A new high profile article warns that COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting black and brown communities, advising that data collection and sharing, as well as the implementation of services to address the virus’ disparate impact, can be improved in many states.
In Louisiana, more than 70% of those who have died from Coronavirus have been African American, while African Americans comprise approximately one-third of the state’s population.
While African Americans are approximately one seventh of the Michigan population, they have suffered two out of every five COVID-19 deaths and one out of every three hospitalizations in that state.
Minority populations have a higher tendency to live in more dense, lower income communities, are less likely to have health insurance, and are more likely to suffer from higher rates of comorbidities such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. All of these factors make these populations particularly vulnerable to exposure and severe reactions to the Coronavirus. However, most states are neither rigorously tracking nor sharing racial and ethnic data on Coronavirus-related testing and treatment.
As IU Fairbanks School of Public Health Associate Professor Brian Dixon found in a recent analysis of reports in one Indiana database, 59 percent of Coronavirus tests came back without any race, which he “attributed…to a combination of manual data entry and pressure to return rapid results.”
This raises significant concerns about health communication, policy development and implementation, and resource deployment.
The article quotes Stephen Thomas, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Health Equity: “We cannot have a colorblind policy. With a colorblind policy — ‘Hey, we’re all in this together’ — we’ll be left with an explosion of Covid-19 concentrated in racial and ethnic minority communities.”