Not only have cases clustered in areas of black neighborhoods, those affected are dying at much higher rates than any other ethnic group. Why? Public Health experts explain that this problem is two-part: medical and economic. In summary, the majority of black Americans are both less healthy and poorer than white Americans.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black Americans are much more likely to suffer from a pre-existing condition like diabetes, hypertension and even asthma than any other group of Americans. The exact pre-existing conditions that make one more susceptible to the Coronavirus, are the ones many black Americans are predisposed to due to lifestyle factors and unequal conditions.
For example, during the mandatory stay home orders across the country, many black Americans have little to no access to a healthy grocery store. Even if they did, they are likely to not have their own means of transportation. These unequal conditions of living existed far before COVID-19 and will likely exist long after. However, the lack of ease to healthy, local foods is not only a pre-existing reality, it makes surviving and thriving during a quarantine a much more difficult reality than those faced by privileged Americans with access and transportation to a healthy grocery store, farmer’s market or even their own garden.
A quote from The Harvard Gazette sums up the medial disparities:
“African Americans, even if they’re at the same level of income or poverty as white Americans or Latino Americans, are much more likely to live in neighborhoods that have concentrated poverty, polluted environments, lead exposure, higher rates of incarceration, higher rates of violence so that goes beyond individual poverty … and we know that many of these things lead to long-term health consequences.”
Why is COVID-19 hitting black Americans harder economically? Right off the bat, black people were at a disadvantage. The stores that stayed open during the quarantine were much more likely to have black employees, forcing them to go to work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that Nearly a quarter of black and Hispanic workers are employed in service industries, compared with 16% of white workers. Not only are black Americans more physically exposed to the potential of the virus, they are less likely to be exposed to quality information regarding the virus.
“There’s a lot of information available to people who are well-educated, who can understand the sort of analytical framework in which we come to these questions, “but it’s not well understood at the level of the high school curriculum, or the undergraduate curriculum, or even graduate school curriculum outside professional schools of public health. So it seems to me that there’s a lot of information that is siloed that needs to be much more expanded.”
COVID-19 is exacerbating long-existing inequalities between black and white Americans. Not only are black Americans predisposed to the underlying conditions that exacerbate coronavirus, they are less economically advantaged. The combination of the medical and economic make COVID-19 that much more dangerous to black Americans.