PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 112,000 Americans. Since the pandemic began, public health experts say African Americans nationwide have died at an alarming rate— two and a half times that of whites and Asians. More on the disparities, and what some experts say needs to happen to protect those who are most vulnerable.
As the number of COVID-19 patients continues to tick upwards, experts say it’s clear— the virus is taking a toll on African Americans.
Adam Milam, MD, Ph.D., of Cedars-Sinai told Ivanhoe, “We’ve been putting band-aids on a lot of these issues, but not addressing the core issues.”
Dr. Milam detailed COVID disparities in a newly published article in the journal, Health Equity. For example, Dr. Milam says in Michigan alone, African Americans are 14 percent of the population but account for more than forty percent of deaths. One reason for the disparity— Black Americans have a higher incidence of other health conditions.
“African Americans have a higher prevalence of diabetes, higher prevalence of high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease— all of those are risk factors for COVID-19,” Dr. Milam elaborated.
Researchers say that’s just a part of a much broader picture.
Noble Maseru, Ph.D., of the Center for Health Equity at Pitt Public Health expressed, “Racism is not on the death certificate.”
But Maseru says pre-existing social conditions do contribute to COVID. Limited access to health care and affordable housing, undernutrition, low wages and economic insecurity. Many employees in service industries could not afford to stay home during the pandemic.
“They’re going out as part of that essential workforce, and so they’re additionally exposing themselves, and they’re already vulnerable,” Maseru explained.
In the short-term Maseru advocates more testing and contact tracing in underserved communities. Long-term? Experts say adopting a federal living wage will help families close the health gaps.
Dr. Milam stated, “Now is the opportunity to address some of these issues that have been lingering for three to four decades.”
Noble Maseru says housing is also an issue driving COVID infection. In some minority communities, there are several generations or multiple families living in one home, making it easier for the virus to spread.