalities.

The reason for this is not biological but is steeped in a history of “entrenched inequalities in resources, health and access to care”, writes NYT.

However, the report also acknowledges that the findings are based on preliminary statistics and there is limited data available on race and coronavirus. Furthermore, the states that are worst-hit by the coronavirus in US, including New York and California, have not provided racial data.

The report goes on say that the initial indications from a number of places, though, are alarming enough that policymakers suggest an immediate action is the need of the hour to prevent possible devastation by the virus to the African-American community.

Several politicians such as Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, have urged President Donald Trump to collect race and ethnicity data on Covid-19. Trump also acknowledged the growing racial disparity in cases Tuesday and assured that “federal authorities were working to provide statistics over the next two or three days that might help examine the issue”.

Also read: Air pollution levels and Covid-19 mortality rate are linked, claims new Harvard study

Work from home a luxury that African-Americans don’t have

While social distancing has been recommended as the most effective way to avoid contracting Covid-19, NYT reports that most African-Americans do not have the luxury of working from home, which puts them at much higher risk.

The report notes, “Black Americans disproportionately belong to part of the workforce that does not have the luxury of working from home”.

It adds that due to a history of racial discrimination and socio-economic inequality, African-Americans are also “less likely to be insured, and more likely to have existing health conditions and face racial bias that prevents them from getting proper treatment.”

“These communities, structurally, they’re breeding grounds for the transmission of the disease,” said Sharrelle Barber, an assistant research professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University, Philadelphia.

Another reason why the African-American community has proven to be more susceptible to coronavirus is “weathering”. Arline Geronimus, a professor of public health at the University of Michigan, defines it as “stresses like exposure to toxins, lack of sleep and racial discrimination”.

US has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic with 12,857 deaths and over 4,00,000 confirmed cases.

Also read: Donald Trump announces hold on funding to WHO, accuses it of being China-centric


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