In USA, pandemic seems to be hitting people of color hardest
April 11, 2020 12:05 AM   Subscribe

Although there is uneven reporting on racial and ethnic data, data that is available show significant disparities. Most news reports so far focus on high rates among blacks and Native Americans. But Hispanic Americans or undocumented immigrants might face extra risk due to fears of deportation precluding them from getting tested or participating in contact tracing.

4 reasons coronavirus is hitting black communities so hard ...

Virus Rips Through Navajo Nation

“As of Wednesday night, the virus had killed 20 people on the reservation, compared with 16 in the entire state of New Mexico, which has a population 13 times larger.”

About a week ago: Indian Country, where residents suffer disproportionately from disease, is bracing for coronavirus.
posted by NotLost (21 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
The only book I have about Hurricane Katrina is Come Hell Or High Water: Hurricane Katrina And The Color Of Disaster, so I'm not that shocked.
posted by krisjohn at 1:28 AM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Black people, at 46 percent, and Latinos, at 39 percent, are about twice as likely as white people, at 21 percent, to view the coronavirus as a major threat to their health.

I'm amazed by how low all of those numbers are, though particularly the 21 percent.
posted by XMLicious at 2:06 AM on April 11, 2020 [4 favorites]

No mention of air pollution, which is a cause of cardiovascular disease like hypertension, and is of a particular problem in Louisiana. I worry that these articles lean into victim blaming by omitting the role of, say, BASF, Mosaic, and Dow Chemical, in my area,and or the local landfill or power plant which has been located in your local
african american or Latino neighborhood.

White people in the USA often don't understand that they are likely to be breathing different air than their fellow Americans. I study the problem and it took me years to understand just how different things can be.
posted by eustatic at 3:18 AM on April 11, 2020 [32 favorites]

Every aspect of the coronavirus pandemic exposes America’s devastating inequalities (Anna North, Vox)
Despite repeated claims of being an “equalizer,” the coronavirus has always had a disproportionate impact on people who are already vulnerable — and often ignored. People over 65 and those who are immunocompromised are at higher risk of serious illness if infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That fact led some younger, healthy people to dismiss the virus initially as something that “only” harmed the old and sick.

Such an attitude “relegates people who have a chronic illness, people who have disabilities, and older adults” to a category of people who somehow don’t matter to society, sending the message that “we don’t have to care about this group as much,” Stacy Torres, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California San Francisco, told Vox in March.
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:59 AM on April 11, 2020 [6 favorites]

The system looks as though it was designed to laissez mourire.
posted by Mrs Potato at 4:07 AM on April 11, 2020

And as we've seen before, after this is over and most people go back to their normal lives, those most impacted will be once again left no their own to deal with the repercussions. Hurricane Katrina is an example of this.
posted by mightshould at 5:32 AM on April 11, 2020 [8 favorites]

I'm amazed by how low all of those numbers are, though particularly the 21 percent.

I'm not - this statistic probably comes from surveys that asked people whether they worried about the impact of the coronavirus on their own health. For myself, the coronavirus is likely to be painful but not deadly. I live with someone for whom it is likely to be deadly, but when asked what I thought about my own health, I'd be in that 79%.

But back to the threat to others (which I am worried about):

I know that this story - specifically how racial inequality is playing out with coronavirus - is getting some traction right now. But I worry that, having decimated communities of colour, it will be all swept away later, like the aftermath of Katrina, including the racist murders that were rampant. I feel helpless, like I did in 2005. I don't know what to do, except to keep on as I have (staying inside and washing my hands).
posted by jb at 5:32 AM on April 11, 2020 [4 favorites]

It tracks with my personal experience. My parents got coronavirus a few weeks ago, but recovered more or less completely. I teach in an urban area and already several students have lost grandparents. It's especially sad right now because you have to cremate and can't hold a memorial.
posted by subdee at 6:08 AM on April 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

How can you social distance when it's three generations living in the same small space? And you need to go to the laundromat to do laundry? When I call home to tell parents that their kids aren't going to online school, a lot of them (the kids) are out working. And a lot of them are working service jobs.
posted by subdee at 6:11 AM on April 11, 2020 [6 favorites]

Also worth listening to if you want more information on this issue is the latest episode of NPR podcast Code Switch: Why The Coronavirus Is Hitting Black Communities Hardest
“Many have referred to COVID-19 as a "great equalizer." But the virus has actually exacerbated all sorts of disparities. When it comes to race, black Americans account for a disproportionate number of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. In this bonus episode from Slate's "What Next" podcast, reporter Akilah Johnson talks about the many reasons why.”
Also more here at ProPublica, which specifically looks at Milwaukee:
“As the disease spread at a higher rate in the black community, it made an even deeper cut. Environmental, economic and political factors have compounded for generations, putting black people at higher risk of chronic conditions that leave lungs weak and immune systems vulnerable: asthma, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. In Milwaukee, simply being black means your life expectancy is 14 years shorter, on average, than someone white.

As of Friday morning, African Americans made up almost half of Milwaukee County’s 945 cases and 81% of its 27 deaths in a county whose population is 26% black. Milwaukee is one of the few places in the United States that is tracking the racial breakdown of people who have been infected by the novel coronavirus, offering a glimpse at the disproportionate destruction it is inflicting on black communities nationwide.

In Michigan, where the state’s population is 14% black, African Americans made up 35% of cases and 40% of deaths as of Friday morning. Detroit, where a majority of residents are black, has emerged as a hot spot with a high death toll. As has New Orleans. Louisiana has not published case breakdowns by race, but 40% of the state’s deaths have happened in Orleans Parish, where the majority of residents are black.”
The podcast and the article talk about home-ownership, car-ownership, generational wealth, food and health deserts, and how all of these things are bound in systemic racism that has placed black people and other POC communities at risk. Shitty Politicians that have historically segregated and disenfranchised people who are most at risk are responsible for all of this. It's super fucked up and not surprising at all.

posted by Fizz at 6:27 AM on April 11, 2020 [12 favorites]

It has been in use a lot longer, but I encountered the term "structural violence" for the first time in Paul Farmer's writing (the co-founder of Partners in Health); it certainly seems applicable to how Covid is impacting different communities within the US and around the world. Disenfranchised, poor, and otherwise marginalized people are much more severely impacted by risk of disease in general, and especially from diseases that take advantage of the specific conditions of their lives: respiratory diseases that spread when people are living in tight spaces, lung impacts from cooking over fires or living in places with worse air quality, increased underlying conditions like diabetes, worse access to preventative health care and nutrition, and so on.

It's frustrating that we know all this and have for a long time, but societally we clearly aren't interested in changing the underlying conditions that make some people so much more vulnerable. We literally treat entire groups of people as disposable. At least whole groups of mostly low-paid workers are now being recognized as "essential"; it remains to be seen if that can translate into better pay and working conditions or if they just get more "thoughts and prayers."
posted by Dip Flash at 7:05 AM on April 11, 2020 [11 favorites]

In Michigan, where the state’s population is 14% black, African Americans made up 35% of cases and 40% of deaths as of Friday morning. Detroit, where a majority of residents are black, has emerged as a hot spot with a high death toll.

I was looking at the Michigan numbers a couple of days ago, and there are some difficulties extrapolating from the data available. Bringing the numbers up to today: African Americans are currently listed as 33% of cases and 41% of deaths, but people of unknown race make up 32% of cases and 22% of deaths. The true racial disparity could be much milder, but it could also be much, much worse.
posted by jedicus at 7:36 AM on April 11, 2020

Mod note: Update: I've edited the phrasing of the post to replace that phrase. We reached out to the OP about changing the phrase as soon as this was posted but haven't heard back; in this case I'm just going to make the edit and OP if you'd like to discuss please get in touch with us.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:20 AM on April 11, 2020 [9 favorites]

Did he mistake covid for another type of disease, or does he think younger black people are clandestinely gathering to drink, smoke and do drugs, picking up covid and passing it to their grandparents?
posted by Selena777 at 1:23 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

I saw it as he's telling us black folks to be more circumspect about our overall health so that we don't develop those chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease. asthma, which as we know make it harder to overcome the virus if you have those comorbidities.
Disclaimer: I'm black, and no I do not support the current administration, but I understand what he was trying to communicate.
posted by ramix at 5:16 PM on April 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have hypertension and asthma (and an auto-immune disease). I drink maybe once a month and have never smoked or done drugs. None of my conditions are my fault.

I'm white, but I also recognize that chronic-illness victim-blaming is put even more heavily on patients of color than it is on me (and I get plenty of it), especially because the health establishment itself is so damn racist that they often struggle to even get diagnosis and treatment when we're not having a pandemic.

I live in Georgia. I saw a comment on one of my Fb friends' posts that has really stuck with me. It basically said, "I'm poor and live in rural Georgia. I have hypertension and asthma. I don't have good access to a doctor. We all eat the same diets, live the same lifestyle, and have the same poor access to healthcare. But I'm white, so I'm still less likely to die of all of that than my black neighbors."
posted by hydropsyche at 5:39 PM on April 11, 2020 [4 favorites]

For all administration people appearing on television the only audience is Trump. Filter what he's saying through that lens. It's bullshit also because while it may be good advice in general it does nothing to get us through the next few months. You know what would help? Universal healthcare, or at least some federal action and a commitment to science and truth.

I'm black also and my words to describe this guy would be deleted from MeFi.You do realize that this guy was the Indiana State Health Commissioner under Pence and he was partially responsible for the HIV epidemic in Indiana.
posted by rdr at 5:41 PM on April 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

The claim that the virus is "the great equalizer" made so little sense that I had to look it up.

Thirty seconds of Google describes two origins:

- NY Governor Cuomo used it trying to convince young people that they weren't immune to the disease and should stay inside
- Madonna used the statement when claiming that the virus doesn't care how smart/rich/famous you are

In February the stats were pretty clear about the effect on older people and with co-morbidities, it seems that "the great equalizer" claim was an attempt to reel in some people's faulty conclusions.
posted by meowzilla at 8:10 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Mod note: ... and changed "Latinx" back to "Hispanic" by poster's request
posted by taz (staff) at 9:17 AM on April 12, 2020

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